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Compromising Yourself Out of a Cause

Written by Katrina Moncure Mar 08, 2010

While intermittently glancing up at the Academy Awards show last night, noticed an immediately annoying commercial. The scene panned around a very messy bedroom, while the song “16 Going on 17” from the Sound of Music was playing. Alright, so right off the bat, we’re being told 16-year-olds are irresponsible messy idiots, and already indignant, I waited to see what company was the ageist culprit. Then a voiceover came on saying that some number of 16-year-olds will get their driver’s licenses over the following year, so that a safe car will be needed. And the ageist culprit is… Hyundai.

As in the manufacturers of my Elantra, so I felt especially irritated. -_-

So, as linked above, I posted about this over on the forums, and added to it later when they aired another yet similar one. A bunch of things were going through my mind, wondering what if anything to do about it, lamenting advertisers’ love of stereotyping and belittling teens to sell a product, etc. As well as, well, thinking it could have been worse.

I mean, they were merely saying a safe car was needed, as opposed to recommending tougher restrictions or making disgusting “teen brain” arguments. They weren’t suggesting new laws, but accepting that teens drive and are just new, right? So since it’s not as bad as it could have been, it’s all cool…

No! No, it is not cool! Why compromise here? They still ran a clearly anti-teen ad, so we should be condemning them for that rather than handing them cookies for it not having been worse, for some aspects not being as horribly ageist as they theoretically could have been, when they shouldn’t be running ageist ads to begin with.

Yet, sadly, this tendency to over-rationalize an example of ageism we encounter happens to us a lot. Perhaps doing something about it involves confrontation, which isn’t pleasant for anyone, and to avoid that without feeling guilty for letting ageism slide, we pretend it was so mild as to not be worth making a fuss. Like seeing a store with a sign saying no one under 13 is allowed in without a parent, and thinking “well, at least it’s not 16” and therefore deciding to do nothing. Like a politician wanting to ban the sale of certain video games to teens, and thinking “well, a video game ban isn’t an important issue” and therefore deciding to do nothing. Like a friend of yours remarking that teens should be locked up until they’re 30, and thinking “well, it’s just a remark, I don’t want to compromise our friendship” and therefore deciding to do nothing. I mean, hey, they must have legitimate reasons, so who are you to tell them it’s wrong? So you do absolutely nothing!

And it’s a dangerous slippery slope. Keep up this ageism apologism and you’ll rule out youth rights altogether as being a worthwhile cause. Keep making excuses for the ageists, and nobody will be taking the all too necessary role of telling them no, that what they are doing is not acceptable. If we won’t put our feet down and say NO to companies that run ageist ads, stores with ageist policies, politicians trying to pass ageist laws, our friends making ageist remarks or jokes, etc. no matter how unpleasant and uncomfortable the process may be, then nobody will do it. It’s up to us. We must be the change.

Don’t make excuses for ageists. The rest of our society does that more than enough. And we’re really not demanding anything difficult!

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