Sewing Vloggers

Saturday, March 6, 2021

A Difficult Topic

photo courtesy sixty and me 


Let's set the platform first here.  This topic has been brewing with me for a long time as I have been witnessing its expression online repeatedly, each time with quite a sting. Now, I know you are immediately going to jump to an assumption here. You are going to say, " Bunny is an older woman. She is feeling slighted. So what? So she writes a blogpost." No. This topic crosses a broad spectrum from our newest sewists to our oldest and most experienced. They all have prejudiced assumptions made about their abilities, their skills, THEIR STYLE, their experience and more. It is across the decades of sewing experience and practice and really needs to be acknowledged, discussed and stopped.   

Ageism and the Sewing Community


Ageism is practiced, like all prejudice, from a viewpoint, one nurtured by upbringing and ignorance and reinforced by our culture, media, workplace, and social associations. Let me give you a perfect recent example. 

I recently was on a FB page that I really enjoy, one known for its inclusivity which I  appreciate and respect. It has a broad spectrum of followers and experiences which makes for interesting reading and I like that every now and then I am truly inspired and helped and that once in a while I can help someone with their sewing challenges. 

A proud sewist showed a picture of her daughter, who appeared to be thirty  years of age or less with her puppies. I only mention that so you get an idea of the posters possible age. The young daughter was a teacher and facing the difficult challenges of teaching remote and through teacher friends of my own I know how difficult this has been and can sympathize. She keeps her  classes interesting by having theme weeks and decided with students to have, and I quote here, "old people" week. Her mom made her an outfit she would be wearing all week to teach the kids remotely and similar little outfits for the dogs. If you remember Ruth Buzzi from Laugh In, it was similar and the image my brain immediately went to. She wore a pink turban,  a dress made by Mom from a sheet and a long white cardigan. If you saw this costume it was a total "joke" of what any old person would wear and I would venture that you haven't seen anyone dressed like that over 60 in the supermarket in decades, if ever. The "old person" looked like someone from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and would be the image the Mom  and Daughter complicitly would present to their students for a week of remote learning about "old people."  I immediately expressed my feelings and why to the administrator of that page and she  removed it which I appreciate and shows her stand on inclusivity and prejudice is real. I thanked her and thank her again here. 

That was Ageism in the Sewing Community.

It is a good thing my daughters weren't being taught by this teacher as I would have gone straight to the Superintendent of the school district and rattled some serious chains. 

You may think you don't see Ageism in the Sewing Community but it is there every day. At least every day I see someone post a lovely dress or outfit, beautifully made and fitted and someone asks/says "Wow, how old are you? and the maker responds with her age. What then proceeds is a lot of "Wow, you don't look 63!" or fifty or 70 or whatever the age is.  I am going to paraphrase Gloria Steinem here when she was interviewed on her fiftieth birthday by some famous journalist, forget who. 

Journalist: I can't believe you are fifty. You look great. 

Steinem:   This is what fifty looks like. 

Can we just tell our makers they are beautiful, fabulous in their new outfit, made an incredible garment, the fit is amazing, etc. Why does their age have to be a measure of their accomplishment here and asked about?  I see this over and over and it bugs the heck out of me. 

There is more to this topic before you think I am being one sided here. How many negative  pages have you read on social media about "entitled Millenials"? There are scores and scores in the sewing community. I have read  many  of these types of comments, actually pages, just on PR. Different generations do things differently and all generations inherit the future. Millennials seem to be advancing in age and a newer generation of sewists is on the horizon now as well. Newer sewists are just as guilty of Ageism as the longer experienced. I've often witnessed an assumption of lack of computer capability by older sewists on the part of younger sewists. Another is the assumption that if the knowledge is not from Youtube it is not worthy of learning and therefore experience is devalued.  That is a big one I see too often.  Newer sewists need to assume nothing about experienced sewists and what and how they learned all they know and vice versa. It is still knowledge. It goes both ways. 

I would like to make a couple more points about Ageism in the Sewing Community. 

Too long, aging has been something that is the brunt of a joke. Just like that original FB post I mentioned, the teacher made being old a joke to her students. Being old is presented as a joke all the time. Be aware of this and how you comment, post and live on social media in the Sewing Community. Millennial jokes are just as offensive as "old people" jokes in our community and only serve to separate any sense of community that exists. 

There are amazing sewists of a more advanced age out there. They have terrific style and can sew like magic comes from their fingers. One of my favorites is Margy of  A Fool for Sewing. While she has stopped blogging a quick jog through her blog will impress you with her skills and incredible style. 

A Fool for Sewing

Another fabulous sewist who impresses me nearly every day is Ms. Vera  of Alterations and Design by Vera of Savannah, Georgia. She is an extremely hardworking designer who does highly skilled work all with a smile and loving every minute. Her work will blow you away. She can sew or fix ANYTHING as you will see as you go through her page. Ms. Vera, once in a while, will regale us with a new outfit she made for herself for church or a new hairdo and makeup she chooses to share. She doesn't miss a beat when it comes to trends and always looks stylish  in rare glimpses of her personal life. 

ETA: There are many platforms in social media. I don't partake in Instagram, at least not yet, because I just simply don't have the time. I enjoy writing and the depth of socialization that blogging has provided me over the years. I also enjoy FB as I can get quick inspiration and also help others as well and they  often help me, too. But you have to draw the line somewhere so Insta is not on my agenda. I do listen to sewing podcasts a lot and enjoy having them in the background as I sew and organize and plan. I feel like I am with friends and getting to know others in the community. Again, it is that depth of the experience. I have tried Insta a few times but just find it very shallow and it doesn't hold my interest. 

Listening to podcasts made me realize some things. Where are older sewists? Where is the voice of experience? It is nearly nowhere,  people.  I want to commend podcasts that have really broken that rule and I ask WHY have not others? There are only two podcasts I listen to where an older sewist is part of the team. Their participation greatly enhances the quality of the podcast. We all know our tongues get looser as we age and the more seasoned team members here are no exception. They are delightful. And their knowledge is priceless as well.

First, there is Clothes Making Mavens. If you have not heard their podcasts you are really missing something. They are working seasonally now and will re casting soon with a new season but all of their casts are still on line and worth listening to.  Barb Emodi, long time blogger, writer for Threads magazine, book publisher and all around sewing expert, is on the team with Helena, Lori and Hila, talking about very interesting topics in the sewing world. They never run from controversy and are great conversationalists. They always admit what they don't know and when they have been stumped and failed and when they have scored and succeeded. They interact wonderfully with Barb discussing particular topics where her experience is valued and clearly shown. It is all pretty loose, or seems enjoyably so. Barb contributes tons of wit and wisdom and can be counted on for laughs and giggles and an occasional shocker or two. It is clear the other members of the team really value her input. Why aren't other podcasters making experienced sewists part of their regular programming?  Are they afraid to look less experienced? I don't know but from what I have seen (heard) it adds greatly to the entertainment value of the podcast, never mind what we learn from such a wealth of knowledge.

Another podcast I would like to acknowledge for its clear acceptance of all in the sewing community is The Self Sewn Wardrobe and their podcast "Sewing Out Loud". This podcast is quite unique in that is broadcast by two women, no biggy, right? Well, these two women are biggies. They are a mother and daughter team, both extremely knowledgeable sewing professionals who have done it all from owning sewing related businesses to now podcasting and every sewing related activity in between. There is classic, mother daughter chatter, often hilariously pitting the two generations, and always informative and  entertaining. Mom is into aerial acrobatics and makes her challenging costumes and Mallory has small children and a husband, while pursuing a busy professional life. One of the hall marks of  Mallory and  Zede's businesses, besides, skill, and experience, is acceptance of all. 

We need more Self Sewn Wardrobe and Clothes Making Maven type podcasts where those doing the casting are not just talking about their own personal experience but talking with those who have a longer, wider sewing experience than they do. I just don't hear it out there. From where I listen, I here other podcasts that consist of not much more than discussions of new patterns and how to sew certain fabrics. I have heard Barb Emodi and Zede Donahue add a great depth of knowledge to what other casts cast out there. They can't be the only ones and shouldn't be. I think we need to demand that all voices are heard in the sewing community and not just those who have sewn only Indie patterns. Experienced sewists have sewn Indie patterns as well but for some reason they are not being brought into the podcasting community with interviews or as team members. Barb is a great example but just check out Pattern Review to see many others older sewists sewing Indies. Many have done so for a long time. 

There are countless more  women like the ones I have mentioned above, women of high skill and style. They are valuable members of the sewing community and DO NOT look or sound or make clothes like the depiction of an old person that the FB poster put out to her students. Crap like that has got to stop. Comments about entitlement and millennials does too and really is so yesterday. It is still always so wrong to generalize a whole generation. ANY GENERATIONAL PREJUDICE IS WRONG, SO JUST STOP IT AND SEW ON. Share the love and the passion. Always in peace and love,,,,,,,,Bunny




37 comments:

  1. The only comment I can add is YES. For some time I thought maybe I was being "over-sensitive" in this day of guarded words and actions. Personally, I have recently experienced the disdain of the youngers. Everyone gets old, everyone gets wrinkles and gray hair, and gravity knows no exception. Thank you for voicing this so well.

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    1. "Everyone gets old, everyone gets wrinkles and gray hair, and gravity knows no exception." IF THEY'RE LUCKY.

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  2. Very thought provoking and fair minded. The world keeps changing but the tension between youth and age remains. It’s good to be reminded to concentrate on what unites us in our love of sewing (and everything else!). Karen

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  3. Exactly right. With regard to ageism and sewing, there are many more to add to the list of women who are exceptional technical sewers and in my opinion very stylish. I would add you to that list, Bunny, as well as Becky F of Trial Balloons. Now I am going to seek out Ms. Vera. I was a big fan of Fool for Sewing. Please keep blogging. You are an asset to the sewing community. Jean

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    1. Thanks, Jean. There are so very many. I am going to be real here and I didn't know how to quite put this in my post but I will say it here best I can. I believe I have been blessed with what I call and artist's eye. This is the gift to see beauty in nearly anything physical around us. I will give you an example. There are people, men and women, who meet an amazing standard of physical beauty. Think of Paul Newman or Elizabeth Taylor. My next door neighbor, now departed, was in her nineties, had a face full of deep wrinkles, the brightest of sunken blue eyes and a Southern drawl that just pulled you right in. So many times my husband and I said to each other " she is so beautiful." She really was, even though she didn't match the standard. I worked with a woman who was very large and rounded in curves. She had eyes the size of saucers and let me tell you she was gorgeous and had men all over her wanting to date her. We have to re adjust our notion of beauty and teach our children to see beauty everywhere at every age and not as something that suddenly stops when your hair gets thinner.

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  4. Very well said, thank you. I've always been a fan of Margy, very stylish. She could take a basic shirt and class it up but nothing fancy, just well sewn and fitted. I miss her blog posts. I do enjoy your posts as well, Bunny, keep up the good work.

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  5. You are so right, very well said.
    I wanted to add that I assume Common Core added it, but schools across the US celebrate the 100th day of school. Many do this by encouraging kids to dress like they are 100 years old. So on that day you have teachers and students using walkers, wearing shower caps (??? that has nothing to do with age), canes, white hair, etc. I think this is extremely disrespectful. I've spoken to our elementary school principal and she did change it a bit the next year. She changed it to "dress like you are 100 years old or wear a shirt celebrating 100 days." Her reasoning was that the teachers just loved dressing up. I was so thankful that last year we had a teacher who also thought it was disrespectful and did not participate. I'm so glad we are remote this year and 100 days were not celebrated.

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    1. Thank you for speaking up. I've spoken with teacher friends and they were appalled. No excuse here.

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    2. Ginger I was going to say the same thing....somewhere along the way, "100 day" became "dress like you're 100 day". Personally I have a beef with all of the dress-up days for 2 reasons. 1. Teachers often remark that there's not enough time in the week to cover the required (tested) subjects, so why spend unnecessary time on fluff? 2. (Some) parents get quite competitive with the costumes, especially in the sewing community, and I find this an unfair advantage over students whose families do not have the time or resources. That said, the "old person" dress up is unconscionable. What was amusing in the 1970's Saturday Night Live doesn't fly today.

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  6. Ageism is everyday, in so many facets of life. I don’t blog, but I could! I saw an orthopedic surgeon for a troubled knee, as I want to be able to walk easily, esp when we can finally (!) travel again. And I don’t “look” over 70. But he just told me to home and do my knee exercises. Gah. I’m a Master Gardener volunteer through Cooperative Extension, and here in Maricopa County (Phoenix) I’m on 3 different Zoom platforms. I help the public and younger people just going through the Master Gardener classes. Turns out they really like being paired with me in my “room” because I’m so nice and so knowledgeable. I bet they’d all be surprised I’m over 70! Shh, I won’t tell if you won’t! Why do we even have to think that!
    I love your work and your blog, Bunny! I miss Margy’s makes and personality, and her travel wardrobe! Remember the other Marji who dropped out when she went sailing for a year? So cool, all!

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    1. Wow, thank you for your service to your community, Cherie. I love to garden and so admire those who have reached your level. It is such an accomplishment so congratulations on that. I can see why you want those knees in top shape. I do think a change in ortho docs is in order for you with your first words being" I'm a Master Gardener." I hope this works out for you.

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    2. I had the same experience with an orthopedist and I’m 61! I ride a Peloton for 45 minutes at a time, walk 5 miles or so a day with my dog, weight train, and garden. Totally torn ACL and an unstable knee and he wanted to send me to PT to strengthen my leg muscles! What an ass — he just made assumptions about my activity and strength based on age.

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  7. ¡¡Por favor, qué gran falta de respeto!!con ésas actitudes prejuiciadas hacia las personas mayores, son actitudes discriminatorias contra las personas de edad. No se debería restringir la interacción entre personas de diferentes grupos de edad ya que resulta muy instructiva para ambas partes, sobretodo en los temas de costura. Yo ya paso de los 60 y me encanta coser ropa y me encantan las costureras. BESICOS.

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  8. Thank you for this post, I have been feeling this sense of ageism for quite some time over the last couple of years. I live in UK, London, which is a very diverse city and yet I still feel it. The first time I felt painfully uncomfortable was at a day's sewing, it was casual, everyone sewing their own things, I was looking forward to it as a relaxing day and time for myself. I consider myself stylish and on trend and a busy working woman. It was really strange to be seen as 'older'- I'm 54, and I was spoken to slightly differently than the others, it was subtle but there was a distinction and it was disturbing. I can totally relate to FB comments of- wow you don't look ___ age, do they think people over 50 usually look like crap... they must have mothers, aunties etc that are beautiful

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    1. Thank you. You get it. It is subtle but when you feel it, it's not. In certain groups you do get spoken to differently, no doubt about it.

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    2. I had the same experience with going to an evening open sew at a local small fabric shop that I didn't realize catered mostly to the young families and single women in that part of town. There were about 8 younger women and one 20 something guy. I was using a Vogue pattern and they were using indies. One of the women asked why I would buy a Vogue. I said they had always been the backbone of the pattern industry with fitting and style and I grew up using them. When they discussed the price of indies, the only comment I made was that JoAnn's had regular pattern sales with Vogues for 4.99 and others were less. They grimaced and said they wouldn't be caught dead there. I was polite and didn't say that so many of the indies are copies of the big four and older Vogues with four times the price. The only one that would make conversation with me was the guy that was amazed at how I was using a knit to bind a woven jacket edge and with my color combinations. We had a cool discussion but I never went back due to the inability of the younger women to even acknowledge I was there.

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    3. I had the same experience with going to an evening open sew at a local small fabric shop that I didn't realize catered mostly to the young families and single women in that part of town. There were about 8 younger women and one 20 something guy. I was using a Vogue pattern and they were using indies. One of the women asked why I would buy a Vogue. I said they had always been the backbone of the pattern industry with fitting and style and I grew up using them. When they discussed the price of indies, the only comment I made was that JoAnn's had regular pattern sales with Vogues for 4.99 and others were less. They grimaced and said they wouldn't be caught dead there. I was polite and didn't say that so many of the indies are copies of the big four and older Vogues with four times the price. The only one that would make conversation with me was the guy that was amazed at how I was using a knit to bind a woven jacket edge and with my color combinations. We had a cool discussion but I never went back due to the inability of the younger women to even acknowledge I was there.

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  9. Amen! And, Cherie, above, I met with the same attitude from my cardiologist. I fired him and his nurse. There are other doctors.

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  10. One thing is certain. None of us had any choice about which year our parents chose for our conception. Age by definition carries no blame and should carry no shame. Eloquently written, dear blogger friend. You shine.

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    1. EXACTLY. As I tell my own child, "You have no control over where, or when, or to whom you were born. It's what you do with the life given to you that counts."

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  11. Thank you for addressing this issue, and for speaking up when something was wrong. I appreciate your suggestions and especially your blog!

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  12. A very thoughtful post and a good reminder to try to be compassionate and aware of our baggage. We are constantly learning and changing as long as we are alive. So much behavior is habitual; the good thing is that we can learn new ways of being and interacting in the world. Thank you for posting!

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  13. The one that gets me is when people mention "Age-appropriate" clothing or patterns, in the context of older individuals. Give me a break--either you have the confidence to wear something, or you don't...I've seen some women decades older than me who were rocking short skirts and leather and the like and all I think is Power On! I *am* enjoying seeing more over-50 models in ads and indie patterns and such, and some recent acceptance for the silver hair I refuse to color any more. But you're correct, there is still work to do to remind folks we're supposed to respect our elders, not denigrate them.

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    1. Another great point. I have found many of those "age appropriate" queries are from the maker themselves. Can we not look in the mirror and see what works or not? Your confidence response is the answer. If a garment doesn't make you feel "right" don't wear it. Now, we are sewists and because of that we have to imagine what we will look like in said garment. My solution to that, and I do practice it, is to go snoop shopping and take a few hours one afternoon and try on everything on the rack in your size, even the things you wouldn't be caught dead in. You will get some major surprises at what colors and styles you look good in and some of what you have been wearing out of habit can look pretty dated in comparison. It's a great eye opener. Once that is done, then you shop for pattern and fabric.

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  14. Seek and ye shall find. Social media has not turned out to be the panacea folks want. It has lifted the scab from a vicious underbelly in our country that is getting louder and more harmful because otherwise smart people can’t resist thinking they need to be connected to strangers. Don’t like what you see on FB or elsewhere? Quit!! How’s that for an idea? If it’s causing you more pain than pleasure why keep going back for more? Instead love your nearest and dearest and give your attention and talents to those who would most benefit. If you’re over 30 you lived without social media before and will survive (and probably thrive) without it again.

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  15. Thank you for a very thoughtful post. I brought up some similar points on a Sewcialist post I did a awhile ago and I know a lot of us feel the same way. I find it so frustrating when people try to pit one group against another, particularly when age is the basis, we are all working toward the same goal of enjoying the art of sewing. There is no need to create an artificial divide. I have often thought about starting a pod cast featuring a mature voice but don’t have time to do it right now. Now that I know others feel as I do, I think I will give it more serious consideration.

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    1. I'm in! I would love to find that Sewcialist post and read it. I'll search it out. Thanks.

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  16. I recently bought a multi-size pattern on Etsy. I've been sewing for 50+ years and have never seen instructions that were more poorly written. When I posted some gentle (but negative) feedback about that the pattern maker asked me to remove it. We had some back-and-forth messaging and her parting shot to me was, "Unfortunately, experienced" does not mean "up to date"." That stung. I consider myself quite up-to-date in matters regarding sewing. I also know the difference between understandable and incomprehensible instructions. Which brings up the topic of selling badly written patterns, but that's for another day.

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    1. Chay that is terrible. As an Etsy seller myself, I know that every conversation within the Etsy system is available for the company to review, and if I were you I would contact Etsy customer service to let them know about the rude comments. (Also sewing 50+ years and poor instructions are a big issue with me!).

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    2. This is a perfect example of what I see going on. Chay, I am sorry you had to endure this insult. We need to start, together, not tolerating such ignorance. I have decided that every time I see someone remark about how someone look great in the outfit just made and they can't believe the maker is xxx age I am going to speak up. I am not letting those comments go by anymore.

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  17. Thank you for your thoughts expressed so eloquently and so personal to me. My own daughter expressed ageism to me, I was appalled and corrected her. laughing out loud, where did I go wrong. Btw, I, too, miss Margy, her style was so exciting and inspiring and a style I love to mimic. Do you happen to know why she stopped doing her blog, I hope she isn’t I’ll.

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    1. I really don't know. Last she wrote she was having a lot of trouble with a foot and she was an avid walker and traveler. Perhaps she is traveling with her husband and feels better and blogging is no longer in her wheelhouse but I think we all miss her a lot. I hope she is well.

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  18. Hi Bunny and everyone posting and/or reading. Yes, I would agree that ageism is an issue in our culture. And like many noted, it is not only in sewing -- from visiting the supermarket to taking a book out at the library, we are judged by our looks. But we are talking about sewing, and it exists. As a retired teacher, I understand the motivation for various dress up days, but I think those who orchestrate and promote them have to use a bit of common sense and ask themselves if what they are doing is hurting others in some way. Bunny, thanks for the suggestions re the blogs, I'll check them out when I have some time. For those of us who have enjoyed watching the Great British Sewing Bee, I'd like to remind everyone that the winner of series one was Jane who was over 80 years old. I loved the comment by Patrick Grant one of the judges, "I'd hire her in a minute". Brilliant!

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    1. Jane was wonderful and I remember her well. There are many other blogs out there by those of "a certain age" and well done. Because I don't do Insta I don't know the status there but from what I've read it skews younger. I could be wrong. FB definitely skews,in general, older. My grandkids wouldn't be caught dead on there, but what it good about FB is the group activity. You put in a hobby or interest and there are usually several group pages appealing to that interest and they can be populated by various ages all sharing the interest.

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  19. I really enjoyed your post, and absolutely agree. I've thought a lot about the various pitting of one group against another that is so common. The thought struck me that it is a part of the human character. We all want to feel we are superior to someone else in some (however minor) way. (for example: Football is better than baseball, or math is better than science, I can sew so I must be better than someone who cannot.). We all need to recognize this part of our natures, and work to not practice it. I am part of the older generation, and remember that my mother said that she became invisible as she aged because of this kind of disrespect. I determined that I would not allow this to happen to me, but must admit that sometimes I fail in this resolve. Thank you for not allowing yourself to become invisible (silent). I hope to work to be inclusive, and to try to not allow myself to even think I am superior to others in any, even little, way, as after all we are all individual, beautiful, different, all valuable.

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    1. Hi Bunny, Thank you for another brilliant, thought provoking post.I totally agree with your observations. I must look into your podcast suggestions and other blogs that you mention. Have to say, you are top of my list and always will be!Stay safe and well everyone.

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