At the age of 59 and after 24 years as the female cast member on the live radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, it was decided that I was too old and should be replaced.
The kicker was that I was too old. My 2 male coworkers in our cast of 3 (both much older than I) were not too old. It’s an ancient story. Older men are distinguished and revered. Older women are just old. But it all felt very fresh and current when it happened to me.
There are nuances with my story, of course. It was framed as a casting decision. Nothing personal. But take away the emotion, or the various opinions as to how it was handled or if it was actually even legal and the bottom line is I was dismissed because of my age. Period.
Being told one day that you can no longer do your job, not because of some worktime infraction, but simply because you’re a woman who has reached a certain age sucks and feels very personal, trust me.
So what was I supposed to do next? I had never been “old” before so I wasn’t sure. I knew I wasn’t ready to stop working or creating! (And no I didn’t and have not retired and I know you mean well, but please stop asking.)
In trying to manage a damaged sense of self-worth that comes from being put out to pasture before your time, I became fascinated with how other women had navigated this situation. How had they found the courage to ignore the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness that come from being thrown out with the trash? What was motivating them to keep moving forward with their brilliant gifts and talents and to continue to contribute to society?
My quest to find these women and to hear their stories opened my eyes to the societal norms and gender road blocks that women, of every age, face daily. Their stories may not be about ageism, specifically, but they are about being shoved aside, ignored or passed over simply because they’re women.
I needed to speak up and speak out and am discovering that many other women do, too, so I created the podcast, Island of Discarded Women. This ongoing series explores the gender biases that we are STILL facing today through a mix of radio theatre satire, original songs and candid conversations with women who have inspiring stories to share of how they tackled the obstacles and “isms” in their lives.
The podcast is still new, but we’re already mapping out life on this island with those who have just “washed up” and I’ve had fascinating conversations with special guests like, Ann Bancroft, Roxane Battle and Paula Poundstone!
Huge thank you to MAIA Community for their enthusiastic embrace of this fresh, new and still evolving podcast! For more information about Island of Discarded Women, to listen to episodes and/or to join us for a live taping, go to https://www.islandofdiscardedwomen.com