Maybe it’s because I belong to the club now that I notice these things.
A club I am thrilled to be a member of, mind you. It took longer than I imagined and the path wasn’t always easy but I’m thrilled whenever the boys run into the house, arms opened wide, crying out “Hey Mimi/Granny.”
It’s a thrilling thing to be a grandmother. My grandmother Ruth died when I was quite young, but I remember those last days of her dying. And anyone who has read AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED knows how close I was to my Granny Leona. I was blessed with grandmothers who were both Godly and good-hearted women.
My grandmothers had difficult lives in many ways. They married men who did not always treat them kindly. And with no access to birth control, they both brought a bounty of children into the world. Grandmother Ruth had eight children, but only six lived. Granny Leona had eight children who all lived. Like many Appalachian families of their era, these families faced poverty. Neither of my grandfathers owned cars. They were illiterate, unable to read, able to only sign their names.
This does not embarrass me in the least. I come from a long line of proud hard-working people. I have advantages my grandparents didn’t have because of their work ethic and their good-heartedness. The fact that I am a writer is a tribute to my grandparents and their hopes and dreams for their children and grandchildren.
So given this legacy you might wonder why I would make the observation that calls into question the way journalists continue to employ the term “grandmother” as a description for women.
Perhaps you heard this description this week: “A 63-year old grandmother serving a life-sentence for a drug crime.”
This was a headline that news anchors around the country used to describe Alice Marie Johnson, a drug-trafficker who has already spent 20 years in prison for her crimes. Her name came up because Kim Kardashian paid the 70-year old lewd grandfather a visit at the White House, to petition him to pardon the 63- year old convicted felon who had already spent 20 years of her life in prison. Kim and others evoked the “grandmother” term as a way of eliciting sympathy.
It was a misogynistic move.
Journalists, print and television, continually note that Alice Marie Johnson is a grandmother. The term, of course, is being used in this case to evoke public sentiment: Who among us would send their own grandmother to prison?
Have you noticed that journalists, print and television, hardly ever refer to Trump as a grandfather?
Imagine if the headlines had read: “A 70-year-old grandfather who is campaigning for president made lewd remarks on an Access Hollywood tape.”
Or, “A 70-year old grandfather said, ‘I did try and fuck her … I moved on her like a bitch but I couldn’t get there.'”
Or, “A grandfather of nine said, ‘When you are a star, you can do whatever you want. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.'”
See how that works?
When we refer to women as grandmothers, it conjures up a certain weak image of women in our minds: Grandmothers are dear. Grandmothers are sweet. Grandmothers are good. Grandmothers are old. Grandmothers are frail. There’s a big difference between calling Alice Johnson a convicted drug trafficker and calling her a 63-year old grandmother.
And there’s a big difference between calling Trump a 70-year old businessman and a 70-year old grandfather.
Listening to someone’s grandfather talk about grabbing a woman’s pussy is gross, but in Trump’s circle, it’s macho for a businessman to talk that way.
So media continues to portray women as weak. They often referred to Hillary Clinton as a grandmother and rarely refer to Trump as a grandfather.
They do this to diminish women.
And it’s done everyday by men and women journalists.
If NPR and CNN and Washington Post had reported the Access Hollywood tape as the actions of a lewd old grandfather, Trump would likely have never been elected (certainly without help).
We don’t have to worry about the Russians.
Media is doing its damndest to build up Trump and tear down women on a daily basis.
Think about it.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND (a novel) Mercer University Press.