The Lady Is a Tramp: Sexism, Ageism, and the Gores’ Separation
Yep, former vice-president Al Gore and his wife of 40 years, Tipper, are separating. Not divorcing or dissolving their marriage (the legal definitions of separation, divorcing, and dissolution vary state by state), but they have decided that simply—for now—that they don’t wish to be a married couple.
Of course, the mainstream stream media have practically sung dirges over their decision from the view of those who know them: the registered shock, the scrambled-for reasons, the insider explanations of the inner working of the marriage itself…which circles right back to the registered shock and sadness. And arguments of whether or not the decision meant the union’s failure have been debated.
What I’ve heard in my part of the world is why would people even want to leave each other after four decades of a relationship. “There’s nothing out there,” two of my co-workers said. “Who exactly do they think they’re going to get at this point? You may as well stay together.” And none of my arguments about personal happiness or that they both are attractive people who may have lovers post-marriage dissuaded them.
Some of the tweetizenry also argued back and forth about the break-up, with some folks on my timeline rubbing their figurative hands (and thighs) in lust…after the former vice-president. Hell, I even rubbed my thighs in horny glee that the man is on the market again. (Yeah, I felt sort of bad about it—it’s too soon to lust, it’s tacky to get all fast in the panties when the man’s mourning the ending of his life-partnership. But, I’d be lying if I said that those reasons didn’t curb my hotness for the Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize winner.)
Then I started pinpointing where my discomfort rested: though people—including me—sexualized Al Gore (on Twitter, at least) either as object of lust or of sexual derision, rarely did I hear anyone say the same either way about Tipper. At most, someone said the “hottest thing about Al was Tipper.” (Sincere praise or backhanded compliment?) The worst was that someone wanted to put a parent advisory sticker on her. (No explanation beyond that was given.)
My tweetpal, PPR_Scribe, and I chatted about some of the –isms we've seen regarding the on- and offline conversations about the Gores and their decision.
PPR_Scribe: I sense ageism in some criticisms of the Gores' separation: the idea that at 60 you have one foot in the grave and so should just accept any situation.
Andrea Plaid: Oh homie! And the fact that one–especially if one's a woman–isn't sexually attractive/desirable/viable after 60 years old. Didn't Blanche prove otherwise?
PPR_Scribe: Exactly. With potentially 20 or more good years of (highly sexual, if she wishes) life ahead of Tipper, why spend it unhappy? Plus, when you consider how young she was when they married, perhaps she (and he, too) is looking forward to some adventure!
AP: True, or just looking or not have deal with being the one-and-only for another person. It’s interesting that folks [on Twitter] (even I joined in) assume Al Gore, relatively speaking, is gonna be overrun with propositions while few–if any–assume the same of Tipper. Sexism and ageism, in my opinion. And, with her involvement with [the] Parent Music Resource Center and getting parental advisory stickers on records seen as "too sexy" or too violent, she [is] seen as [a] prude.
PPR_Scribe: Good point. 1) We've seen how even (especially?) "prudes" can (often secretly) fly their "freak flags." 2) Those stickers were meant for kids—for parents to judge content on their behalf. At time I was huge opponent. Now I have kids of my own. LOL.
Perhaps we can thank feminism’s media justice activism for possibly quelling the vitriol that could be heaped on Tipper during a time like this: this could have easily become a pile-on about her aging and the imagined undesirability due to aging—along with her perceived dislike of sexuality in pop culture—that’s “making” her husband leave her. However, in this case, the sexism is couched in ageism, namely that, even if a couple is ending a decades-long relationship (especially if the couple is cis and straight), a man “of a certain age” is still seen as fuckable (especially if he’s has wealth and/or prestige) whereas a woman of the same age is, at best, rarely spoken about, especially as a sexual being.
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