Blogging from the Tate Tanks for Silver Action with Suzanne Lacy

suzanne lacy silver actionWhat an awesome day we had yesterday with Suzanne Lacy and her Silver Action art performance piece at the Tate Modern Tank space, where 400 women of 60 plus came together to have a huge conversation about their lives as feminists and activists.

Jane and I sat in and recorded inspiring conversations that covered everything from leaving abusive relationships in the 60s when there was little support to the frustration felt over today’s young girls who feel they have nothing they need to fight for!

It was a privilege to listen and our role was to tweet out the conversation to a bigger audience in (we think) the first artwork that has integrated real time social media comment into its content, Suzanne will be curating everything the 20 bloggers and tweeters said in a future piece that will embrace everything that happened on the day, a little like the Crystal Quilt project (as we understand it). So TWR is officially a work of art…just call us multi-taskers….

Anyway, thanks for all your replies to our tweets, for those that weren’t able to follow the event, here’s a snapshot of some of the conversations we listened to….

On being activists

”Of course I’m still an activist in my 60s! I keep promising my family I’ll spend more time with them but I never seem to’

‘It’s so frustrating to talk to young women who think they are living in a equal world’

‘How do we make activism part of our everyday lives, when structural inequalities still exist in so many institutions?”

‘I’m still in the Communist party, really to make sure it understands that feminism is important, it used to be seen as a deviation from the main story but it is slowly being appreciated as an important factor’

‘Housing issues for older women are worth fighting for today as women are living longer and no one want to go into a home.’

‘How many women out there need help but are too proud to ask?’

‘Women want community based housing that lets them remain independent. My elderly mother was outraged that a doctor had to sign her off as ‘fit and capeable’ to live on her own in sheltered housing as she resented the intrusion in her otherwise active life.’

‘The austerity regime is stripping older women out of the work force’.

‘Affirmation for good work is important, it’s not about fame, but doing things in a quiet way, that’s the way to change things’.

Us in action, tweeting and recording

Us in action, tweeting and recording

On getting older

‘I like not being public property any more, not having blokes comment on my bum or boobs, it’s a big relief ‘.

‘When I returned to The States in my 50s, no one wanted to hire me even though I had 30 years experience.’

‘I live inTottenham and we have rubbish street lighting, when we’re older we can’t walk so fast and we feel intimidated in the dark.’

‘The secret of surviving when older is to have younger friends.’…. Also walk absolutely everywhere and get a dog (or a cat as @thevintageyear and @sarah_males reminded us via tweets)

‘I was made redundant at 50, I decided everything I had done previously was a rehearsal for what I was going to do for the rest of my life.’

‘People think of older people as a close age group, but covers many ages, from 60 to 100’.

‘Freedom Bus Pass a much loved lifesaver for elderly, if you can’t afford anything else you can always go for a bus ride’.

‘The great thing about getting older is deciding you may as well go for it’.

‘At what point do you say, I’m here, I’m ok, I might as well live my life’.

‘The world’s your oyster in your 20’s, but you’re too full of insecurities to appreciate it’.

On outright sexism

My father wouldn’t let me go to university, he said my mother didn’t go so I didn’t need to. I eventually got to go when I was 60′.

‘On my first day in my job leading team of academics in the 70s, I was the head of dept, leading a meeting but I was asked to pour the tea and ‘be mother’ because I was a woman’.

‘Sport is an important arena for feminism still, female tennis star (Gussie Moran) recently had an obituary in leading broadsheet written almost entirely about her knickers’.

‘I was turned into activist  working for the BBC in 70s, at my interview to be a makeup girl i was asked if I had boyfriend because it was preferred that my boyfriend should come from within the BBC to encourage a family style commitment to the organisation but also that I should pamper and look after the stars and to be ‘available’. Also we were referred to as ‘powderpuff girls’ –  we were only called make up ‘artists’ when we were very senior.  We were treated very badly, we weren’t allowed taxis home whereas male dressers were. Eventually l led my girls out on strike for equal rights but I was never hired again.’

women having their stories transcribed onto the screens in the Tanks, emotional stuff it was too

women having their stories transcribed onto the screens in the Tanks, emotional stuff it was too.

On clothing improvements

“Girdles were worn by good girls, if you didn’t wear one you were considered ‘open’ and something of a hussy.”

“When I started teaching women had to wear skirts, trousers were just not allowed. And I taught in the deep south (USA) where it got hot but we still had to wear thick stockings’.

Do read more on Tate Modern’s website for the event, and let us know your thoughts on what we heard.

For more photos see middleagedad’s blog here



  • Rohini says:

    What an amazing day! Frustrating and hopeful on both accounts. What will life be like for me when I’m 60 [30 now]? I guess all the better because of women like this. A very thought provoking start to Monday x

  • I caught a few of your Tweets yesterday, so it’s good to read about it in more detail this morning. What a great experience!

  • Becky says:

    What a fabulous experience – I wish I could have been there.

  • Amanda says:

    Interesting point R, I guess you shape life to be what you want it to be and inspire and influence as many people along the way as you can. It really was an amazing day, still thinking of all the conversations we heard this morning…A

  • Why is there no space for older women to be funny? Comedy and humour are essential for survival and one of the best ways of getting heard but Silver Action, Funnywomen Southbank Centre or the mainstream comedy ghetto will not encourege funny older women or give them a platform.

    Silver Action was an interesting event but why does it take an American artist to even begin to give us older women activists some space to share our thoughts and experiences without being ghettoised into old folk reminiscences/oral history box?

  • Amanda says:

    Jeanne I so agree with you on the comedy, I’d love to hear more funny older women. Ax

  • Thank you for your posting. Wish I’d known about this sooner! You could check out this on my website if you wanted a laugh – older woman talking about inequality!

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