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Thank you for calling me an 'Old Crone!'

It has been brought to my attention by a very brave soul (my daughter, my husband would not be game) that I am not as fit as I once was and have gained a bit of extra padding. The fact that the floor seems to have moved further away and I can now only wave from a distance, and if I dare to sit on it can no longer rise like a graceful swan, (in fact I look more like Bambi taking his first steps), encouraged me to take note and join the gym.

One of the 'benefits' of being 60, is that often people don't notice you and speak quite openly, and if you are a stickybeak like me, you can learn lots. Diligently pounding away on the treadmill last week, I was eavesdropping on chatter going on between two twenty-somethings, discussing a fitness challenge at the gym, when their conversation turned to a woman they knew.

"Did you hear 'Maryanne' has hired a Personal Trainer? She must be at least 45, why would an old crone like her even bother? She'll never keep up."

I would love to have taken them aside and educated them on the history of 'the crone', but I had been on the treadmill for nearly 30 minutes at that stage and could barely talk. So, instead, I thought I would write it.

Throughout history, the crone was the wise woman of the village (often a midwife and healer). She was revered as the keeper of deep knowledge, intuition and the secrets to life and death. She was seen as a symbol of the wisdom that comes with age and experience, and played a crucial role in the cycle of life.

Enter the patriarchal society. As you can imagine, the men weren't too keen on the idea of a woman holding all the knowledge; I mean, we could already give birth and they couldn't, but we wanted to be smart as well? I don't think so!

Take a look at the fairytales we grew up with. The hero was always a young, strong, powerful (the prince) handsome, brave and virtuous male. So, what is the complete opposite? Yes, let's demonise the older woman. Let's make her the villain - old, ugly, jealous, and vindictive. (Are you picturing the wicked witch holding out an apple? Yes? Some movie franchises have a LOT to answer for - don't get me started on the assumption that a woman needs to be rescued in the first place!). Not only that, let's make her knowledge of the natural healing arts evil and call it black magic. The crone archetype has been distorted and misused, contributing to both ageism and sexism, and the bias has been taught from our childhood.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement in Australia, as well as in other parts of the world, where women over 50 are embracing the term "crone" and redefining it in a positive and empowering way. This movement seeks to challenge and subvert the derogatory connotations associated with the term and reclaim it as a symbol of strength, wisdom, and self-acceptance.

Many women are proud to identify as crones, recognising the value of their life experiences and the wisdom they have gained over the years. They reject the societal pressure to remain forever youthful and beautiful, embracing their natural aging process and celebrating the unique qualities that come with age. These women are unapologetically themselves, and they inspire others to do the same.

In Australia, various initiatives and communities like our own Silver Sirens have emerged that support and empower older women. These groups provide a space for women to come together, share their experiences, and promote the positive aspects of aging.

By embracing the term "crone," women are challenging ageism and reshaping the narrative around what it means to grow older. They are demonstrating that older women have a lot to offer society, and their wisdom and vitality should be celebrated rather than diminished.

Give me another few weeks (ok, months) at the gym, and this proud 'old crone' will give those young ladies a run for their money, and teach them that age, wisdom and pure determination can trump youth and beauty.

Jody Webster

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