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April 21, 2023

Ageism, Feminism and Sexism with Jane Caro

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Jane Caro - author, novelist, social commentator, award winning columnist, broadcaster, documentary maker, TEDX speaker, feminist and self-proclaimed troublemaker speaks out on the issues of ageism, feminism and sexism, topics close to heart. And then she and I talk about America's issues with abortion legislation and guns and how we appear to the rest of the world.


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Disclaimer: AI generated transcript


Larry (00:00):

You are listening to specifically for seniors, and I'm your host, Larry Barsh. Before recording each episode, I like to spend some time getting to know the guest on the show. We chat for a couple of minutes, I check that things are recording properly, then do the official intro and start the podcast, the pre-show warmup with my guest, Jane Carroll, took a fascinating turn on this episode, so I thought I'd bring that to you before officially starting the podcast. We'll get to the formalities of the open and a couple of minutes, so stick with us. But I think you're really going to enjoy this.

Jane Caro (00:46):

Well, I'm so pleased you liked my Ted Talk. I did it a while ago, but it's been a bit of a creeper, you know, it, it, it garners viewers slowly over, over time.

Larry (00:59):

I, I was hysterical most of the time. <Laugh> I hope we get, I hope we get into a bit of that. Absolutely. On the

Jane Caro (01:09):

Podcast. You can't laugh. What's the point? And I do think most of life has its absurd side.

Larry (01:19):

Yeah. And, and this age is tough.

Jane Caro (01:24):

Yeah. I have to say I'm 66 in June and I'm still really enjoying it. But I am noticing a falling off of the kind of work that I've done for a long time speaking and seeing media work writing I've still got, and that keeps going. Cause nobody cares how old you are as a writer, but anything where they you know, see you, there is a real ageism around that. Apart from that, so far, I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying the freedom and the I don't give a feeling that I still very strongly have, which I did not have when I was a young woman. So there's something in that.

Larry (02:11):

I was I was on a Zoom call with an old friend of mine before we got together, and I was saying the same thing, especially at 86.

Jane Caro (02:23):


Larry (02:24):

I really, this is another don't care,

Jane Caro (02:26):

<Laugh>. Yeah. You really don't care. Why should you Well, my parents are both 91 and they're still hail and hardy and, you know, seen every play and every film and very engaged in the world. And they say it does get a lot tougher. They both in now walk on sticks and they don't have quite the mobility and thing that they used to have. But they, yeah, they don't give a.

Larry (02:50):

Yeah. My, my mother passed away at 101. Wow. And she, and she was still doing her own checkbook. Oops. Just fell off my chair.

Jane Caro (03:00):

<Laugh> don't do that. No, that you're right. <Laugh>.

Larry (03:05):

I, so far, knock wood, I don't break easily.

Jane Caro (03:09):

Oh, that's

Larry (03:10):

Good. It's I, I, the secret I think is to keep doing Yeah. And to keep challenging yourself. I started this podcast a year ago, February.

Jane Caro (03:29):


Larry (03:30):

For you. And just because I hadn't done it before and it sounded like a fun thing to do. And it is.

Jane Caro (03:39):

Yeah, that's a great idea. And there's a big market for it because, you know, we do all across the western world, we have an aging population and they're still relatively ignored, and yet they're still active. They've got plenty of money. They're a market. I mean, I've just written a novel last year. It was published last year and it's got an older woman as the protagonist and it's a bestseller. It's sole, you know, Australian bestseller and are people quite astonished. But I go to writers festivals a lot cuz I've written a lot of non-fiction books. And I looked at the audience and they're all women of my age. And so it struck me as a no-brainer to write a novel about an older woman, a grandmother's experience. But it's like the rest of the world just can't see that. They can't, they can't see us as actual members of this society. We're supposed to be taking a backseat. They don't like it when we take center stage.

Larry (04:39):

Women or men or both?

Jane Caro (04:42):

Both, I think. But I think it starts to happen earlier for women. So I think it happens to both men and women. But I think it starts to happen earlier for women. And I think in a way it's less of a shock for women because we've always been a marginalized, you know, in terms of being expected to facilitate other people to shine rather than to shine ourselves. So it's less of a shock. And also, we've always been part of a group. So, you know, people would talk about women drivers and things like that. They take and tell if you're part of a group, no one ever talked about men drivers. You know, you were a bad driver if you were a man who drove badly, but you didn't represent all men if you were a woman. And in this country, if you're an Asian driver you're seen as representing all women.

Jane Caro (05:32):

All Asians. See, it confirms our belief that women are bad drivers or Asians are bad drivers. Well, the same sort of thing all the way through a woman's life. But for white men, white straight men in particular, they were never a member of a group. They always just themselves representing themselves. And then when they get older for the first time they become part of a group. And that's a big shock, I think, to a lot of men. Less so for women. We've kind of gotten used to that. But I also think, are we doing the podcast now? Or am I just rambling?

Larry (06:06):

No, but I'm gonna keep part of it. I think

Jane Caro (06:09):

<Laugh> good. Good. Keep going. Cause the I also think that for women getting older is not entirely an experience of deficit because of course we go through menopause. And as I said in that podcast, in that TEDx talk, we stop menstruating. And there's just no downside to that. That is a advantage. Suddenly we get heaps of energy and brain space release that we didn't have before, and we're freed from worrying about, you know, whether we're gonna get pregnant and all that kind of stuff. And so for women, I sometimes think that aging, even though it's supposed to be harder for us, because we are supposed to be very little creatures who care about what we look alike all the time, I think in some ways it's easier for us because some things improve. Whereas for men, mostly things, you know, are less than they were. And there isn't that big change where it improves. But for women, there is,

Larry (07:08):

We, we'll talk about that more officially. Sure. And it probably won't be as good as this

Jane Caro (07:14):

<Laugh>. That's

Larry (07:15):

All right. So I'm recording this. Recording this. Okay. Let's give it a go.

Speaker 3 (07:26):

You are connected and you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast for those in the remember When Generation Today's podcast is available everywhere you listen to podcasts and with video at specifically for seniors YouTube channel. Now, here's your host, Dr. Larry Barsh.

Larry (07:59):

Truth be told, I'm a bit intimidated by today's guest on specifically for seniors. Jane Carro is an author, a novelist, a social commentator, an award-winning columnist, a broadcaster, a documentary maker, a ted speaker, a feminist, and self-proclaimed troublemaker. She's published 13 books. Her most recent book is her first novel, the Mother. Her Opinion pieces appear frequently in Australian News media. Jane is on the boards of the Public Education Foundation and Every Age Counts. She is an ambassador for the Older Women's Network. And since apparently I haven't screwed up the time difference between Boston, Massachusetts and Sydney, Australia, I'd like you ultimate Jane Carroll, welcome to specifically for Seniors. Jane,

Jane Caro (09:05):

Thank you so much for having me, Larry. I'm really honored to be here.

Larry (09:11):

We all reach if we're lucky enough, a stage in our lives when we realize we are growing old. But there's a vast difference in the way some of us react to it. You have an amazing attitude toward growing old, not older.

Jane Caro (09:31):

Yes. I, my view of growing old is that it is an adventure. It's like every other stage in life, if you embrace it, it has much to teach you. If you try to avoid it, it will still happen. You can't avoid growing old. You can change the way your face looks and, you know, do all that kind of thing. But in the end, chronology is chronology. You are the age you are, and the body that carries you around is starting to show just like a an old car or you know, a house that goes in age cracks and, and, and things that are going wrong with it. But if you think about every age, there was always deficits. There were always things that weren't great. When I was young, I was incredibly anxious. I had a, you know, diagnosable anxiety neurosis, and I spent most of my time ruminating about things that never happened.

Jane Caro (10:36):

I I couldn't go into a room without trying to compare myself to other people. I was very self-critical. I was insecure. And I now think from the vantage of almost 66, that to be young is to be insecure. Because you're relatively untried. You're still finding your way through the world. Well, that's really hard to deal with. And it's actually, you know, maturity is a result of bumping up against the edges of the world and hurting, you know, if those bumps hurt. But they teach you stuff. And if you're able to learn what they're there to teach you, I have found that now at this stage in my life, I'm so not anxious. I could be accused of having over-corrected. And I find that so liberating. And I think we do not understand enough how, if you are relatively fortunate as you age, particularly financially, so that you are relatively financially secure. Actually, this can be a period of time where you fully occupy your own skin. Now, that may be because your skin's a lot bad air and looser than it was, so there's more room for you in it, but you also fully occupy who you are. You've given up trying to be like other people because you've realize that that doesn't work. So I suppose the opportunity as you get older is to both be wiser and more self-accepting and therefore have more capacity for joy.

Larry (12:15):

The problem is that some people accept the ages hype, and it perpetuates the idea that old is bad, which becomes destructive.

Jane Caro (12:32):

I think that's absolutely true, and ageism is a real thing. And it seems to be one of the last kind of, of the isms that we mostly don't accept or don't agree with. It's still acceptable in a lot of circles to overtly discriminate on the basis of age. Look, discrimination on the basis of race and gender and all those things still happens, but it tends to be done covertly because, you know, we've, as a society, we've kind of decided that those things are stupid and shouldn't happen, which is an entirely sensible decision in my view. But with ageism, it's still acceptable to discriminate against someone purely because of the age they are, which of course is another of those external things like the color of your skin or the configuration of your genitalia that you have no con Well, you have some control over your genitalia these days.

Jane Caro (13:31):

But anyway, the way you know, you basically, they're characteristics that you have no control over. And therefore it is absurd to judge you according to them. They're external, they're not you. But the tragedy of it is actually ageism is the most stupid of the stupid prejudices. Because as you said, if you're lucky, we'll, all one day get old, not older. We're all growing older from the day we're born, get old and or what is designated old in our society. And so when a younger person discriminates against someone because they think they're too old, they're literally shooting their future self in the foot. They are if you like, performing behavior that will damage them eventually. And I think one of the things that is a great tragedy of youth, and I did it too, I'm not, I, you know, I, I didn't escape from this particular lack of self-awareness.

Jane Caro (14:32):

I remember vividly remember as a young woman looking at older people, and I have this idea intellectually I knew it wasn't right, but I had this idea in my gut that they were born old, they'd always been old, and that somehow therefore I would always be young. And I think this is a delusion that a lot of people suffer from. And it isn't until you get probably late forties, early fifties, and you realize that this thing ain't stopping that year after year is going, and you are gonna get older every year that you suddenly clock that every old person you have ever known in your life was young once. And that changes, I think, how you regard yourself and everyone else. But ageism is a powerful thing. The idea that a getting old means you are, you are useless, you're past it, you are out of touch.

Jane Caro (15:28):

You dunno what the modern world's like you can't do technology. You're slow. You and you're close to deaf. I think the problem for older old people is that we remind young people of their mortality. And therefore they, you know, those of them who don't wanna think too deeply wanna block us out because there is a niggling little unease they get when they see us about what might be going to happen to them one day. Well, that's not good enough. And in fact, the way to deal with that niggling unease is to make the world a better and more accepting place for people of every age. And then you don't need to dread getting old.

Larry (16:12):

But why do some of us discriminate against ourselves? Well, it's the same. We self, we self isolate.

Jane Caro (16:22):

Well be, it's the same as women did for millennia. Really. They accepted the view of male society of patriarchy, that women were inferior. They were lesser. They did deserve smaller lives, that they were only useful as the producers of children. And they bought that. And there are still women who have internalized misogyny and who will really believe that men are superior. They may accept themselves and say that they're the one woman who's more like the blokes, but it is internalized misogyny. Well, I think internalized ageism is a real thing. And it's common. I mean, if you look perhaps even at race racism, there have been examples in the past, less so now where people internalized racism and used it against themselves and other members of their community. This certainly was for a long time internalized homophobia. And so, and I think that still exists.

Jane Caro (17:23):

I'm quite convinced that some of the far right wingers who fulminate against homosexuality and things like that I I just start the clock ticking is start as soon as they do expecting them to be called infl any minute now with someone in a, in a toilet somewhere. So, you know, internalized prejudice is a real thing, and it's why prejudice is so effective, because it doesn't, I used to say that sexism is not just something that men do to women or that women do to women. It's that something women do to themselves. Well, the same cont thing continues with ageism. We do it to ourselves. This is, this in a way, is normal. That's what people do when they are buffeted by a view that they are lesser. There is a, there is a temptation to accept that

Larry (18:19):

We, we seem to lose the playfulness that we once had when we really shouldn't at this age.

Jane Caro (18:29):

A absolutely do not lose that playfulness. I, I don't know if I hope I have and I don't feel like I have. I I I, and I also think that what we need to have, and, and once I think you and I use again my, you know, lifetime fight for women's rights as a kind of template for this, once you start to recognize the prejudices and the methods that are being used to make you feel lesser, to make you feel insecure, to keep you smaller, you know, don't take up too much space. And I think that's one of the things we really do strongly say to people once they reach a certain age, stop taking up space. Stop being the center stage. You are at the periphery. Now, accept that we've certainly always said that to women too, is once you recognize that that's actually very self-serving then you can start to access your rebell. And with rebellious, because that is a youthful emotion comes playfulness as well, and subversion and a refusal to take yourself seriously or to take the kind of constraints that others would put on you for their own benefit, not yours, for their own benefit. To be able to see that clearly, I am being oppressed because it actually serves you and people like you. In this case, the young allows you to actually reject that prejudice rather than absorb it. You have to see it for what it is.

Larry (20:06):

You recently wrote an article about your husband's experience in a bakery.

Jane Caro (20:13):


Larry (20:13):

<Affirmative>, do you want to tell the listeners about that? Yeah.

Jane Caro (20:16):

He went into a, you know, my, my husband is 68 and he's a very affable kind of a guy. Like, he gets on really well with people and he's always striking up conversations with the waiter in the restaurant and the, you know, all that. And so he's not used to being treated as different from anyone else. And he was queuing in to go into the bakery to buy a life of bread. And as he stood in the queue, and it was his turn next, the shop assistant looked at him and said, and what can I do for this young man? And my husband felt completely crestfallen because suddenly his age was being made the most defining characteristic. That was all he was, was an old man. Yes, I know he was called a young man. But it'd be the same as saying to someone who was very perhaps curvy, overweight, and what can I do for this self?

Jane Caro (21:20):

You know, it's, it's actually pointing out a d what is seen as a deficit by talking about the opposite. And he, he found it very limiting and it, it took him out of just getting on with his day and feeling perfectly fine about himself to, oh, he sees me as an old culture. And this is the kind of, it's called benign in for women. It would be called benign sexism. And then there's hostile sexism. So it sounds nice. It sounds like they're paying you a compliment, but actually they're putting you in your place. And this is benign ageism. And it happens quite a lot when people patronize you and pretend that you are younger than you are, as if your age is something to be ashamed of, and therefore we must protect. It's like when they used to say things like, oh, she's got the mind of a man.

Jane Caro (22:14):

Well, that's benign sexism. It's meant as a compliment of, sorry, who's the comp being complimented here? Men. So we need to, I'm a writer, so words matter to me. They're meaning matters to me. And the layers of meaning matter to me. We've got to be more analytical about the kind of language we use and that we allow to be used against us. He was left as we saw often. Now when these things happened, unable to think of the great repost. A number of people did get back to me after that article appeared and said with some lines you could use, if someone said to you, what can I do for this young man? Say to him, well, if I'm a young man, you must be a fetus. I thought that was rather a good response. I'm gonna keep getting my sleep <laugh>.

Larry (23:01):

Well, I go, I go to a deli counter to get some Turkey, and the woman behind the deli counter says, so what can I do for you, honey? You're a sweetie. And my reply is are you gonna back those words up or are you just talking to me?

Jane Caro (23:18):

<Laugh>? Yeah. Are you just flirting with me? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I, I don't like honey, sweetie. The one I really don't like at all is, dear people, cab drivers saying, oh, and where are, where are you going dear? And then, what really gets bad? They say, and where are we going? Dear <laugh>, just treat me like anyone else, for goodness sake. That's all I ask

Larry (23:44):

You. You've made the statement, the world wants me to hate and deny this stage of my life.

Jane Caro (23:52):


Larry (23:53):

It applies to both men and women. And honestly, I'm not sure which sex reacts most badly to the comment.

Jane Caro (24:05):

I think that women often find it hard if they have hung their identity on their attractiveness to the opposite sex. So if part of your sense of who you are is that you are sexy or hot or desirable, and that men will look at you and admire you, you are going to find the loss of that hard to take. And it doesn't matter how much expensive work you have done, you will not be able to compete with a juicy 18 year old. You just won. So, you know, I haven't had any work done. I don't tend to get it. I hate pain. So I'm not gonna risk it. So I think on that level it's quite hard on women if they have bought. That's why feminism, being a feminist all your life is such a gift because it gives you a lens through which to analyze this stuff, and therefore a way of rejecting that kind of way of valuing who you are and therefore you become less vulnerable to ab accepting that judgment on you.

Jane Caro (25:14):

I, I do think though, that often aging is harder on men than for women. And I know that this is a kind of not a common view. Most people see it as much hard on women than men because they see a woman's physical appearance as being the most important thing about her. But actually these bodies, women walk around in to occupy them is to feel differently about them than to look at them. And one of the great things that happens when you are an older woman is menopause. Now perimenopause can be bloody horrible, let me tell you an emphasis on the word bloody. But post-menopause is what I call the sunny uplands of post-menopause, because suddenly you do not menstruate anymore. You are no longer a life support system for other human beings. Your body becomes your own in a way that it hasn't been since.

Jane Caro (26:11):

Oh, well, you were about nine or 10. Women's bodies are very captive to their reproductive cycle. And once that's over the liberation of that is huge. Not getting periods every 28 days. Well, it's just wonderful. The amount of head space that opens up the amount of energy it it frees up the lack of having to worry about whether you'll get pregnant or not, whether the contraception work. You know, all that stuff that we had to deal with throughout our youth has gone. So there's a huge benefit in getting older for women and your body. Yes, your knees might hurt more <laugh>, you know, the, the bits the joints get a bit creakier, but your se you, you, your sexual parts actually improve. Like my boobs used to hurt at least two weeks out of every four. And when I was pregnant and breastfeeding just constantly, I never hurt at all.

Jane Caro (27:13):

Now, I, I just, no pain. Unbelievable. So I think for men, aging is, it is just everything that used to be at this level gets a little bit less and so on and so forth, particularly physically. And men are often, their value is often measured on their strength, their athletic ability, you know, that kind of thing. And so that's losses for women. There is all those losses too. But we get this huge benefit of our bodies returning to being just for us and no longer captive to the reproductive cycle. And that's not talked about enough as a huge advantage for women. And so yes, my and my feeling too about men as they age, particularly if they're white, straight, middle class men, is that it may be the first time they've ever found themselves in a stigmatized group. So instead of just being their individual selves, they become a representative of old men.

Jane Caro (28:26):

Oh, you're an old man. You can be dismissed as an old man. I don't have to take you seriously as you yourself, the individual and unique human. That's a little easier for women too, because we've always been a member of a stigmatized group and have fought, had to fight to get taken seriously as a unique individual, often the same for people of color and all that sort of thing. And so it may be a little easier for us. We're more used to what that feels like and how to deal with it. I do watch some of the men of my generation struggle with feeling that they are no longer automatically seen as important. 

Larry (29:04):

Yeah, I, I I think in men it's the loss of power related to the workplace, which we can replace with a car that we really cannot get into or out of gracefully <laugh>.

Jane Caro (29:22):

So, and your wife can't just not helpful

Larry (29:25):

<Laugh>. I don't think we as men understand fully the concept of feminism and how it relates to older ages. You described some of it, but even the basic concept of what a feminist is in reality,

Jane Caro (29:51):

Feminism is, I, I, I had an epiphany a while ago about what feminism meant to me. You know, certainly it's the straightforward idea that men and women are of equal value is really what it says. And that men and women should be able to choose their path and be responsible for themselves and make their own decisions and take the consequences good and bad of that. But I read a wonderful book by an Australian or author called Humor Kai, and it's called What Makes Us Tick. And in it he lists the 10 desires that need to be met to live a happy life above Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's the sort of, he analyzes these 10 desires and he says n there are no particular order except for the first one, which is the desire to be taken seriously. And when I read that, I had an epiphany, I thought, that's what feminism is.

Jane Caro (30:52):

Feminism is the fight by half the human race to be taken seriously by the other half to have our voice, our life experiences, our view of the world, and our perspective taken as seriously as men's voices, perspectives and view of the world have always been taken seriously. And I think that's the same for people of color. And it's the same for people of different sexual orientation. And to be taken seriously means exactly that. To be paid the respect that says you are a fully functioning, fully equal human being with an interesting point of view that I need to listen to. And I would say that that translates perfectly into ageism. That in fact, what, as you get old, you suffer from is a realization that you are no longer being taken seriously. That your views, opinions, perspective, stories, memories are trivialized. As he's old <laugh>, what would, what would she know?

Jane Caro (31:55):

She's so out of touch that is a refusal to take you seriously. And it is very debilitating. So that has become, for me, a real kind of was star like, what, what am I taking that person seriously? When Ralph was called young man, that background, he wasn't being taken seriously as an adult human being. And I think that's what feminism, for me anyway, in essence is we're still fighting. And I mean, what's happening in your country with the Roe versus Wade, if you don't allow people to have control over their own body and future, you're not taking them seriously as individual human beings. You're treating them as containers or portals through which other humans enter the world. Well, that's just not on in my view. And the same thing is about older people during Covid seeing the death of older people from Covid as not important, as not mattering as their past, their used by date. Anyway, that is an absolute illustration of what happens when you don't take a group of people seriously as of being of equal value and importance as yourself. And so that's how I see it.

Larry (33:10):

I was going to categorize what you just said into a separate question and relate it to your self-proclaimed troublemaker,

Jane Caro (33:20):


Larry (33:21):

Uhhuh. I, I was going, I, I know that Australia has a liberal attitude to an abortion, and I just wanted to know what you think of what's going on in the States.

Jane Caro (33:33):

Well, I think it's appalling and I think I, I, I feel terrified for the women of America because we know that wherever abortion is made illegal, it doesn't go away. It just becomes very dangerous. You know, very long period of human history, abortion was not legal and women died. And that's highly likely to happen again. I believe in some instances it is, it is already. Maternal mortality rates in the states are already pretty poor in comparison to say my country. And, and basically if I was the parents of a of teenage daughters, I'd be leaving some of those states. I'd be moving elsewhere because, you know the kind of faith that, and, and, and to force people to give birth, I will refuse to call those who are opposed to abortion pro-life. I call 'em forced birthers, cuz that's what they're trying to do.

Jane Caro (34:30):

They're trying to force others to give birth against their will. And to me, that's just apparent. Yeah, Australia, abortion is at last legal in every state. And thank goodness we fought long and hard for that very long and hard and, and, and we've won. But we look at the states and we worry that we will have to continue to fight to hold onto those rights. And the problem is, once you, and, and I'm noticing there's movements in the states to go for contraception. Well, sorry what kind of, that's clearly deciding that women are actually just baby machines. They're not actually people. And the refusal to take them, their hopes, their dreams, their their brains, their ability to contribute, their talents seriously and to just, oh, they're not real people, they're just, they just make real people, presumably only their sons, not their daughters.

Jane Caro (35:35):

So yeah, I think the whole of the rest of the world is certainly the developed world is very well, very worried about what's happening in Americ across the board. The gun lack of gun control. It's kind of weird to have this pro-life view and then this, oh, but everybody can have a gun. And I mean, I can't imagine sending my grandchildren to school in America and them having to do active shooter drills. I just think, and also, no, no public healthcare we, we have universal public health here and we also have subsidized pharmaceuticals. So it doesn't matter if you're rich and poor or poor, you can get the best treatment in a hospital and you can afford your medications. You know, I am and women often are much more dependent on the health system.

Jane Caro (36:30):

They're also much more dependent, often on medications, including contraception. And therefore that becomes an added burden on them and their ability to live the life as they would choose to live it, not according to somebody else's view of how they should live it. And that is a form of oppression. That is oppression to tell other people how they should live their life according to your beliefs, you have a right to live your life any way you want to, according to your own beliefs. What you do not have a right to do is to tell others that they must live the life the way you or your God, if that's how you see things believe they should live it. That's oppression. It's nothing else but that.

Larry (37:13):

I have never been able to figure out how a medical theological problem got to become a legislative problem in the first place. It, it just doesn't belong in the government.

Jane Caro (37:33):

It should be between a woman and her medical practitioner and nobody else needs to have any input into it. It's nothing to do with them. I think it's, unfortunately, I think it is about <laugh>, it's literally, this is gonna sound a bit harsh, but it's literally about controlling the means of production. And if you see women as about producing other human beings, you wanna con if you are, if you are see yourself as, you know, holding the power and at the top of the hierarchy, then you wanna control the means of production. And you see women really in that light rather than as human beings like you. And so I think that's what it's about. It's about fear as well of the rise of women because if I look at what kind of lives women thought they were going to have or could have when I was a child, in comparison to what kind of lives child, girls today might look at and think they could have, the change has been phenomenal.

Jane Caro (38:45):

And in my view, much for the better. I mean, women perform better at schools and universities and always have ever since they've been allowed to compete on an equal playing field. So the contribution of those highly educated women is something that no country can afford to just toss aside. But I think there's an enormous fear amongst some who want to maintain the hierarchies, the old hierarchies of white men at the top and everybody else kind of taking up rungs beneath them. There is huge fear of the rise of women. And I think the rise of women and the feminist movement has been a model for many of the other liberation movements that we've seen over the last half century or so. You know, the rise the anti-racism movement the fight against homophobia and the trans rights movement.

Jane Caro (39:44):

And now I think it is a model for old people to say, well, ageism is as great a prejudice as any of those, and we need to fight that as well. And what it's doing, I think, is smashing the old hierarchies. I think this is good. But it's always gonna be painful and nobody ever gives up power without a fight. And I think perhaps what we're witnessing is those with power fighting back as hard as they can, I think they will lose, but there'll be a lot of there'll be a lot of tragedy as a result of that fight back.

Larry (40:18):

Yeah, I see the same thing happening in education, control of education by, oh, the state government the control of what you can and cannot read. That's a, it's just appalling. Anyhow. Let's, we can't solve all the problems in three quarters of an hour.

Jane Caro (40:44):

We cannot.

Larry (40:45):

Would you like to say a few words about your book?

Jane Caro (40:50):

Yes. Well the Mother is my first novel for adults. I had written a trilogy of novels about Queen Elizabeth, the first, Elizabeth, the Tu Elizabeth Tudor for young adults which also did quite well here. But the mother was my first for adults. And it came out of a the idea for, it came out of a, a, a horrendous event in Australia. You I'm sure have similar ones in America where a young mother and her three children were well, I won't say the ex the actual event because sometimes I feel uncomfortable about that. But it came, came outta a horrendous event where a woman and her children were killed by the estranged husband who then killed himself. These things happen far too often and they're always greeted in the same way.

Jane Caro (41:46):

And I saw a photograph of the young woman and her children with an older woman next to her. The old woman's face was pixelated, but I thought it was probably her grandmother, the young woman's grandmother. And I'm a grandmother I have two daughters and two grandchildren, another on the way. And I looked at this and I thought, oh, that poor woman, how must she be feeling? She must be absolutely devastated and bereft. Then I thought, what if that was me? What if that was my daughter and my grandchildren? You know, how would I feel? What would I do? And then I suddenly thought, well, I know what I'd want to do. And from that came the idea for this book, the Mother, which is really about coercive control and how we are starting to understand that a lot of abuse. And in fact there was research in Australia that showed that something like 70% of relationship, that relationships that end up in that kind of horrendous end had not necessarily physical domestic abuse as a characteristic, but coercive control as a characteristic that that was a, a red flag that this relationship could end up with a horrendous murder suicide situation.

Jane Caro (43:07):

And so I did my research and found out how coercive control works, how it begins often with this love bombing and very romantic, they'll sweet the woman off her feet, you know, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then it slowly becomes very, very intrusive to the point that the woman, it's usually a woman can almost not make a move without her partners say so and is totally kind of, and made to doubt her own sanity, doubt her own perception of reality and becomes completely demoralized. And, but my main character is the mother of the woman this happens to, and her move from thinking that this young man is fabulous, you know, and, and, and, and marvelous and taken a woman who is a rather difficult daughter off her hands. She doesn't have to worry about her anymore. Hallelujah. and then very, very slowly starting to realize that this is in fact a really, really sinister relationship.

Jane Caro (44:16):

And this man is dangerous and it unfolds in a way that I'm not going to continue, because then I would be spoiling what happens and what happens afterwards. But it's been a bestseller in this country, which is lovely. And I have in fact had responses from, as it features the family court and a court case and a whole lot of things about how impossible it is sometimes for women to escape from these very difficult relationships. Again, going back to the kinds of prejudices about what women are like and what men arelike and who's believable and who isn't believable in courts and with law enforcement. And so I've had approaches, I've had responses from people who used to work in the family court about maybe we need to look at how we change our legal system and the way that it deals with domestic violence, abuse and coercive control, and indeed coercive control, not because of me and my book, that's been a small part of it, but a whole lot of other people getting active.

Jane Caro (45:19):

It looks like it will be criminalized in New South Wales, which is a state in which I live. It's already criminalized in Scotland, I believe, and a couple of other places. So there is a move for us to try to understand why so many of our relationships become so dangerous for women. I mean, people talk about stranger danger and women, you know, having to, I dunno, be careful on the streets. In fact, the most dangerous place for women is their own home statistically. So the book is about that, but it's not, it's a thriller. It's not as grim as it sounds, but it does also have for political purpose as well as a tele good yarn. And there is, oddly enough, a moderately happy ending

Larry (46:07):

And it's available at

Jane Caro (46:10):

You get it through Amazon for sure. So you can find it on Amazon. You just Google my name, the mother will come up, and I don't think it's available. I haven't got an American publisher yet. Any American publishers see this podcast. Geez. I'd be really happy to talk to you. But it's certainly available on Amazon.

Larry (46:30):

Jane, this has been marvelous. I have enjoyed this discussion immensely and I think it's gonna be of great value to a lot of listeners. Thank you. Oh, welcome so much for coming on.

Jane Caro (46:47):

Oh, thank you for asking me. I was delighted to be asked. And it's always a pleasure to talk about these issues candidly and openly. And it's been absolutely delightful to talk to you. You're very easy to talk to and I've enjoyed it enormously. So thank you.

Larry (47:08):

Thanks again.

Speaker 3 (47:13):

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Jane CaroProfile Photo

Jane Caro

Novelist, Columnist, Commentator, Troublemaker

Jane Caro AM (Member of the Order of Australia) is a Walkley Award winning columnist, author, novelist, broadcaster, documentary maker, feminist and social commentator. She spent 35 years as an award winning copywriter and 7 years teaching Advertising Creative in the School of Communication Arts at Western Sydney University. These days she is a full time writer, social commentator, speaker and broadcaster.

She has published thirteen books, including a trilogy of YA novels about Elizabeth Tudor Just a Girl, Just a Queen and Just Flesh & Blood, a memoir Plain Speaking Jane, and most recently, Accidental Feminists the life story of women over 50. Her first novel for adults, The Mother, is a bestseller.

She appears frequently on The Drum & Today Extra. She created and presented 5 documentary series for ABC Compass, airing in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. She is in demand as a speaker, panel facilitator and MC. She writes a regular column in Nine Media and her opinion pieces and articles appear frequently in The Saturday Paper, The Guardian and The Big Smoke. She has 175,000 followers on Twitter.

She is on the boards of The Public Education Foundation and Every Age Counts. She is an Ambassador for The Older Women’s Network.