Councillor Apologises for Calling Herself Old, Blames Senility
Age Concern Otago has condemned two Dunedin City Councillors for their self-deprecatingly calling themselves “old farts” and “old fellas”. The comments, which were made by Councillors Fliss Butcher and Richard Thomson during a full council meeting on Monday, were interpreted as offensive to the geriatric population of Dunedin.
Critic spoke with Councillor Thomson, who remarked that the ODT had misreported the context of the comments, saying the fateful words were spoken while he was speaking in favour of the council’s proposed energy strategy, rather than during discussions about Dunedin’s 150th anniversary celebrations. His comment during the meeting was that while some “old fellas” may not see the energy strategy as very important, the younger generations have a better perspective on its usefulness.
While Councillor Butcher apologised for the comments, Councillor Thomson said it was “stupid” that his comments were condemned as ageist, because the term “old” has no negative connotations, and is actually considered to be synonymous with wise. “The comments were intended as slightly humorous … people are entitled to refer to themselves in any way they want.”
Critic spoke with Age Concern Executive Officer Susan Davidson, who had previously expressed her disapproval of the situation in a strongly worded letter to the ODT. Davidson said that the language used by the councillors was “unacceptable” and that the comments could be viewed as “characterising all people” of a certain age in a certain way.
When asked whether she considered that the comments could be considered appropriate given that the councillors were referring to themselves rather than the general elderly population, Davidson still condemned the comments as ageist. “Using labels in a self-inclusive way can be degrading… [we] need to take care not to do that.”
She earlier suggested that although ageist slurs were subjective, that was “all the more reason to be careful”. That’s some good old-fashioned advice.