How grandmothers are changing the world

Challenging stereotypes and reframing the contributions of older women

In film and television, grandmothers have often been portrayed as gentle, fragile and retiring, their roles in global justice movements receiving scant attention. That situation is now changing: grandmothers around the world are gaining recognition, not only for their vital roles as caregivers, but also for their crucial contributions to social movements.

As Canada Research Chair in Feminist and Gender Studies, Trent University’s May Chazan has played a significant role in this shift. Working with grandmothers in South Africa and Canada, Chazan is exploring how and why older women around the world are working for social change. Her research has effectively contested stereotypes of older women as disengaged, marginalized and apolitical.

By challenging ‘grandmotherly’ stereotypes and illuminating the many contributions of grandmothers in social mobilization and social movements, Chazan’s research is fundamentally changing the way we think about older women.