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Some people may live their whole lives without directly experiencing racism or sexism. They are however likely at least once to have been considered too old to take part in some activity or other, to attend certain events, or to be eligible for an age-related benefit. This exclusion may be based on legal age limits or on social norms defining suitable activities at different ages. Is it appropriate to define such exclusion as a form of ageism comparable to sexism and racism? This question can be explored from a number of different research angles. Legal theory can be used to examine the conditions under which age, like gender and ethnoracial status, can be illegitimately used as grounds for treating people differently, i.e. for discrimination. Social theory can be used as a basis to investigate the extent to which age, just like gender and racialization, is a vector for relations of stigmatization and domination. Those of us involved in campaigning against ageism or writing the history of such struggles instead tend to examine the way in which feminist and/or anti-racist causes are or have been sources of inspiration for anti-ageist struggles, or how they might provide such inspiration for the future.
Since the 1970s, references to sexism and racism have been a constant feature in the emergence and development of empirical and theoretical studies of ageism and campaigns against age-related prejudice in North America and Western Europe. As a common framework for combating discrimination was gradually created, political and legal theory began to highlight the “singularity of age”…

Juliette Rennes
Juliette Rennes is a sociologist at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) and a member of the Centre d’étude des mouvements sociaux (Center for the Study of Social Movements) (EHESS/CNRS/INSERM). Her research concerns the historical sociology of protest movements. After studying feminist questioning of gender boundaries, in particular the dividing lines between female and male jobs from the 1870s to the 1930s, she has turned to opposition to age boundaries and “anti–ageist” protests since the 1970s. In the history and sociology of gender, she has published Le mérite et la nature (Paris: Fayard, 2007) and Femmes en métiers d’hommes (1890–1930) (Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule: Bleu autour, 2013), and is editor of the Encyclopédie critique du genre (Paris: La Découverte, 2016, new edition in 2021). On age boundaries and challenges to them, she has written articles in Genèses, Revue française de sociologie, and La revue des droits de l’homme, and has co-edited special issues for Clio and Mouvements (EHESS, CEMS, 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris).
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