The following is a brief interview that took place on March 2, at Trent Radio between myself and the hosts of “Aging Radically,” Melissa Baldwin and Maddy Macnab.
Can you describe your radio show to people who may not have heard it?
Melissa: So, it’s called Aging Radically, and a way that we’ve started to describe it is that it’s a show about finding the voices of older women who are working for change in the community.
It’s also about creating a space for intergenerational dialogue, because both of us are young women and both of us are really interested in making connections across generations in talking about social justice.
Maddy: So the way it plays out is that every week we interview a woman who has been doing work for change in Peterborough in various capacities, and we just have a conversation with them.
Is Aging Radically related at all to your studies at Trent?
Melissa: We’re both Masters students in Canadian and indigenous studies, but I worked for a couple years as a research assistant on a project talking to older women activists across North America.
So working through that really made me interested in the ways in which older women are engaged in social justice, and also in how that can be surprising to people because we have this single narrative of young people being involved in activism.
Maddy: My research is kind of connected; I’ve been interested in oral history. Before I came back to school I was working with and gathering oral histories of migration stories, so I came here with an interest in immigration and oral history.
My research is going to be about the origins of the New Canadian Centre, and it does have a lot to do with gender as well, because the folks involved as volunteers, board members and staff of that organization have always overwhelmingly been women. So that’s another version of advocacy work in the Peterborough community that is focused around women, but my introduction to the topic has mainly been through Melissa and through May [Chazin], the professor that she worked with, and through their networks of amazing women.
Can you explain why these kinds of discussions would be important?
Melissa: Well, for me, and also where May Chazin’s research comes in, is that older women are often depicted in a very particular way in society. Older women are seen as frail, marginalized, inconsequential or apolitical. All of these are very patronizing kind of ways that we represent older women, and I think that stories of older women being pivotal members of the community, being movers and shakers in social change work aren’t often told.
Maddy: And I mean radio is amazing because it’s so accessible and it’s a technology that is familiar across generations. It’s been around for a long time and it has staying power, obviously. It’s intimate and it’s personal, so I think it’s really suited to telling stories that might sometimes be missing from the mainstream media.
Another thing I’ve found is even just approaching women to be on the show is an act in itself of recognizing them, because many of them might not even define the work they do as activism or advocacy. Again, there are narrow definitions of what counts as activism. Someone who’s doing what they may consider quieter work or not, such as protests in the streets, maybe they think, “Oh, I’m not a social change advocate.” Asking them questions sparks really interesting conversations, giving them space to consider what they do as a significant thing has been cool.
Melissa: And one of the interesting things, too, is that we take recordings of every show and we send those recordings to the women who were interviewed so they can keep them or give them to their kids or share them around their networks, but we have also been able to put them up on the Trent Centre for Aging and Society website. So it’s kind of neat because not only are their voices amplified through the radio waves, but there’s this little archive that we have of all of the women sharing their stories with us.
Tune into Trent Radio (92.7 FM on your radio dial or available for streaming at trentradio.ca) on Wednesdays from 11:30a.m. to 12 p.m. to catch Aging Radically with Melissa Baldwin and Maddy Macnab!