Granny's Got Your Back
The Raging Grannies defy just about every stereotype our culture has about older women. They are politically active, intellectually sharp, unapologetic about their opinions and willing to do just about anything to get their message of peace and social justice out into the world. These are women who aren’t ashamed they’ve been around the block a few times, and are ready and willing to apply some of the important life lessons they have learned along the way. Lesson No. 1 is that a hilarious ditty often catches a lot more ears than an angry chant. The group recently sang their social justice hearts out at a rally they organized to protest the passage of California’s Proposition 8:
Another Groom, another groom
Another sunny honeymoon
Love is so pleasin’, no other reason
For makin’ whoopee
The Raging Grannies are known for using a unique style of interactive street theatre to tell their story. “What we really go for is camera ops for TV and photo ops for the paper, because mainstream media does not want to talk to women our age, but when we’re on the streets and making something for them to photograph they’re very interested in hearing our message,” said Ruth Robertson (aka Granny Ruth) who organizes many of the groups actions. The recently released documentary Raging Grannies follows the adventures of the gaggle from Mountain View, Calif. as they protest for peace and justice.
Many of the women in the film mention the frustration over not being listened to in a sexist and ageist society. Together in their granny getups of fancy hats, shawls and aprons, they gain power and make an impact. For the Prop. 8 protest they donned wedding gowns, held bouquets and belted it out for the civil rights of gay people. One of the grannies even squeezed into her original wedding dress, with the assistance of some helpful grannies and quite a few pins. Lesson number two is that not having a perfect singing voice shouldn't stand in the way of getting one’s message across. “We don’t want to sit around in rehearsals. We just want to be out on the streets,” said Robertson.
Italian shoes, who cares the price
Both grooms are nervous
They answer twice, Prop. 8 was killin’
Some folks weren’t willin’
For them to whoopee
There is no minimum age requirement for Raging Grannyhood, though the average age is 50 plus. “If you’re willing to put on the persona of a granny, which we like because it’s a non-threatening sort of humorous image, then you’re old enough,” said Robertson. Granny Marion Bush, who also appears in the documentary, is currently the ripest granny, at the age of 92.
The Grannies have lots of fans and supporters who can’t quite bring themselves to wear shawls, but proudly sport “Granny Groupie” buttons. These cross generational connections are at the foundation of the Granny mission. Robertson loves connecting with younger activists and the Grannies are eager to team up with other groups. “The thing about being out on the streets is you’re talking to people and you’re finding out what the world is about and you’re side by side with people of all ages and you’re not sitting at your bridge club where it’s the same old people.”
Picture two happy love birds
Not matter who they be
Saying those wedding vow words
To marry, all should be free.
The grannies were unanimous in their opposition to Prop. 8. When it passed they organized and hit the streets immediately to protest. “We’re old enough to know that’s not what marriage is. It comes in all different forms. And we have gay kids, some of us, and we want them to have their civil rights,” said Robertson.
Out lesbian documentary film maker Pam Walton made the Raging Grannies film after following the Grannies around for two years. Though she usually focuses on gay and lesbian issues, the grannies captured her imagination and helped her get out of a big birthday funk. “When I turned 60 I was just really depressed. You can see the end of the road from there,” said Walton. She was impressed with how the grannies transferred their caretaking skills to taking care of each other, arranging rides for non-driving grannies, planning for grannies with limited mobility and always scouting out bathrooms.
The Iraq invasion galvanized many of the grannies, but their anti-war purpose has expanded to encompass civil rights, gay and lesbian rights, environmental protection and children’s welfare. Grannies who are protesting with replaced hips and knees embody perhaps the most important lesson of all—it’s never too late to make a positive impact.