If you’ve ever attended a local protest or city council meeting, you’ve probably seen the Portland Raging Grannies—a group of womxn aged 55 and over who “support peace, social justice, human rights, and environmental protection through protest, song, and performance,” as they recently explained in an email to the Mercury. However, they assert, “we are not merely entertainers.”
Formed in 2010 during the Occupy movement, the Portland Raging Grannies are an offshoot of the International Raging Grannies, a social activist group that’s been around for nearly 30 years. “Being a member of the Raging Grannies allows me to find power as I age and to use my privilege to help create a more just world,” says Gloria Jacobs.
With a database of more than 500 songs that address everything from police brutality (“Tough on Crime”) to our nation’s corrupt administration (“Things That Go Trump in the Night”), the Grannies are instantly recognizable by satirical lyrics like “All hail strongman Donald Trump/As cozy as a cancer lump,” impressively choreographed dance moves, and their signature attire: flowery hats, umbrellas, and crocheted shawls.
“Our clothing is a ‘taking back’ of the stereotypical clothing of the grandmother,” they explain. “[It’s] also a way to fight the societal attitude that would forget elder women or render them ‘harmless’ or ‘useless.’ We take the image of the ‘sweet little old lady’ and turn it on its head. Finally, the hats and other elements of our clothing are used to draw attention to us. We are well aware that people are attracted to the Grannies because we are colorful and playful. Once we have people’s attention, we can then use the opportunity to teach or to redirect their attention to the people and issues at hand.”
Though the Grannies’ numbers have increased since Trump’s election, now with close to 50 members, they say their role in local activism has not changed: “What we have found is that there are more things to be involved with. We now have members who have built liaisons with various groups within the community so that we can better serve the needs of those groups who truly are on the front lines fighting for justice.”