According to new research published this week from Harriet Harman’s recently established Women’s Commission, as women hit 50 they disappear from public life and if you are even considering a career in the media you are on borrowed time as only 5% of all presenters on TV and radio, in the over 50 category, are female.
I find myself agreeing with Harriet Harman that this is simply unacceptable and incidentally it also applies to business and all broadcast media.
So, I am fast approaching the big 50. Am I supposed to disappear behind a red curtain of shame, mediocrity and silence simply because my boobs are going south and I have a few laughter lines?? Think again!
This is another example of blatant ageism and sexism and I am waiting to hear a logical, even reasonable point of view to justify it. All I have heard so far is that audiences do not want to see older women on TV; it costs too much to keep women looking good once they hit 50 and women become too aggressive once they get into their forties. Seriously, am I supposed to respond to any of these??? Over 100 years of hard fought liberation and it seems clear to me our value is still linked to our appearance and servility. Is it any wonder we occasionally get angry? Personally, I think we need to be getting more angry, more often.
In my opinion, the older women we do see on our screens are absolutely awesome; they are wise, articulate, measured, dynamic, fun and attractive and boo hoo to anyone insecure enough to kick up a fuss. Every time I see Joan Bakewell, Germaine Greer, Kirsty Young, Professor Shirley Williams, Mariella Frostrup or Kirsty Wark to name a few, my pride doth brim over and I want to applaud them and hug them for their authenticity, emotional intelligence and audaciousness!.
Joan Bakewell still rocking…..
In fact, I watched Joan Bakewell being interviewed by David Frost the other week on SkyArts and she was demure, ultra smart and fun as opposed to Mr Frost who came across as a dithering old man, forgetting his train of thought and having to refer to notes all the way through an hour long interview. She simply outshone him on every level. There was no contest.
2050 predictions for our girls: scary!!
In the same week more research was published by an independent market research agency on teen girls and their waning aspirations. The Future Foundation interviewed 500 girls across the UK and concluded girls fail to reach their full potential because they are suffering from low self esteem about how they look. Moreover, 1 in 4 girls between the age of 11-17 are weighed down by the pressure to conform to an ‘ideal notion’ of what is attractive and now spend as much time on their appearance (clothes, hair and outfit) as they do on their homework, on a daily basis. It is not rocket science to conclude this is going to have a disastrous effect on their future careers and our country. This research goes on to predict that by 2050 this national teen identity crisis could cost us well over 300k future business women, lawyers and doctors, 60 MPs and who knows how many entrepreneurs.
Ladies, it is about time we started to connect the dots. Old or young we are being patronised, marginalised and written off as dolls. If we don’t stand up and lead, the way what messages are we sending to our daughters? Our value to society and our personal identity is so much more than the way we look. As I enter my next act believe me when I say, I will not be disappearing in a puff of smoke anytime soon!
In the words of the inimitable Mary Wollstonecraft in 1792:
‘If women do not resign the arbitrary power of beauty they will prove they have less mind than man.’
I rest my case.
Jane Kenyon is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.