Posted by: ginalazenby | December 20, 2008

Ageism on TV – where are the older women?

Veteran Bruce Forsyth & gorgeous young Tess Daley on Strictly Come Dancing

80 year old TV veteran Bruce Forsyth & gorgeous young Tess Daly on Strictly Come Dancing

It all started with Brucie Nice-to-see-you-To-see-you-nice! Forsyth.  For the last 4 months he has been on our TV screens on prime-time Saturday evening in Strictly Come Dancing which is not much to remark upon except that Brucie is 80 years old and the young co-presenter Tess Daly who hangs on his arm on the show is in her 30s.  I watched the two of them marvelling at him being 80 and STILL able to carry a peak-time show and then I wondered – “where are the 80 year old women?”.  Would they be allowed anywhere near a TV studio?   Within a day my question was answered.  An announcement came that Kathy Staff had died. She was a popular TV sitcom/drama actress and she was 80 years old. Only months before, she’d had to take time out of her current TV role because of illness. What was her role?  A battle-axe on a comedy show called “Last of the Summer Wine” , set in Yorkshire and featuring a few old codgers, one of whom fancied Norah Batty, the said old woman who had thick, wrinkled stockings and always wore an apron.

Notorious battleaxe, Norah Batty, played by 80 year old actress Kathy Staff who just died

Notorious battleaxe, Norah Batty, played by 80 year old actress Kathy Staff who just died

It was while I was ruminating on this situation and its lack of fairness that I noticed a newspaper headline about Selina Scott, a 57 year old newsreader who successfully sued Channel 5 for reneging on a deal to employ her to read the news while Natasha Kaplinsky took maternity leave. She asked “How many women over 50 do you see in mainstream current affairs?..  yet you look around and see lots of men.”  Uh-Oh, she’s right.  Where are they?  The TV news programmes seem to pair up these grey-haired older guys, obviously reeking of wisdom, with these MUCH younger, good-looking women news readers, invariably in their 20s and 30s. To top that, I have just seen an interview with Anna Ford (63) who has recently retired from BBC current affairs, before, as she put it,  she “got sidelined” so she could do more interesting things elsewhere.  And I think there has been a bit of hoohah because she has let her hair show grey (shame on her!).  It got me thinking. Then I had a chat with my friend Cathryn and we have agreed – we want to see a reversal.  It can’t be too difficult surely. We want to see the older women newsreaders (like veteran Moira Stuart, axed in 2007 when she was 55) with young male eye candy.  How long is that going to take to arrange on BBC News 24? Let’s start a campaign.  We are the consumers, we’ve got power – let’s use it.  Deadline – by the end of 2009, older women co-presenting with gorgeous younger men.



  1. Hi Gina
    Ye-e-s— but it’s about valuing everyone for who they are; would older women – full of wisdom – want to be paired with younger men, however ‘gorgeous’??!!
    What I am concerned about is the lack of awareness amongst young women about what being truly female means; the prevalent laddishness and the fairly general concensus that ‘guys’ is an OK word to use for a group of females and males. It’s very unbalanced. I am talking to people – women mainly – about this regularly as I’d like to find a way forward towards helping young women to really recognise themselves; if they were taught that there was a goddess culture for millennia, that would help—-

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