Age and Women – are older women coming out of hiding?

I’ve been a bit quieter than normal watching TV lately. It’s not that I usually make a lot of noise with heavy breathing or anything; more that I can’t help shouting out at the screen as yet another impossible ideal of womanhood appears alongside some ageing guy. You know what I mean, an expressionless face and tight skin and ones who disappear from view when they turn sideways!

I’m not blaming the women; I understand the way the world works for most women in the public eye. Femageism rules. If you want to keep working you’ve got to play the game. Unless you’re Helen Mirren or Judi Dench or the marvellous Meryl Streep (she hasn’t has plastic surgery has she?); they manage to age gracefully and still have work!

More Older Women

But there seems to have been something of a quiet revolution and as I bang on loudly about the sexism in TV and radio when I see it, in all fairness I must bang on about this too. Whisper it, but there has been some tiny changes that give a long time feminist like me a cause to smile.

Newsnight on BBC 2 takes my top prize. It frequently is produced and presented by women and doesn’t seem to suffer from the fate of many shows of only being able to find a token woman. It regularly features loads of clever, intelligent and articulate women of all ages on all topics, there by merit. Well done Newsnight! You’re my number one!

Julia Somerville BBC Newsreader

And then there’s Julia back on our screens. I don’t read celebrity type stories usually so somehow the furore about her appointment passed me by (I have seen it now when I Googled her to check her age). What a pleasant surprise that was to switch on the news and see it read by someone who who was over 60 and female! Of course, she shouldn’t stand out, but at the moment she does. But I’m not going to whinge – just give us more women like Julia!


It’s not confined to the small screen either. Bridesmaids is a very funny and feminist film (yes it is possible) starring a motley group of women of all shapes and sizes and ages. All shapes and sizes! And it’s not a matter of comment, it’s not even really mentioned in the film. They are just fairly looking ordinary women. In a major film. Not playing sidekicks or decoration to men. Amazing. And very funny, go see it (but not if you are easily offended: it’s ‘earthy’!)

Why Older Ordinary Women?

Never underestimate the power of an image. It matters. If you’re old enough, think back about 25 years. If I had been walking down the street and a passenger bus passed me driven by a woman I’d have fallen over in shock.

Similarly if I had turned up at my local C of E church for a wedding and a woman appeared in a chasuble and a stole and a dog collar to conduct the service,  I’d have been looking round for the hidden Candid Camera (although some folk are still spluttering in their dry sherry over that one!)

We need female role models and we need to be educated. If we never see older, able and competent women on TV doing the same things as men, (or bringing their own take to it), we’ll never break the stereotyping. And it doesn’t work with just one. One women on a board, or one black face in a company. That’s tokenism and that poor soul has to bear the weight of representing everything about their race or gender and are not seen as individuals. If they fail it merely serves to reinforce the stereotyping and prejudice.

So bring it on! Lets see more of this and celebrate all aspects and all ages and all creeds of humanity!

Who is your favourite role model in the public eye?



Posted on July 13th, 2011 by

8 Responses to “Age and Women – are older women coming out of hiding?”

  1. I saw Julia reading the news the other night and my immediate thought was ‘Gosh, how marvellous! Quickly followed with an outloud wondering – is she just the summer holiday season stand in’.

    I’ve just come back from New Zealand and one of the comments I made watching TV out there was that I felt there was less female ageism.

    I echo your sentiments Jane about the stereotyping, long may the new changes reign 🙂

    • Jane says:

      Hi Jackie, that’s an interesting point about new Zealand. Thanks! Hope you had a good time there.

  2. My favourite role model in the public eye is Helen Mirren – great actress and do not seem to have anything ‘done’ but blooms and oozes confidence.

    • Jane says:

      Yes, she’s a good example. I also loved Mo Mowlem, (RIP). There’s a woman who was true to herself!

  3. Great article, and yes I think you’re right, things are beginning to change. I’m also a big fan of Mirren and Dench, and I think Susan Sarandon is amazing, for all sorts of reasons. And I love that some of the female singers are still at it, for example Marianne Faithfull released her 19th studio album at the beginning of this year and it’s fabulous.
    Basically I adore any woman who raises two fingers at aging conventionally!

    • Jane says:

      Hi Tessa! Thanks for dropping by. Yes, I guess between us we could complie quite a list of wonderful amazing women!

  4. Annie says:

    Yes the times are beginning to change, s-l-o-w-l-y …Of course the cynic in me wnat to add that most of the older women that we see on tv are the older women who look 20 years younger.
    I like Christine Walkden on the one show and her gardening antics – mainly because she looks like my mum and a NORMAL human woman, not some shrink wrapped botoxed to the hilt lady, stylised by ‘those who’s job it is’ to look 30 !

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