There’s been a lot in the press this summer about middle-aged women and the way they’re unceremoniously dropped from positions such as BBC newsreader or presenter. Newsreader Selina Scott brought the topic to everyone’s attention with her age discrimination claim against Channel Five, and lots of middle-aged women added their own experiences of being expected to slip away quietly and leave the field to younger women. As a middle-aged woman myself I felt enormous empathy. Where exactly are we supposed to go when we slip away, and how are we supposed to finance ourselves in that limbo?
Yesterday I was throwing away a bunch of arts leaflets which I’d had on my desk all summer. One of them was a little BBC Proms booklet covering the whole concert series. Because the topic was fresh in my mind, I looked through all the publicity photos in the booklet.
There were 14 photos of women musicians, all young and glamorous. There were 13 photos of male musicians. Seven of them were middle-aged or older men – fine people like Philip Glass, Daniel Barenboim, Peter Maxwell Davies, Yo Yo Ma, John McCabe. All handsome and characterful. But where were their female counterparts? Middle-aged or older women were completely missing from those publicity shots.
Who lays down the guidelines which dictate that older male artists look interesting, but older women artists don’t? It’s another example of double standards in this supposed age of equal opportunities.