BBC subjects older women to ‘lookism’, says Libby Purves | BBC

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Older women are prone to “lookism” on the BBC, even on the radio, while men are allowed to age gracefully, broadcaster Libby Purves said.

Purves, who featured Radio 4’s Midweek from 1983 until it dropped out in 2017, said the company had a problem with older women because they were under more pressure to look attractive and young.

While a number of older male broadcasters, including Melvyn Bragg, David Attenborough and John Humphrys, held senior positions into their 60s, the presenters struggle to have such important and lasting careers, a- she wrote in a radio opinion piece. Time.

“Sue Barker was kicked out of A Question of Sport after 23 years. She is 64 years old. More readily, Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey leave Woman’s Hour, aged 70 and 56. They are replaced by Emma Barnett, barely 35 years old. What is that? Does the BBC have a problem with older women? Are we seen as old trout when men become revered elders, sacred patriarchs, silver foxes? Purves asked.

Purves, 70, said lookism has long been an issue on television, where people are often intolerant of presenters who are not attractive and young. She said presenters over the age of 50 have to look young and work hard to do it, but their male colleagues don’t need to.

It wasn’t such a big deal for radio presenters, but the use of video clips on social media and photographs on the BBC Sounds app made radio more visual, she added.

“The middle-aged woman has to struggle to look young. Zoe Ball, almost 50, flaunts especially young hair, Lauren Laverne is 25, not 42, and Mishal Husain is a goddess anyway.

Emma Twyning, communications manager at the Center for Aging Better, said: “Ageism can have a huge impact on anyone later in life, with negative stereotypes about older people plaguing our society. But we do know that women face a “double risk” of discrimination as they age, while aging women are often viewed much more negatively than men.

“The media generally reinforce age stereotypes and unrealistic expectations of women – we need a much larger and more realistic portrayal of the immense diversity of people and experiences that exist in society – to all ages.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said: “It seems that in some fields, including theater and television, ageism and sexism are combining to end the careers of some extremely talented older women. This is not only a shame for them, but also for the rest of us, as it leads to an unbalanced representation of the world we live in which greatly underestimates the role and contribution of older people in general and older women above all. No one deserves to be written off because of their age and the sooner it becomes the universal norm, the better.

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘We choose presenters based on who best fits our audience and we pride ourselves on having a wide range of female TV and radio presenters – from Mary Berry to Martha Kearney, Carol Klein to Andrea Oliver and Mary Beard to Kirsty Wark. “

Of Barker’s departure from A Question of Sport, the spokesperson said, “We would like to thank Sue for her tremendous contribution as the longest-serving show host over the past 24 years, and Matt and Phil for their excellent 16 and 12 year old team captain. years respectively. Together, they have ensured that A Question of Sport remains one of BBC One’s audience favorites. Sue, Matt and Phil’s final series will air next year.

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