Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has hit out at discrimination against older women, warning it was leading to a generation of ‘passive participants’ in public life.
Miss Harman, who is also shadow culture secretary, said many viewers were females of a certain age who themselves ‘don’t want to be written out of the public domain’.
Speaking at Edinburgh Television Festival at the weekend she said it was ‘offensive and wrong’ that women were made invisible ‘because you are past your reproductive age’.
She said the treatment of Arlene Phillips, the former Strictly Come Dancing judge, who was dumped off the show, was ‘symbolic’, adding ‘something needs to be done about it’.
The Labour MP said the ‘discrimination’ against older women did not apply to older men who kept working and were treated as ‘venerable, experienced and sage’.
The BBC has been the focus of controversy about the treatment of older women in broadcasting in recent years, with former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly winning an ageism case against the corporation last year and the earlier row over ditching Miss Phillips from Strictly.
Earlier this year BBC director general Mark Thompson admitted there were not enough older women on television.
The soon-to-leave chief admitted the corporation had a ‘case to answer’ over the lack of female presenters - especially in ‘iconic roles’ and there were ‘manifestly too few older women broadcasting on the BBC’.
Broadcasting veterans such as Anna Ford, Selina Scott and Joan Bakewell have been among many female voices who have attacked the treatment of women on TV.
Criticism has included the fact that older male performers such as David Dimbleby are allowed to carry on into their later year, unlike many of their female counterparts.
Miss Harman’s comments came as she appeared at a ‘Question Time’ session at the TV festival.
A member of the audience asked if in the wake of the Miriam O’Reilly case whether people were ‘too obsessed’ about gender and age on TV.
The long-serving politician said ‘no’ and replied: ‘The reality is that there is a particular form of discrimination against older women which doesn’t apply to older men who are regarded as venerable, experienced, sage and doesn’t apply to younger women but uniquely applies to older women.
‘I think that what we have got in this country is a new generation of older women who have done things very differently from their mothers, played a different role in the family, played a different role in the workplace, have had different educational aspirations.
‘The idea that you have to be written out of the public domain because you are past your reproductive age is really offensive and wrong. The whole thing about Arlene Phillips as well was very symbolic and actually it needs to be addressed.’
She added: ‘A lot of people watching the BBC are older women themselves who don’t want to be written out of the public domain and if you look across the senior positions the idea that you have got a country where you have got younger women and older men, but otherwise older women have just got to be passive participants, it is not the reality and something needs to be done about it definitely.’
At the same event she attacked Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond for unrealistic proposals to split up the BBC.
Article from Mail Online