Tuesday, 5 January 2010


A friend of mine writing a dissertation for her degree has interviewed me for her coursework. The interview is below. If you would like to be interviewed on this vital subject then contact me asap and I will put you in touch with the author of the work.

More interviews, filmed and written, with documentary filmmakers and with me, coming up over the next few months...

How has your age changed the way you perceive yourself over the years?

My knowledge and wisdom have made me feel more powerful, but have also made me more aware of the injustices perpetrated upon women, and of how vulnerable I am to inequality in this patriarchal society.

How do you think other peoples perceptions have changed as you have aged?

It depends on the gender. Women aren't as viciously competitive towards one another when they get older. They tend to stick together more to help one another as we're all in the same boat, having endured a lifetime of inequality and ill treatment from men.

Older men are definitely much more threatened by me. In my teens and twenties, there was a default setting for how I was treated by men. They were condescending, abusive, violent, sneering and lecherous. So called friends, family, employers, almost every man I dealt with. Those who were respectful and admiring were in a pitiful minority. Now, younger men are more respectful because I'm the same age as their mothers, but with breasts that aren't taboo in an incestuous sense, therefore I scare them. Only the strongest younger men are able to deal with me on an equal footing; Older men are generally just scared and use condescension as their armour. I feel much more powerful now that I'm older but just as many doors are shut in my face. Men are free to be good-looking, intelligent, talented, outspoken and old without being sneered at, denigrated, labelled or vilified. Women are not.

Have you ever been or suspected you have been the subject of ageism or has somebody you know i.e; a colleague? How did this effect your/their self esteem?

I'm the subject of ageism the minute I walk into the street. It doesn't affect my self-esteem because I was treated even worse when I was younger when men abused my gullibility. Now at least I have the power of wisdom.

If so how much of this do you think is down to the media, or other factors? What factors?

Above: Moira Stuart - too graceful to say  "But you didn't sack David Frost."

The media are to blame for much of the perpetration of ageism towards women. No physically unattractive, doddery 65 year old woman would be allowed to anchor a breakfast programme on one of the main TV networks as David Frost was allowed to do on Breakfast With Frost. Newsreaders such as Angela Rippon, Anna Ford and Moira Stuart were all herded off our screens due to being too old. They were all physically attractive older women who would not have lasted as long as they did had they been as physically unattractive as David Frost.

David Frost. Allowed to be on TV despite his age and looks.

Is there a glass ceiling that exists for women still?

Of course. Look at the key figures sitting round the table at any international convention of heads of state. They are nearly all older men, most of them balding and unattractive. A convention of ugly older women making decisions about the state of the world would never be tolerated. A woman's main currency is still beauty. A man's currency is power and money. Unless women abandon their children to child minders, which means abandoning one of their fundamental roles in life, nurturing, loving, caring for and teaching their young, then they will be years behind in any future career, which, even aside from society's prejudice, will mean they have less power than men.

In what ways do you feel the double standard between women and men as they age is perpetuated by the media? (e.g Michael Douglas marrying Catherine Zeta Jones was fine, Joan Collins marries much younger man and people raise eyebrows)

It is wrong, it is damaging to society and it is time that women rose up and put a stop to it. The Suffragette movement in England was only a hundred years ago; there is still a long way to go. And in many countries women are still enslaved and physically and mentally abused in male dominated societies.

Are women to blame in any way for the ageism that occurs?

Buying into the expectations of society and getting plastic surgery in a vain attempt to look younger is buying into it, but you can't blame women for their insecurity. It's hardly surprising we're insecure. Our power, the power to have blood pouring out of us but still continue to work, to have a creature growing inside of us and then emerging into the world, putting our life and its life at risk, is ignored and marginalised whilst men trumpet their power undergoing pursuits such as mountaineering as "fighting the elements" making them "real men" when really these are just selfish hobbies to entertain themselves.

However we need men, to fertilise our eggs, to hunt and build and fight wars. And to be big warm furry teddy bears to cuddle at night. I love men individually. It is the male domination of society I abhore.

What advantages does your femininity bring you within your line of work?

None. As a male writer and publisher I would be taken far more seriously. As a female writer of erotic fiction the fear invoked has held me back. Local radio and TV won't touch me with a barge pole at the moment because I'm not family viewing. Maybe because my erotic novel, Mother-in-Law, son-in-Law is in celebration of the sexuality of older women; a totally taboo subject.

Have you ever omitted your gender because of the ageism/sexism that exists (i.e online forums, or omitting your first name from any publications)

No. And I never will. I've always posted on forums under my own name or a recognisable pseudonym linking to me and always posted/written as a woman. I once ventured onto a completely male dominated forum full of supposedly well 'ard climbers, defending myself against vicious cyber bullying by cowardly males protecting themselves with either anonymity or the power of being a mod, whilst I posted as a woman under my real name. Who's a big strong brave boy now, eh? You can read about that in my novel My Adventures In Cyberspace.

Do you think there is a scientific basis in ageism – i.e youth and beauty will always be preferred? 

Youth is preferred as a criteria for reproduction. Women who have already produced families and grand-children should not be judged by these criteria and should be judged on their wisdom, experience and what they can give to society. The fact that the resource of women has been so wasted is one fundamental reason why our civilisation is in decline.

Beauty is preferred to sell products, including magazines and films. In terms of finding mates, if all else is equal, men and women tend, I believe, to gravitate towards those on an equal scale of attractiveness. However ugly rich powerful older men tend to seek out weaker younger poorer beautiful women.

There have many examples of ageism in the media recently, for example the Alesha Dixon / Arlene Philips story (Strictly Come Dancing), (Moira Stuart BBC Newsreader) what is your take on them?

I don't watch soaps, Strictly or X-Factor but I do watch the news. Moira Stuart was a talented and popular BBC newsreader. Dumped from the TV at a beautiful 55, whilst Frost dodders and dribbles on at an ugly 70. It is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong. It is sexist, it is ageist, and we are all putting up with it. If a woman chat show host had been responsible for sexually related slurs on an elderly man's grand-daughter on the telephone as Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand were, then she would have been sacked for good and far more widely vilified than they were, not let off with a temporary ban like Ross, before walking back into her overpaid job which costs the BBC millions.

Should ageism be taken as seriously as racism or other forms of discrimination?

Yes. The BBC should be punished for sacking Moira Stuart for a start. However the BBC do have Nick Fraser as the commissioning editor for their Storyville documentary series on BBC4 so they are forgiven for that alone.

Do you think the media will continue to oppress women more or less in the future? (Do you think your daughters will face the same hurdles)

It will get worse. In the UK, girls of 7 are prancing around in mini skirts and mascara. Young, powerless, skint women are lured and ensnared by men with power and money the world over, and prostitution is the oldest profession in the history of mankind. Women are doomed.

Having said that, I adore my daughters, my son and my husband equally as human beings. It is mankind, that earth-infesting virus, which is a horrible little scourge on our planet, rather than individual human beings.

Are the government doing enough to stop ageism/censor ageism in the media?

Of course not. But the rungs of the political ladder are made from greed, corruption, lies and a voracious power-hunger; the government only care about the other boys in their tree house ie the bankers, the lawyers and politicians. On the door of that tree house is a scribbled sign saying "No girls allowed unless you've sold your soul to the devil like Thatcher."

Link: Maev Kennedy for The Guardian about  newsreader Moira Stuart. Media celebs question BBC decision to dump one of its older female newsreaders.

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Best-selling author Jude Calvert-Toulmin interviews creative people. Please choose a user name if making comments.