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2:05pm on Monday, 20th July, 2009:

Presenters' Ages


So, the producers of Strictly Come Dancing decided to drop Arlene Phillips from their line-up of judges and replace her with Darcey Bussell and Alesha Dixon. Or, in sensationalist media terms, they've replaced Arelene Phillips (66) with Alesha Dixon (30). Darcey Bussell (44) doesn't come into it, because this is clearly ageism. Er, except Len Goodman (65) is still on the show, so it must be sexist ageism then.

Harriet Harman weighed in as Equalities Minister, accusing the BBC of ageism (she claims to be a fan of the show, but doesn't seem to have registered that host Bruce Forsyth is in his 80s — no sign of ageism there). I also don't recall her being so vocal in support of Menzies Campbell (66 at the time) resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats because of the whispering campaign against him over his age.

It was left to Dame Joan Bakewell to specify that the BBC was specifically targeting older women. Here's how the Daily Mirror reported the story today:

As you can see, Dame Joan doesn't have grey hair. Neither does Arlene Phillips. They dye their hair. To be fair on Dame Joan, what she actually said was: "There are no grey-haired women on TV as there are grey-haired men. Mind you, having said that, women would inevitably feel they had to dye their hair to appear.".

Isn't this the, er, root of the problem, though? If the older women kept their hair grey, instead of dyeing it to try make themselves look younger, then they wouldn't be complicit in suggesting that younger is better. If you want to be judged on your knowledge, talent and wisdom, why give any quarter to the idea that youth should be a factor? If you try to conceal the fact that your hair is grey, you're conceding that age is a legitimate factor in determining who gets the job.

It's not going to happen, though, is it?

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).