Having embraced social media and blogging in order to promote my business, I have watched the medium turn from words to pictures and video. I realized I needed to have more photographs and videos and that many of them would have to include me. I then started to wonder about the wider impact on professional women of ageism in the media.
I am not a beautiful, slender young woman. This comes as no surprise to me, but what did surprise me was that I froze in front of the camera and the video and I winced when I saw my own image on the screen.
I rarely see an ordinary or even ugly woman on factual TV. Unconsciously, I had come to view the medium as out of bounds for grown up women. It wasn’t just my imagination. Miriam O’Reilly’s legal action against the BBC for age discrimination drew support and criticism. Nick Ross (of Crimewatch fame) is quoted as saying older women should not be allowed to stay on TV.
I disagree with him profoundly. Yet faced with my own older woman face and body on video I felt completely inadequate and exposed. The BBC are training women experts and there is some hope that more women will appear on TV. Yet some part of me says they will be the beautiful ones (and the thin ones).
Promoting your brand
For women in corporate life this withdrawal from the visual media is not a short term problem – that is what marketing and PR people take care of for you. But, to withdraw from the big marketing media can have extraordinary long term consequences. If you are the spokesperson of your brand, you are also the embodiment of your brand and the face of it – and here is where the trouble begins. If we are not going to create a world where the next generation of successful businesses are all headed by men, then women are going to have to appear in the media – just as men do – overweight, bad hair, sloppy posture, even badly fitted suits. We see them all and do not demand that men do not appear on television. Ugly men get airtime! Ageism doesn’t seem to impact them to the same degree.
Feel the fear
Rather shakily, I made the decision to explore video and TV as a way of getting messages that are really important to me out into the world. I went out not as a body which was female but as a messenger with curves and wrinkles (or at least that’s how I am determined to see it).
I am making videos for my web site and you tube channel and I recently did my first TV appearance In the great tradition of all women, I have taken a friend with me – she is Elaine Hopkins (the Redundancy Crusader).
I am not the fairest of them all but neither are most of the men I see on television. I am on the sofa, or having a cup of coffee sharing what I am learning and enjoying it (well most of it).