The film industry was blasted last week by veteran actresses Juliet Stevenson and Bridget Jones’ diary star Gemma Jones who said male executives only cast ‘nubile and beautiful young women’.
Actors of their age are only offered ‘mother roles’, they claimed and it is having a devastating impact on mature female talent.
I cannot think of another industry that embraces such an ageist attitude or indeed where it is accepted practice to discriminate against older women so overtly.
Britain is legislated up to the hilt against employers who would consider using ageist policies within their work environment, you are (quite rightly in my view), not even allowed to ask a persons age within an application for a new job. Yet it has become accepted practice in the acting world in a way it wouldn’t be anywhere else.
Today I participated in an event hosted by the International Federation of Actors (FIA) which explored gender equality in the acting world. The President of the FIA, Agnete Haaland, opened the conference, alongside Andrea Gautier from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Gautier focused on the need to take into greater consideration the gender perspective in the media across Europe, and discussed in particular an important conference on the 31st May in Madrid, in which experts got together to debate this issue. She pointed out that gender steroeotyping in TV, film and advertising and the underrepresentation of women in the media consolidate narrow gender roles, thus restricting the room for manoeuvre and life opportunities for women and girls, but also for men and boys.
The picture is bleak for so many women because the executives are male and looking for young actresses. It is extraordinary that executives ignore or neglect to acknowledge the wealth of knowledge and life experience older actresses bring to roles.
The problem has become so grave that Stevenson and Jones said that this is prompting mature women to go under the knife.
Only two days ago we acknowledged the hugely talented actress Julie Walters who was nominated twice in the same category for a Bafta for her role playing the feisty politician Mo Mowlam and in another role playing a lady who ended her life at the Dignitas clinic.
Britain is bursting with talented older women such as Walters, Gemma Jones, Maureen Lipman, Annette Crosbie, Meera Syal, Juliet Stevenson Dame Judi Dench and of course Helen Mirren, I could go on and on and on. I applaud both Stevenson and Jones for speaking out in such strong terms against the male dominated culture that these women face and which in any other industry would simply not be tolerated. British actors really must work hard to fight this antiquated male executive way of thinking and I will certainly offer my support.