Ageism and hair-colorism in the workplace

Jeanne Thompson, 44,  is an example of a woman who had a good experience transitioning out from gray hair in the workplace. Unfortunately, according to Star-Telegram, there are still women who face ageism in the workplace.

News anchor Dana King, 53, had to ask her manager about ending her dying her hair, but he was not happy with the idea. Of course the industry the women works in plays a huge factor; financial services versus on-air media.

There seems to be a trend in magazines and other media outlets that report on these issues: using celebrities as an example of society’s acceptance.

It’s one to tell the story of Jane Doe, age mid-40s, who decided to give up the gray dye and the story was dandy (or not). But it’s also reassuring, if not more, to hear of women in the Hollywood spotlight that have done the same thing.

Seattlepi is an online news blog that reported on Lady Gaga and Kelly Osbourne showing the greys in the same article that reported on Jeanne Thompson.

But the article definitely brings truth in saying that it is difficult for working women to be bold about following the trend of giving up dying. The article quotes David Scher, a Washington civil rights attorney who said, “I don’t think a woman in the workplace is going to follow that trend. I think women in the workplace are highly pressured to look young. If I were an older working person, the last thing I would do is go gray” (Italie).

While there are even legal laws like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to protect ageism in the workplace, there are issues of what is dubbed “hair-colorism” in the workplace.

All these success stories, of course, occur after women have been dying their hair for over 20 years and are in positions of authority and control. This really doesn’t say much about women having the right to freely gray because of such negative perceptions of aging.

A job is not to dye for: Many women going gray
Gray hair’s in fashion, but what about at work
Houston Chronicle
Terri Holley


The War on Moms and Women in Politics

The recent comment by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen saying that Mitt Romney’s wife Ann “had never worked a day in her life” has created a lot of controversy on the perception of women as it relates to politics.

While Obama answered diplomatically that “There is no tougher job than being a mom,” The Huffington Post agrees that “what has been missed in the hoopla is a simple truth: Hilary Rosen was right.”

In a way, this article sheds light on the stark difference the worlds of the wealthy and the world of the working live in. Romney’s dogmatic theories of letting the poor be poor all are part of a philosophy that people in Romney’s circle seem to fall under, that “they are all out of touch with the realities of everyday life for the majority of Americans, and indeed the world’s global citizenry” (Williams).

The article notes that the wealthy seem to miss how many missed opportunity mothers have balancing the workplace and the home.

Minnesota Daily highlights another problem regarding the mistreatment of women in politics. This contains to issues regarding birth control, abortion, and equal pay.

“Repealing this law is a denial of the gap between men’s and women’s pay that still persists. Taking away equal pay guarantees is a step backward for women’s rights in the workplace, and people should be appalled by Walker’s decision to do so” (Daily Editorial Board)

There is a huge gap that must be questioned to ask where the power for women come from; where are women in politics represented?

Again, the Huffington Post reinforces that wealth plays a huge role, but even then it seems as if women don’t have enough power to fight their own battles. As MN Daily notes, “A major problem is women are largely underrepresented in government” (Daily Editorial Board). Statistically, U.S. ranks 90th in the world for some in legislatures and women make up 51% of the population and only 17% of Congress.

While the topic seems to be directly affecting women, the men seem to be making all the decisions.

But do young women coming up in the city today hold a similar apprehension about an allegiance to old archetypes of female power? To grievances about equal pay or ideas about the perils of exploitive media images? Or have they achieved sufficient distance to reclaim this territory?

Defining Dignity: Romney, Working Mothers and Double Standards
The New Shades of Feminism?
For women, a long road left
Spanking Goes Mainstream
Why So Angry, Dad?
The Allure of Messy Lives


Women vs. women competition at all ages

In class we often learn about how disadvantaged women are, the glass ceilings they have to face, the physical pressures, and society’s stereotype. And despite all these growing challenges, women are now competing against their fellow women.

Feminist Fay Weldon brings to light that women today and of this generation are now more concerned about looks beyond freedom, female rights, or even men. She says that, “Women have ended up in competition with each other. It’s a kind of self-obsession” (Cooper).

This perception seems to grow as women age; the pressures of being young, especially in the workplace, build up and the blame starts being placed on other women. Unfortunately, most of this competition comes from this holding onto youth, and seeing failure when comparing to other women.

Huffington Post says, “The truth is, competition at the workplace and elsewhere does exist among women…but as we age, we all have to struggle to let youth go. As we do, we’re all in it together.”

So while women should be teaming up together to help each other through the aging process, women just need to come to terms about their own aging process.

Even more starkly, feminist Fay Weldon says, “It doesn’t matter how you express this self-obsession and denying of age – it’s only temporary. They’ll both be 50 before they know it.”

The Fairest One of All: What is This (Latest) Female Competition Really About?
Every woman’s ready-salted row
‘Mirror Mirror’: What The Snow White Narrative Says About Women, Beauty And Aging

Beauty advice vs. Hollywood

There are two teams in Hollywood, women who are considered “ageless” as Felicia O’Garro notes in Starpulse, and women who simply “age well” or are accepting of their aging process.

Who are the winners?

There is a huge praise of women are able to seem ageless while there is now a growing crowd that are lauding the women who are accepting their age and are aging well.

Starpulse says it best:

Mark Twain has a famous quote: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Easy for Mark to say, but in Hollywood this statement means nothing to celebrities who are constantly being judged on how they look.”

There are contests and articles like People’s Search for “Real Beauty” at every age.

BSC Kids call it, “They are aiming to celebrate real women in the issue for the first time ever.” For the first time though?

So what is beauty? Women of the media don’t make it easy to define and figure out what it is. And most generally, these featured women are not ethnic and are not diverse.

In the end though, Huffington Post‘s autumn Whitefield-Madrano expends knowledge on what she’s learned about beauty as she has aged, and she has the right mentality even though it doesn’t overall capture knowledge and advice.

PEOPLE’s Search for Real Beauty at Every Age
10 Ageless Celebrity Women and Their Secrets
What I Know About Beauty Now That I’m In My 30s
Study finds beautiful women face discrimination in certain jobs
On the Job, Beauty Is More Than Skin-Deep

Media Shows the Fear of Women Aging

Some of the most popular magazines for women are fashion and tabloid magazines. Many of them have an emphasis on beauty. Those targeted specifically for older women mainly focus on how to look younger. There are articles about how to look younger and they set examples on how to act younger.

This makes it very apparent that the media industry show that the generation today has an apparent problem with aging.

The issue with aging is both societal and physical. If you are physically attractive and youthful, society will welcome you warmly; according to society, you must look attractive and youthful – the mentality goes both ways.

Especially media advertisements today, it generates a computer generated and modified version of what the archetypical older women is supposed to look and act like – and it hits the hardest against older women because “there’s a bias against women, particularly older women. Every time we take a step forward in our cultural power, they (advertisers) make us smaller, thinner, and younger in media. And it’s all really run by a handful of older white men” (Ollivier).

Actress Demi Moore is going through significant changes in her life that epitomize the fact that her youthful years are quickly slipping away. She is an example of a women coined to be struggling with a “battle” against Mother Nature, and it’s simply disappointing the aging has to be a “battle” against the natural process.

Compare the sentiment with Demi Moore to the kind of attention TV star Kate Walsh is receiving. She bears naked on the cover of Shape magazine – the response is positive awe for a 40 year old women to look this good (Schreffler)

But again, this is all based on the physical and outer appearances. Kate Walsh looks and feels young, again setting impossibly high standard of achieving youth at her age.

Especially in the media industry, the pressure to stay young increases as age increases. Kate Walsh says it herself that “we live in a strange time when getting plastic surgery is as common as dyeing your hair” (Schreffler).

Other women, and society in general, will continue to just feel bad about women who have to phase themselves out of Hollywood as they get older, as they get kids, as they can no longer sustain themselves in the media industry, “that is until we break the cycle, redefine what society tells us is beautiful, and embrace the fact that aging is a fact of life” (Hossain)

Instead, the media must make an effort to focus on the kind of intangible, nonphysical, and incredibly necessary value that women add to the home, the family, and to society. True gerontology studies, “women over 50 need to recognize how much they really know and recognize the value in all the care they’ve given to their families. They also need to recognize that society should be compensating us for the care we give our families. If caregivers were recognized for the true value they offer society, then women would not be 65 percent of our poorest seniors” (Ollivier).

No Country for Old Women: Demi Moore And Our Fear of Aging
The naked truth! Kate Walsh reveals her secrets to staying beautiful while posing in the buff
Susan Hess Logeais: Filmmaker Tackles Issues Of Aging In Her Second Act
Their So-Called Journalism, or What I Saw at the Women’s Mags
Kate Walsh Proves Women Get Sexier With Age

Media’s Lack of Older Women in the Industry

New statistics in the news broadcast and television industry indicates that there is a severe drought of older women making a presence (UKPA).

Even the people working behind the scenes acknowledge that too few older females are getting any airtime or opportunities in the media and journalism industry. After a slew of gender-related discrimination cases, director-general of BBC Mark Thompson is openly admitting that there not enough older women making a presence in top television programs (Batty).

While there are younger women in the work place, journalist Carol Forsloff calls these young women “sidekicks for the males in media” (Forsloff)

Personally, I find that the greatest testimony to show how few women are in the news media sector is the fact that there is so few research on them (Forsloff).

The standard is set as Thompson questions “If the BBC isn’t prepared to take this issue more seriously, what hope is there that others will start to do so?” Thompson states that it is important for BBC editors and producers to weigh in and make an effort to tackle these issues.

But the issue doesn’t rely just on the programs that choose the women and pay for their stay; the issue is two fold: the women’s mentality of choice and the broadcast agency’s choice. If this is the case, then what deters women from pursuing the news media industry and what may influence a broadcast agency from straying away from older women?

A study by the BBC shows that some of the stereotypes against the older people were their “perceptions about a reluctance to move with the times and tendency to moan” (Plunkett). But whether this is exclusive to women is questionable as older men may have the same issues of stubbornness.

You would think that most of the on-air specialist journalists would be of the older category who were more knowledgeable and well-bred on the subject, but most of these positions are passed to men because the women either drop out before making it to senior positions or are simply looked over.

There’s also the increasing pressure to be physically attractive, especially with anything involving the media. Whether this is a flawed cultural and societal mentality or whether it’s because of viewer preference, I think it speaks to a degenerating society. I foresee the continuation of the practice of replacing “with what people felt were less qualified but younger, more attractive women.” (Revior)

I find that these new revelations about the declining numbers of the older women population on television is contrary to the fact that there is an incredibly increasing amount of female elderly, the elder women population to be the highest due to the longevity of their life span.

BBC ‘got it wrong on women’
BBC’s Mark Thompson: There Aren’t Enough Older Women On TV
I got it wrong on older women: BBC boss admits there ARE too few on TV
Lack of older women on TV ‘a fact’
Television ‘misrepresents’ young people and older women

TV and Advertisers Reaching Out to Baby Boomers

John Erickson had an idea to target the growing baby-boomers generation – start a TV cable channel targeted directly to seniors.

With talk shows related to aging related diseases, medicare and insurance, and reality shows, this idea targets directly to the 50+ age group.

LA Times notes, “According to the 2010 census, there are more than 99 million Americans older than 50. The over-50s are also one of the fastest-growing groups on Facebook.”

It’s also often overlooked that this older generation has the money to spend on consumer products, which is why it makes sense for advertisers and businesses to target the senior population.

The problem with this idea is that statistics show baby-boomers generation uses the most media outlets of all the other generations, dipping into both local, broadcast, and cable news casts, read the daily newspaper, and listen to the radio. This is compared to GenXers that get most of their news from online sources.

Ethnic and minority groups have their own set of channels they watch that are in their native language.

This new focus in the industry is a result of people realizing that old people are no longer the stereotypical “out of date” homebody. The baby boomers today are technologically friendly, adept at social media, and have the income to be an advertising target.

According to polls and statistics, the 50+ age group owns more homes than any other age group, purchase 41% of all new cars, and are also most likely to buy online (Baruch College-Harris Poll commissioned by Business Week).

The sentiments of advertiser Frank Kaiser represent an issue that advertisers need to rethink:

Even when they actually want to reach us, advertisers biggest blunder is thinking that old people are old.