Women only have a “shelf life” on screen; men have a “whole life.”
That’s the bottom line of the Acting Your Age Campaign (AYAC) in the U.K. In an open letter signed by more than 100 British actors and public figures, the group called for equal representation in the U.K. between men and women over 45 and urged immediate action on a “parity pledge.” We wish there was the same kind of push in the U.S.
Among the signatories are Dame Harriet Walter (pictured above), Juliet Stevenson, Lesley Manville, Richard E Grant, David Tennant, Alan Cumming, Hugh Bonneville, and the campaign’s founder, Nicky Clark.
“Today’s in-demand young actress is tomorrow’s unemployed middle-aged actress,” it said, adding: “We are fighting to ensure that our generation of excluded women is the last generation of excluded women.”
“Ageism targeting women is an entrenched industry staple that is outdated, harmful and neglects the millions of audience members who appreciate seeing women over 45 telling the stories of our lives,” the letter states.
Getting to 50-50
AYAC which was founded four years ago, laid out multiple recommendations for broadcast and production company commissioners, as well as for news and current affairs.
Today’s in-demand young actress is tomorrow’s unemployed middle-aged actress.
Among the recommendations are that all onscreen fictional content and light entertainment programs with male and female leads or presenters should have 50:50 equal gender and age representation.
It also calls for writer/performer dramas and comedy commissioning to feature 50:50 age and gender parity in programming, and for all broadcaster diversity initiatives to incorporate age.
In news, it says presenters of documentaries should be represented equally, with 50:50 gender initiatives to include age parity between women and men who are 45-plus. It also calls for age parity in political panels, discussions, news packages and studio guests. “A panel of only middle-aged men and young women is dated and unrepresentative,” it states.
Additionally, it states that news pieces on women’s physical and mental health and violence against women “shouldn’t have exclusive bias towards young women.” While celebrity and entertainment news should feature women and men over 45 equally and use recent photographs.
“This isn’t an attack of artistic freedom,” the letter states. “This is highlighting that too often excluding older women is enabled through the cloak of artistic choices.”