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Sexism & Ageism Alert: Was She Fired Because of Her Gray Hair?

Canadian anchorwoman Lisa LaFlamme made headlines when she stopped dying her hair in 2020. Now, her firing is making headlines again.

Lisa LaFlamme is one of the most prominent television journalists in Canada. She covered the biggest stories of her time and led the country’s most-watched nightly newscast on CTV since 2011.

But that didn’t prevent her from being unceremoniously fired last week. And the big question, one being debated in news reports and on social media, is: Was it her hair?

Someone please try to convince us that she looks worse or any less trustworthy with gray hair than with brown.

LaFlamme made headlines when she stopped dying her hair in 2020. During a special year-in-review broadcast, she told viewers that the pandemic had prevented her from visiting her hairstylist, and she was tired of spraying her roots each day before going on air. “I finally said, ‘Why bother? I’m going gray,’ she shared. “Honestly, if I had known the lockdown could be so liberating on that front I would have done it a lot sooner.”

But not everyone was happy about the change. A new boss recently raised questions about host Lisa LaFlamme’s hair. According to a senior CTV official who was present at the meeting, Michael Melling, head of CTV News, asked who had approved the decision to “let Lisa’s hair go grey.” The issue of Ms. LaFlamme’s hair color came up again on set one day, when he noted that it was taking on a purple hue in the studio lighting.

The abrupt dismissal of one of the country’s most prominent television journalists has drawn both a backlash and a national conversation about sexism and age discrimination in the media.

LaFlamme is pictured above before and after adopting her laissez faire attitude toward hair color. Someone please try to convince us that she looks any worse, any less trustworthy with gray hair than with brown. Actually, we feel she looks much more authoritative and formidable with her sliver ‘do. Maybe that’s what bothered the male managers.

Read More: Raise Your Hand If You’re a Member of the Honey Hair Club for Women

The Silver Shock

Last week, LaFlamme posted a video to Twitter announcing that she had been informed that her career with CTV News was over after parent company Bell Media decided to end her contract. She had worked for the network for 35 years and had just under two years left on her contract, according to the Globe and Mail.

I was blindsided and am still shocked and saddened.

“I was blindsided and am still shocked and saddened by Bell Media’s decision,” LaFlamme said, adding that she had been asked to keep her firing confidential for weeks.

“At 58, I still thought I’d have a lot more time to tell more of the stories that impact our daily lives,” she told followers. “While it is crushing to be leaving CTV National News in a manner that is not my choice, please know reporting to you has truly been the greatest honor of my life and I thank you for always being there.”

In a statement last week, CTV said it had made a “business decision” to pursue a “different direction” for the chief news anchor role, citing “changing viewer habits.”

“Changing viewer habits” could well be code for viewers want younger women delivering their news or that management assumes that viewers want younger women delivering their news.

The Fall Out

On social media, women were incensed and saddened at the news. “Lisa LaFlamme allowed herself to age on camera and in doing so gave me the confidence to shine in my natural beauty as I age,” one Twitter user, Sarah M., wrote on Monday, calling CTV News’ decision “a massive mistake.”

Men taking issue with a woman’s right to determine her appearance comes as no surprise.

Others worried that LaFlamme’s firing would send a message to middle-aged women that they could face professional consequences if they opted for a more natural look. “At the beginning of the pandemic I gave up being a bottled blonde and embraced the grey. I took inspiration from women like Lisa LaFlamme who we watched every day. We grew gray together. Women across Canada will remember the message you sent to us with her firing,” wrote Christine Cooper on Twitter. 

In a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail, one woman wrote, “Men taking issue with a woman’s right to determine her appearance comes as no surprise.”

Many suggested sexism and ageism had played a role in LaFlamme’s dismissal. Some media experts pointed out that her predecessor, Lloyd Robertson, retired from the chief anchor role at 77 and was given an on-air send off.

“I could not be more grateful to Lisa LaFlamme for being able to finally draw attention to the problem of ageism that successful females experience in most industries,” a commenter on a Toronto Star piece wrote. “It’s been the ignored elephant in the room for decades. While companies continue to diligently focus on Diversity/Equity/Inclusion initiatives, somehow ageism is never a material component of the conversation and is conveniently overlooked.”

Heather Mallick did an in depth dive into the subject in the Toronto Star, asserting that viewers had to be shielded from LaFlamme’s graceful sweeping grey hairdo because it was a reminder that women age just as men do. “Men don’t think about their greying hair, but if they do, they decide to let it go to hell its own way,” Mallick wrote. “What does it have to do with their job? Women don’t have that privilege — they don’t have any work privilege at all.”

Read More: Going Natural: What to Expect When You Let Your Hair Go Gray

By NextTribe Editors


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