Magazine article The Spectator

Forty Is a Feminist Issue

Magazine article The Spectator

Forty Is a Feminist Issue

Article excerpt

For older women, the battle for equality is far from won

If Emily Hill is right in her cover piece for the magazine last week headlined 'The end of feminism', then women like me are in a whole world of trouble. And by women like me, I mean women over 40.

The nub of Ms Hill's argument was that all the big battles are won. She quoted the sparkling achievements of 'women in their twenties' and also 'the under-40s', who are out-earning men. What happens to women after they have broken through the glass ceiling is a question for an older, more cynical female writer. At your service.

While agreeing with a lot of what Ms Hill says about the pettiness of today's Twitter feminism, it is important to draw attention to the paragraph in which she reveals her birth year (1983) and to note that articles declaring feminism void are usually written by women in their thirties or younger. 'Give her ten years,' I found myself thinking wistfully.

Looking back on my twenties and thirties, I believed equality to be like water, flowing freely and without end. I don't mean to claim that when I turned 40 I instantly began to suffer discrimination, but rather that a sense settled upon me that the inalienable rights I once held to be self-evident were looking a bit conditional. There was a shocking moment when I realised that all women had a sell-by date, not necessarily linked to their ability to perform. It was in 2009, when the BBC sacked Arlene Phillips from Strictly Come Dancing , to be replaced by a younger model, while Len Goodman and Bruce Forsyth blathered on.

It was like Jenny Agutter finding out that 'carrousel' isn't a ceremony leading to eternal life, but vaporisation. When Arlene was singled out for Logan's Run -style renewal -- complete with a chillingly cheerful interview in which she insisted she was happy to be pursuing other projects -- I realised I would not necessarily find the same equality of opportunity in the second half of my life as the first.

If Arlene could be sent to 'carrousel', we could all go. Darcey Bussell should know that her tenure on Strictly is about as assured as her ability to ward off eye bags. I haven't watched the show since Arlene's vaporisation -- my slightly forlorn bra-burner protest at 'sexagism', of which there have been other high-profile examples. …

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