“I’m fed up to the back teeth with questions about my age!”
Flemish media personality Annemie Struyf has just turned 62. She’s a well-known, journalist, author and programme maker, but is getting fed up with questions about her age. She suspects agism is rife in the media and believes this is an agism that is especially targeting women. “I’m fed up to the back teeth with questions about my age” she says in conversation with VRT News, quickly adding “Why don’t these questions get put to male celebrities of my generation?”
Annemie is clearly an angry mature woman: “Everybody’s always talking about diversity and inclusiveness, but age discrimination happens every day!”
“When will I be retiring? Am I considering plastic surgery? Aren’t I a bit of a too out-of-house granny? Are you getting the picture” she asks.
No interview happens without these questions getting put!
“We aren’t allowed to discriminate on the basis of culture, religion, sexual preference, colour or identity, but age discrimination is a daily occurrence”.
Annemie has been facing age discrimination for years: “It started when I was 45, got worse when I turned 50. The older I get, the worse it’s getting! I’m fed up to the back teeth. Look at the stereotypes with which older people are described! ‘Grey, worn with age, tired, superfluous’ are banded about, but at the same time the retirement age is being increased to 67. Instead of welcoming the fact that older people are doing a good job stimulating the economy, from the minute you turn fifty you are pointed towards the EXIT”.
Annemie’s television work brought her into contact with people from across the globe: “Age is a fixation in our Flemish society. In other cultures, down South and up North, the obsession is far less pronounced. My eldest son lived in Argentina, where generations live cheek by jowl. Ever since he returned, he’s been treating my friends completely differently. He greets them with a kiss and has a chat. He’s really interested. In Norway you see young and old working together in the village, working together to keep the countryside on the map. In Belgium, you can’t get your mention in the papers without your age appearing between brackets!”
What really get Annemie worked up is the fact that women seem to get age-related questions far more often than their male peers.
“I’ve decided no longer to answer questions like that! Or I’ll be asking journalists whether they are planning to put the same question to male celebrities”.
But Annemie also concedes that men too don’t escape agism: “’A 33-year-old football player’. The age is explicitly mentioned, but under the radar they are implying: You are over the hill and no longer belong with the young crowd of fresh talent”. This is so sad!”.
Like this 61-year-old journalist, at 62, Annemie is getting increasingly proud of her age: “Every age has its qualities” she says “At the age of thirty you feel great curiosity and are eager to discover new things and to make them part of you. At 60 you can rely on an awful lot of experience. I’m in that phase of my career when I can decide to do the things I enjoy and thanks to my experience that isn’t too much effort”.