Improving representation in the media has been a slow and ongoing process. In late 2020 Lisa LaFlamme chose to embrace her gray hair while anchoring on CTV news channel. This seems simple, right? Retirement age averages at about 65 years old and as you age your hair grays, some earlier than others. By that logic, we should be seeing many individuals, irrespective of gender, who show visible signs of aging, except that is not the reality. The terminology describing men is starkly different from that describing women. While men are allowed to age naturally, women are expected to maintain an unreasonable beauty standard as if they have access to some magical fountain of youth. This is especially obvious in films such as the James Bond series where we have an “evergreen” male hero paired opposite to a female love interest who gets younger with each film.
In my last blog post, I discussed the film The Devil Wears Prada wherein the fictional character Miranda Preesley is also subject to ageism where her colleagues attempt to get her removed from her job. Unfortunately, this appears to be the reality for Canadian journalist Lisa LaFlamme whose contract was abruptly ended by Bell Media leading to an abrupt end to her 35 year long career at CTV news channel. The fact that her farewell was just a short video shared on her Twitter page, despite having a successful career as a journalist spanning many decades is absolutely devastating. Compare this to former CBC news journalist Peter Mansbridge, who voluntarily retired at an older age than LaFlamme and whose farewell was announced and celebrated on CBC news.
As a woman, it is quite intimidating to see the challenges that women have to face in the workplace. Knowing that LaFlamme worked her way up as a journalist and established a name for herself but was still not offered the same respect given to her male contemporaries is horrifying! Thankfully, many corporations offered their support to LaFlamme including the food chain Wendy’s who temporarily switched the red pigtails of their mascot with gray pigtails. Dove Canada also organized a campaign requesting their followers to change their profile pictures to grayscale and also donated $100,000 towards an organization that advocates or inclusive workplaces for women.
The media has a huge influence on society, especially on younger children. Therefore, it is crucial that there is diverse representation in the media. It was extremely refreshing to see a woman finally being allowed to age gracefully on screen, but this positive change unfairly created a setback in LaFlamme’s career. I’m ending this blog post with the hope that LaFlamme and other women around the globe are collectively able to gradually make changes to create more inclusive workplaces.