Leave Arlene Phillips Alone

I'M trying to release my inner bitch. Some people may say she's already out, loud and proud but, although my sharp tongue may run away with me at times, I lack the killer instinct.

Small children know that at the hint of a tear in their eye I will willingly succumb to their nagging.

"Of course you can play with these scissors, honed to stiletto-blade sharpness, sweetheart. And later we'll go shopping for that expensive games thingamibob as you're going to 'absolutely die' if you don't get it."

I've decided I must become a bitch to counteract becoming increasingly invisible. I know this to be true because people have recently started to push in front of me in queues; interrupt me when I'm talking; stare over my head as if I'm not there; and take my oh-so-brilliant ideas, pass them off as their own and then look astonished when I mumble that I'd mentioned that a week ago. I did briefly consider that all this may be down to the fact that I'm boring as hell - but dismissed this explanation as I'm so obviously a scintillating person....

So my new policy is to stand tall (I can just about stretch to 5ft 5in in 3in heels) and be more assertive. I know I risk sounding like one Harry Enfield's old biddies ("young man....!") but no one will be able to pretend I don't exist.

I know I'm in good company. I've been reading lots lately about the invisibility of older women on TV. I'm perfectly okay with the fact that no one wants to see me on television. I wouldn't want to see me on television. After all, look down your average high street and there are hundreds of me; middle-aged women dashing around supermarkets or children's clothes shops in their lunch hour with a permanently harrassed and worried look on their faces, dishevelled hair and wearing clothes they've bought in a sale (those items that are in the sale because no one else would be seen dead in them).

But what's wrong with Selina Scott, Moira Stuart, Angela Rippon, Anna Ford or Kate Adie? I don't understand. They are all beautiful (OK, Kate Adie, not so much) and brilliant women whose only crime, as far as I can see, is to commit the unforgivable sin of passing 50. I read an article by Selina Scott who says it's not the same in America with people like Diane Sawyer, Connie Chung, Jane Pauley and Barbara Walters (all over 40 and Walters in her 70s), all well-respected television presenters and journalists. But I suspect they are exceptions that prove the rule.

The latest to get the chop is Arlene Phillips, the razor-tongued judge on Strictly Come Dancing. It wouldn't be so bad that she was being replaced by a younger woman if that woman hadn't been, in judging expertise, so totally unfit to lick Arlene's dancing shoes. Alesha Dixon can hold a tune, I'm told, and she's undeniably beautiful but only a heartbeat away she was a contestant on the programme. Arlene has 40 years' experience.

If they really felt they needed to replace someone, why not Len "everyone's wonderful and I'm not going to say a bad thing" Goodman or Craig Revel Horwood - the ultra-snide one who used to be a rent boy (in his own words in his autobiography) or Bruno Tonioli - the "I'm Italian so I'm allowed to be COMPLETELY OVER THE TOP" one.

The BBC message board has been full of support for Arlene. Here's one typical comment: 'They must appeal to the "yoof" so they kick out the woman, she's too old. Forget about the years of dance experience in the theatre she has, that counts for nothing. Let's get in a singer because she's young and attractive, and will appeal to a young audience. It's pathetic.'

Leave Arlene alone.

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  1. I love Arlene. I'd start a "Keep Arlene" campaign if I thought it would no any good. But the dastardly deed has been done.

  2. I just could not agree more. I am not an SCD fan. I could not really care much about Arlene but it is part of a trend and she at least knows what she is talking about!
    Know just what you mean about invisibility too. It can be quite nice but I do like to be able to choose!

  3. I'm 54, but don't feel in the least invisible yet. Then again, I don't move in circles where my visibility is of a high importance. I also don't wear clothes off the sales rack and do wear my hair spunky and don't look like a harrowed and overly worried middle aged hausfrau. I say you dress the part and I refuse to dress it. In my mind I'm eternally 39 years old and those who don't believe it can go hike up a spiny tree. Refuse to surrender, women! Make a lot of noise and drive the good old BBC crazy with your messages and call ins. I would too, but I am Dutch and have to fight my own battles.

  4. I hadnt heard about Arlene being given the shove - that is appalling. What the hell are they thinking of? Appalled of Cornwall....

  5. I don't know about any of the celebs you mention from your side of the pond, but over here it really isn't all that different. We humans may have come a long way, but we still judge women by their looks and youth is the overriding concern. Twas always thus and perhaps always will be. It's up to us to stay current, demand service and attention, stay engaged and make eye contact!

  6. Channel-hopping men will stop at a channel if they see eye candy. It's not the loyal fan but the casual viewer that's driving this.

  7. I so agree with you! Arlene seems to be the only one who knows what she's talking about!

  8. Get that inner bitch out in the open, you know it makes sense, oh yes and many thanks for the lovely comment on my blog.

  9. I remember when NBC dumped Jane Pauley for that bimbo Debra Norvell as co-host of the Today Show. Jane did NOT go quietly though. And most of the Today Show's audience (mostly women) expressed their unhappiness with the situation too.

    NBC had to scramble around and get Jane back on the air with her own news programs quickly or there would have been an uprising. As it was, The Today Show was never the dominate force in morning shows that it was when Jane was there again. Serves them right too.

  10. Hasn't worked, either. I've no idea who any of these people are! (Apart, of course, from class acts like Selina Scott, Angela Rippon et al.)

  11. Great post. It's always annoyed me that the telly is full of bimbos and plug ugly old men. Why can't we have a few glamorous older women on too? It seems that you have to be thin, young and gorgeous (Cheryl Cole et al) or fat, older and funny (Dawn French, Jo Brand). To be female and look at the John Sergeant end of the scale, you have to be Jo Brand-funny.
    Bring back Arlene!

  12. ah, the invisibility of women of a certain age. there is a rich, rich topic! have you read nuala o'faoilain's last book (published this year, posthumously)? that's the driving theme. that book really stayed with me for days...

  13. I came over here via elizabethm's blog, and yes, I do so agree. Why oh why are women judged so often purely on their appearance as though everything else was secondary? And why this adulation of youth when there are so many gorgeous older women? And I mean gorgeous in so many other ways than aspiring to some plasticised version of womanhood. Goodness, it makes me so angry. Well said, AMKT - I think more of us should speak out like this.

  14. Stephanie: I fear you are right.

    Elizabeth M: Yes, we should all be able to discard the "cloak of invisibility" should we choose t do so.

    GSW: Good for you! You look wonderfully funky in your picture.

    Flowerpot: I'm your neighbour - Appalled of Devon.

    Pondside: I totally agree. I'm going to demand to be seen!

    GB: I bet you have a harem of women - young and old!

    Akelamalu: She and Len Goodman are certainly the two "experts".

    Lampworkbeader: I don't have to do too much to reveal my inner bitch!

    Jay: I'm glad people power worked for Jane - maybe it will for our Arlene.

    Dotterel: Selina and Angela are true class acts, I agree!

    Preseli Mags: Yes, it's strange how funny women can be seen - but even then some of the comments about them are brutal, much more so than about fat men comedians.

    Laurie: No I haven't read that book but I'm going to!

    LBD: We live in such a shallow society these days.

  15. Being from the west side of "the Pond," I haven't a clue who Arlene is -- excepts from bits and snippets in the comments.

    Unfortunately, too many people are fooled by appearances, mistaking appearances for reality -- which seems to have happened in this case I think this problem happens more often with males than with females -- a seertain blight on my gender.

    On the other hand there is Coronation Street. Or has the Bear just committed a major faux paws?

  16. I agree, leave our Arlene alone! Too late alas.

  17. "The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious." (yeah, yeah...then they all go to seed). However, I think the older we get, the more we appreciate beauty in depth and in complexity...in the dark side of astrology, as you so eloquently put it.

    This "Invitation" is the beauty I seek now, and I do not think I am alone (or is it just my HUGE Aries ego talking)...


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  19. I never hear the gossip so thank goodness I read blogs so can catch up with life's intrigues (eventually).

  20. It was a disgrace the BBC removing you as a judge, it was an ageist and a sexist move. Dumb arrogant Alesha has proved herself to be as 'common as muck' and an embarrassment. The true fans like myself want you back, we want SCD back to what is was like, when it was great.