Bonnie Hammer Talks Hollywood Double Standard: "It's Time to Rewrite the Script on Aging"

Bonnie Hammer - H 2015
Todd Williamson/Invision/AP

"In racetrack jargon, we old mares are sent out to pasture while our male counterparts frolic in stud farms."

NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer turned 65 recently, and she took the opportunity to write about the double standard for older men versus older women in Hollywood.

In a new Fortune op-ed, Hammer writes about the "American office lexicon" faced by people in all industries. "While older women are often labeled as 'tired' and 'out of touch,' aging men get to be 'distinguished' and 'seasoned."

She points out this is especially prominent in the entertainment industry. "While leading men have been celebrated for their timeless charm and weathered good looks, women my age have been barely visible on screen— or try to remain visible by remodeling what age has created," says Hammer. "Bowing to societal pressures, they’ve lifted brows, tightened skin, filled laugh lines, and realigned proportions, all to stretch careers that would have otherwise been jeopardized by simply looking one’s age."

Hammer adds, "Experience is often dismissed, energy routinely ignored and, let’s face it, sex appeal all but laughed at. In racetrack jargon, we old mares are sent out to pasture while our male counterparts frolic in stud farms."

Hammer says this change in valuation is not analogous to the confidence and experience she gains as she gets older. "To put it bluntly, I feel relevant and valuable and I am struggling to understand why, when women reach age 65, they encounter an invisible barrier of perception that says it’s time to walk away," says Hammer. "Shouldn’t we have a choice in the matter? Shouldn’t our experience and energy be worth more?"

In contrast, Hammer says "age has only enhanced" her "professional and personal abilities." 

"It's time to rewrite the script on aging," writes Hammer. "The stereotype that says we’re past our prime and ready to be forgotten needs to change."

She asks women to "write a new chapter" because they have earned the right to have their "seasoned, capable and wise" voices be heard.

Hammer's article follows a long conversation about gender dynamics in Hollywood. Many actresses have spoken out about gender bias, not only in terms of perception and treatment, but also in terms of the wage gap.

"It's hard being a woman in Hollywood or in any industry," said Reese Witherspoon, when discussing the #AskHerMore movement in February. "Gender discrimination stigmatizes our entire industry," said director Kathryn Bigelow. "Change is essential."