Voice of the Older Person

Joan Bakewell has been appointed as the ‘Voice of the Older Person’ by the government. My sensibilities bristle more than a little every time newspapers refer to her as the ‘thinking man’s crumpet‘ , that is,  of course, not an epithet she chose.


Am I the only person to find the expression both distasteful and disrespectful? It seems like it as most of the newspapers refer to it. It was a quotation taken from comedian on a programme that only ran until the early 70s and was a sign of its times very much. So why do the newspapers still harp on about it.

The more I think about it, the more irritated by it. The only definition I can find is on Wikipedia, which of course, is less than perfect but says

In British English, the term thinking man’s crumpet refers to any woman who is intelligent and good looking, particularly one who has a high profile in the broadcast media. It derives from the slang “crumpet” to refer to a woman who is regarded as an object of sexual desire, which is itself an association with the crumpet, a baked product usually eaten warm after being toasted and spread with butter.

So grow up, news agencies and newspapers. It isn’t a funny term. It isn’t clever to regurgitate a joke made about 40 years ago and somehow indicate that it is still relevant to a serious news article today. It doesn’t get better and it is another rather tacky attempt at objectification of women that tries to somehow and particularly denigrate those women with intelligence on the basis of their ‘attractiveness’.

I’m all for crumpets. They occupy the space of one of my favourite ever breakfast foods. Women are not crumpets.

image joe500 at flickr

Now I’ve got that out of my system. onto the story itself!

Joan Bakewell’s position will be as a non-governmental spokesperson. She will act as an independent advocate – bringing to the forefront issues that affect older people that are often sidelined. Being of the media herself, she may well have better access and respect within it than other celebrities.

Indeed, today, she writes a piece in the Guardian outlining some of the concerns that strike her on her new appointment.

Some of the points that she has highlighted as needing attention are the lack of public toilets, better provisioning of lift access and some of the packaging on grocery shopping that make things increasingly difficult to open!

The Old as well, if not more than The Young, need more voices.

We all remember being young. Most of us want to forget that we will be old.

Good luck, Joan.

7 thoughts on “Voice of the Older Person

  1. you are correct quite distasteful comment with regard to being spokesperson please tell me how to get in touch with her then one could judge spokesability

  2. Totally agree, on both issues. I think Joan Bakewell is a good choice, hopefully she will have the gravitas to be heard in the right quarters, I have always thought she was an minently sensible person and that she in no way resembles any type of bread product, desirable or otherwise…mind you, I once heard Mick Hucknall of Simply Red described as the thinking womans crumpet so who knows what they actually mean by the statement… :o)

  3. Another hackneyed phrase which lazy journalists and sub editors can’t seem to resist is “Yuppie flu”. For how much longer are journalists going to drag out this denigrating and inaccurate term? Sufferers of ME are not sufferers of “Yuppie Flu” and ME campaigners are not “Yuppie Flu Campaigners”.

    “Yuppie Flu” was coined by the media some years ago and its continued use misrepresents a seriously debilitating illness which is ruining the lives of thousands of children, some as young as four or five, as well as adults of all ages and from all social backgrounds. ME is classified by the WHO as a neurological illness (indexed in ICD-10 at G93.3).

    Accurate and informed coverage of ME by the media is always welcomed but please, journalists, on behalf of all of us with children and young people whose lives are on hold because of this horrible illness, let’s see this tired, trite and grossly misleading term buried, once and for all!

  4. I have no idea, Ray!
    Caroline, I think I might have Mick Hucknall related nightmares now!

    And meagenda, I completely agree with you. It is grossly offensive for ME to be called ‘Yuppie flu’.

  5. @cb

    Over the past two or three years you might have noticed the following creeping in:

    ‘ME/CFS, which used to be known as “Yuppie Flu”…’

    which might be seen as an improvement but which only serves to perpetuate its use by the media and the public!

  6. Whilst Dame Jane seems a nice enough person I remain uneasy at the announcement, here’s a couple of reasons.
    1. Why just a “voice” rather than a kick-ass Commissioner? Why play celebrity gestures?
    How come we now have an official “voice” for older people but not a Commissioner? In March 2005 the Government saw fit to appoint Professor Al Aynsley-Green as England’s first Children’s Commissioner.

    Earlier this year Wales’ First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, appointed Ruth Marks MBE as the first Commissioner for Older People in Wales.

    The First Minister and Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland announced in December 2007 their intention to create a Northern Ireland Commissioner for Older People.

    Why not England?

    2. None of the issues in her manifesto mentioned (so far) are older person specific.

    The Press highlight a few things bugging Dame Bakewell such as the need for better access, more lifts, better designed packaging and more public toilets. All very well and nobody would disagree, however all these things are not the province of just older people – we would all benefit from them – especially any of us with any mobility challenges, parents with small children and after all this is not special design for older people , it’s simply good design.

    This leads me to think that Joan’s appointment, however well intentioned, won’t bring about “significant changes in the way we think about older age?”

  7. I didn’t actually know there was a Commissioner in Wales. Of course, more authority would be better than less but something is better than nothing at the same time.
    Now you’ve mentioned it though, it is a very good point.

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