05/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Woman Over 40 Stand Up And Be Counted

This Wednesday, April 15th, TV Land will debut its newest show The Cougar. This is just one of many programs that are now featuring women over forty in lead roles. You think this would have me walking on cloud nine, since I am one of those women. Unfortunately, the current crop of reality shows in no way portrays who we really are and what's important to us.

The Real Housewives of Orange County came first with its cast of California women with money, big houses and plenty of free time. It was followed by spin-offs focusing on housewives in New York and Atlanta. The New York crew was presented as party-hopping socialites. The Atlanta ladies were mostly the nouveau riche wives of athletes. Now "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" will premiere on May 12th. The preview I saw makes The Cougar's Den on Saturday Night Live look upscale in comparison.

To be fair, I have not seen a preview of The Cougar, but as far as I can tell, it's a takeoff of ABC's The Bachelor. Mike Fleiss is the executive producer and this time Stacey Anderson, a 40-year old woman and mother of four from Arizona will frolic with 20 younger men in their 20's. She will then get to choose which one of the lucky guys has what it takes to win her heart. I have no problem with older women wanting to be in a relationship with a younger man but let's not make a circus out of it. That only makes it harder for real women in real relationships to be taken seriously.

Another show that is scheduled to make its debut on ABC this fall is Cougar Town starring Courteney Cox. This is a sit-com about a group of middle-aged women who are ready for romance of any kind. Apparently, execs are furious at Courteney, saying that ABC isn't cable and she has pushed the envelope from edgy to downright filthy. That kind of hype ought to get zillions of horny young men watching don't you think?

In my opinion, achieving the rank of Real Cougar is a privilege not an embarrassment. Women have worked hard to earn their stripes. We are mothers, business executives, entrepreneurs and teachers. Now it's time to stand up and be counted. Let's not allow ourselves to be represented as mindless, sex-starved, desperate predators.

Women over forty have been pushed to the sidelines long enough. Now it is our turn to shine. Let's show the world how fabulous we really are.

Linda Franklin is the founder and director of The Real Cougar Woman She is a speaker, writer, and advocate for women over 40.