Two things that I have seen on Facebook today have got me thinking and in fierce debate with my nearest and dearest.
And they are both the same thing when it boils down to it.
Firstly, the news that the BBC is to ban all male panels on its quiz shows.
Secondly, Debenhams using women of varying shapes and sizes in their catalogues.
It needs to be said at this point, I suppose, that I am an out and out equalitarian. I believe that all people should be afforded the same opportunity and respect regardless of their gender, race, orientation, age or any other facet of their being that you might choose to single out.
But the BBC male panel ban – and their previously announced desire to get 50% off their local radio breakfast programmes hosted by women by the end of 2015 – does not sit well with me. Appointments to these positions should be made on merit, the most talented people should be getting the jobs. It does nobody any good for rubbish women to get jobs, just based on their chromosomal arrangements.
1) It diminishes the quality of the programming, which we all pay for this being the BBC
2) It is patronising for the women involved, who will be cursed with forever wondering if they were only picked because they don’t have a penis
3) Having poorer quality women only goes to reinforce attitudes that women can’t do these jobs in the first place
But equally, something has to be done, as the representation of women is woefully low in both of these areas. Just 2 solo female presenters of BBC local radio breakfast shows from all of them across the country? That is abysmal.
I suspect that figure is rather better than commercial radio manages though, but that is a whole different conversation.
And only 5 guests out of 38 and none of the regulars on Mock the Week were women.
Again, very poor. I know QI have attempted to redress this criticism with female only guests on several occasions, which have been no less entertaining or appealing to me. So maybe I am barking up the wrong tree and it IS a way to get things shifting in the right direction.
And quite frankly if Mock The Week put in a mediocre woman or two it’ll stop some of the mediocre men getting on the show. Which would be an improvement.
So onto the second issue and the Debenhams catalogue having a gorgeous curvy model, some non airbrushed saggy bits on other models and a couple of amputees.
The problem that I have with this is that they are all still gorgeous. The “reality” as it’s described still confirms to a rather narrow definition of traditional beauty and the cynical old hack that I am can’t help thinking they are doing this solely to generate talkabilty and therefore increase sales.
I was called “mean spirited” for expressing this. Perhaps so. Maybe I am just impatient. Debenhams have done this sort of thing before, making a big to-do about having “normal” shaped mannequins in their stores. Maybe this is part of an ethos change at the company, maybe it’ll last forever and change perceptions and everyone else will follow suit.
At the moment both the BBC and Debenhams seem to be engaged in tokenism for the sake of it rather than for affecting actual change.
Like I say, maybe it’s just the jaded hack speaking here and this is an unfounded concern and I’ll be made to eat my words.
Which I will be happy to do. Cos I really hope I am wrong.