I don't know where to start...

(145 Posts)
StuntGirl Mon 31-Dec-12 01:26:43

Please excuse this long, disjointed post. I'm sure everything I write here will be obvious, and old news to everyone here, but its a recent thing I'm struggling to deal with.

I've always considered myself a feminist, in that I believed in equal rights for women. I thought it was inherently wrong to discriminate based on gender, and I challenged it where I came across it. I have however, never been particularly active with regards to feminism. I've always known we live in a male dominated society, I've always known women can be discriminated against, I've always known women still face struggles based on simply being women and I've always challenged it where I can but for the most part I suppose I've been fairly passive. But for some reason, very recently, every small injustice has screamed out at me. I'm noticing, with increasing irritation, the unequal representation of the sexes in the media, the unequal opportunities presented to men vs women, the gaping inequality in family life.

A few weeks ago I was watching QI. It suddenly dawned on me the entire panel was male.
Just before Christmas we were watching Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, and about a quarter of the way into it I realised every performer had been male.
I recently read an article in the Guardian about female representation in film, and was introduced to the Bechdel test. I was astonished to read what a huge percentage of films don't pass this ridiculously simple test.
Last night I watched a Horizon programme on asteroids, and was saddened to notice that not a single female scientist was questioned in the programme at all.
Today we went to watch The Hobbit, which I noticed also did not pass the Bechdel test.

I commented on Facebook last night about the Horizon programme, and was absolutely expecting one or more people to make some lame sexist joke and I was proven right on the very first comment. Depressingly, out of all the comments in the discussion that followed, the one that got the most likes was that initial 'joke'.

Today after the film I commented to my brother about the Bechdel test, and was surprised to find he scoffed at me over applying this test to a book written so long ago. I tried to explain I wasn't thinking about The Hobbit in isolation, but as part of media in general. He scoffed some more, rolled his eyes, and made me feel like I was being a whiny bitch by bringing it up at all. My own brother! A man I have always considered intelligent, respectful, liberal and a feminist himself.

I think the thing that has saddened me most about my recent, well, epiphany I suppose, is the reactions from the males in my life when I raise the topic. Men I have up until now considered, like my brother, to be intelligent, respectful men who want an equal society. I guess my eyes are opening to how much that may not be true, how much they are indoctrinated themselves.

The only male who has shared my reactions has been my boyfriend. I have seriously never loved him so much as over these past few days.

I guess what I'm saying is, I need a place to discuss these issues, to understand them and speak to people who share the same beliefs. I need to find out more, and do more. Can anyone point me in the direction of some good feminist resources, or communities? Until now I've held a passive interest in feminism, and somehow suddenly that doesn't seem enough.

runningforthebusinheels Mon 31-Dec-12 01:50:57

Hi, I feel exactly the same as you. I have always thought of myself as a 'feminist' - ie men and women are equal - but in my younger life poo-pooed concepts like the Patriarchy.

Coming on MN really did open my eyes, in exactly the same way as you describe in your OP. Things like the Bechdel Test, Patriarchal Society, male privilege, abuse of women and children - once the scales had fallen from eyes, I saw it everywhere.

I'm extremely lucky with my husband - he is incredibly liberal and respectful to women. We have a fantastic and equal relationship. But even he has a few blind spots. For example, he cannot understand Male Privilege as a concept. I've tried my best to explain it to him - but he just will not acknowledge that he, as a white, middle class male, is in the most privileged section of society. Someone posted the link about playing the video game 'set to easy' recently, and I keep meaning to show it to him.

I'm not a bit surprised by your FB experience - I notice amongst my friends and relatives that these sorts of topics get eyerolls and jokes. People also say some really derogatory things about 'feminists' that I can't stand. The way this board has been invaded by trolls in the past, so much so that a lot of the radfems don't even post here anymore also speak volumes.

There's a book called the 'Equality Illusion' which is often recommended on here, and that is on my reading list. Also 'Living Dolls' - do an amazon search for them. I'm sure someone else will along soon with some better recommendations soon smile

Books are great but I think you need the nourishment of real feminists!ukfeminista.org.uk/ have a map that shows local groups. Conferences are good too.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 09:19:20

I brought this stuff up with my family - my sister then started on feminism going too far especially for small firms and how she still liked "being treated like a lady".

Sometimes I feel like I'm banging my head against a wall.

zippey Mon 31-Dec-12 10:05:42

I think men do need to take feminist issues more seriously, especially if you want your daughters to have a better life. There was a poster I saw a while back that said "“Prepare your daughter for working life — give her less pocket money than your son”.

I also hate the gender sterotyping you get in shops when buying items for children.

I like the idea of the Bechdel test, thanks for bringing that to attension!

bigkidsdidit Mon 31-Dec-12 10:13:17

It's utterly depressing, isn't it.

But not surprising. My 22yo self would have scoffed too; as an extremely privileged middle class white woman with a posh accent I did not encounter any discrimination until I had a child. Then I came on mn, got interested, and as you say the scales fell from my eyes. Watching QI and noticing it was all male is something that happened to me too only recently. And I was brought up by a radical feminist mother!

These things take time.

The thing I tell myself to keep me going is that people have always been against change and change has always won. I think of eg the idea that you could be raped by your husband. This was a radical view once and only became law very recently. Now I would guess it is accepted by the vast majority of the population.

I also take action now. Every time a programme is all male I tweet he bbc to complain. Or dara o'braian or Stephen fry or whoever presented it. I have noticed more people doing so and I hope the message will get through.

Mrskbpw Mon 31-Dec-12 10:32:21

I agree. I've always been feminist, bit have been getting more and more angry about it lately. At first I though it was because I'm getting older but then I realised it's because genuinely things are getting worse.

I was v cross at the light-hearted thread about who should present Strictly. Pages and pages of suggestions and pretty much all men. Why shouldn't it be two women? Plenty of programmes are male dominated. I was pleased that Sports Personality of the Year was presented by two women and a man, though, and all above 40!

Lessthanaballpark Mon 31-Dec-12 11:31:55

"I think the thing that has saddened me most about my recent, well, epiphany I suppose, is the reactions from the males in my life when I raise the topic"

I feel this way too OP. I don't raise anything feministy anymore because the male members of my family will just laugh and make fun. They cover it up as a joke, this making me feel humourless, but as they never say anything serious on the subject I have no idea what they believe.

What upsets me is that feminism is considered such a laughing point. Yet it is still deeply needed, from the male dominated media to the sexual violence to women worldwide, it's so needed but many men seem to think the battle's over or pull out that old line "but men and women are different" as if that justifies a whole range of inequalities.

Sometimes I feel so tired of it. I do my best to ignore it cos you have to enjoy life but sometimes it's a bit much. I'm feeling it bad recently after what happened in Delhi. It seems so big to tackle.

WRT the representation of women in the media may I recommend the two books by Susan Douglas: " where the girls are" and "the rise of enlightened sexism". They relate to the US but are still relevant and very well written.

Good luck OP, you're not alone!

grimbletart Mon 31-Dec-12 12:00:34

When there is so much imbalance seeing a programme that is not is especially gratifying. My husband and I usually watch Jeff Randall Live at 7pm on Sky for the news and business news. It is great to see how many female business experts he has on his programme - and, to my utter amazement, a couple of weeks ago he had two female experts that were probably in their late sixties or early seventies. So not just women, but (much) older women too. His whole attitude is one of taking equality and equal respect for granted.

He would not, I imagine, call himself a feminist, but he is a hell of a lot more of a feminist than many women, and he also proves you don't have to be a left winger to be a supporter of feminism or women. Kudos to you Jeff Randall.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 13:17:46

I'm right with you!

It always strikes me how rare it is to see even two women on a panel show. There was one of QI recently where it was all women and Stephen Fry and it interested me to see how the atmosphere really was different and the women were making the kind of in-jokes that we make on here (not comparing MN to professional commedians but you know what I mean).

It annoys me that having a token woman means that yes, technically, we've stopped giving women the impression that these shows (or indeed engineering as a career or being in the police or being an MP or whatever it happens to be) is totally barred to women. But it's still obvious that women will be expected to be the 'minority'. hmm

It pisses me off no end that so many people do internalize these visual cues and act almost as if they believe that there are three important men for everyone one woman, or that women should be heard a quarter of the time men are.

The annoying one I get from my otherwise-lovely brother is that he accepts feminism is necessary, etc. etc., but he will always jump in to insist that, as a middle-class white woman, I can't really talk about discrimination because everyone who's not middle class, not white, has it much harder.

It's not that I especially disagree but he is a white, middle-class man - how come he thinks he knows enough to lay the law down about that?!

Lessthanaballpark Mon 31-Dec-12 13:57:19

LRD, I know exactly what you mean. The portrayal of feminism as middle-class has always been used against it.

Bit of an aside, but I also think that the over-representation of the middle upper class "ladies" in our obsession with period dramas really does little to show the reality of most women who were working class. (which is why Call The Midwife is so great.)

I'd be rich if I had a pound every time a man has pointed out the Titanic as an example of how women benefited from chivalry in the past, or the opening of doors, laying of cloaks, etc, when really those were privileges conferred on middle-class women, not on the majority of the population.

The accusation of feminism as middle class feels like a very clever form of divide and conquer, because really we are all members of the sex class one way or the other.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 14:04:18

I agree. I am a little sad with Call the Midwife on TV that they've not yet got much into Sister Evangelina, who I thought was one of the best characters in the books.

I'm absolutely aware that being middle-class is a very privileged position.

FromEsme Mon 31-Dec-12 14:06:18

I happily discovered over Christmas that my partner's mum has massively feminist views! We talked about the same issue you mentioned in your OP, that all the people on QI are men, abortion rights, DV, rape...I was not expecting it at all so I was really pleased.

Where is the female equivalent to Stephen Fry? There just isn't one. There isn't a single woman who everyone thinks is terribly witty and intelligent. Is that because women AREN'T witty? Bollocks. My female friends are immensely more hilarious than my male ones.

Posting on here has helped clarify my views a lot (was thrilled at how feminist MN is). Is there a feminist group in your city that you could join?

Lessthanaballpark Mon 31-Dec-12 14:25:16

I've come to the conclusion that one of the root causes of more men on tv panels is the traditional separation between the public/private domain rather than the innate abilities of men and women (eg. to be funny, to be scientific, etc)

Men occupied the public domain and were trained to feel comfortable in it, to not feel shy about putting themselves forward. Women on the other hand, for the private. Women who did venture out into the public domain were often accused of prostitution or exhibitionism.

Obviously that was a long time ago, but it's not hard to see that such ideas still continue in our collective psyche; just look at the woman who stormed University Challenge and the treatment she got for smiling when she got a question right - plus the offers from Nuts to pose for them! It was very telling..

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 14:31:50

Awww, that's so nice esme, about your partner's mum.

I think Sue Perkins is seen by many as witty and intelligent (as well she should be!), but you're right, there's no equivalent. It does get on my nerves because while I'm sure he is quite intelligent, it's not as if we don't know it's all researched beforehand, so I find it odd that his aura of intelligence is projected well beyond QI.

less - I agree.

I think there's still a huge difference in the way people see a woman who speaks up in public, and a man who does. So many times I'll hear someone tell me such-and-such a woman is 'aggressive' or 'moans on', where I cannot honestly see that she is doing anything different from the man who simply 'knows what he's talking about'.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:39:25

Agree about the student on University Challenge - it said so much.

Have you seen Dara O'Brien's science club - has lots of female scientists being treated as scientists.

There was lots of discussion about women in the media - especially on programmes like Today.

That said - some good strides - do you remember Orbit? A fascinating series presented by Kate Humble and Dr Helen Czerski. Hopefully we'll see more and more of this.

But then we get this stuff


TV Historian Lucy Worsley said she did not want children (she had been "educated" out of it" ) - she got a storm of negative headlines.

TheMysteryCat Mon 31-Dec-12 14:39:46

Sandi toksvig is my female Stephen fry. She chairs a comedy panel show on channel 4 and news quiz on radio 4. I think she's brilliant. It is interesting that radio 4 comedy seems to have many more balanced shows, but they are playing to their demographic.

I love qi. But I do get pissed off with most other tv comedy panel games. Thinking back to shooting star; ulrika johnssen was an awful stereotype.

Sunnywithshowers Mon 31-Dec-12 14:45:26

I agree with you entirely OP.

I posted something on FB yesterday and my dad's wife posted that she thought feminism should be banned because it was destructive.

StuntGirl Mon 31-Dec-12 14:46:08

Oh wow I wasn't expecting so many responses. Thank you so much to everyone who has replied, I am at work atm so will read all your responses properly later.

Thank you so much, it is such a relief to feel I am not alone!

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 14:48:26

sunny - what did you say?!

I love Sandi Toksvig, she is brilliant. But I don't think she has quite the same reputation for it as Stephen Fry.

Wasn't she (or someone female?) put forward as a possible replacement for Angus Deayton on HIGNFY?

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:48:59

I think Sandi is great - she can tell great stories and she's great on the News Quiz.

QI - sometimes I think it's hard to get a word in with those comedians. Same on Have I got News for you.

I'd love to have a proper chat with my sister about this - she's a happily single almost 40 year old enjoying a very successful career. If she had had children, I'd love to know if her anti feminist views had changed.

FromEsme Mon 31-Dec-12 14:59:16

I went to this End of the World thing hosted by Robert Ince and Brian Cox. It was mostly about science and scepticism and so on and it was really funny and informative.

However: there was a real dearth of women on stage. There was, I think, one female scientist and two musicians but there must have been at least 18 men. That really disappointed me.

Sunnywithshowers Mon 31-Dec-12 16:01:57

LRD I posted the New Statesman's 'Year in Sexism' article. In response she posted 'Down with feminism it is wrong and distructive' (spelling errors entirely her own).

We are polar opposites and I don't think she likes me. I don't like her overmuch.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 16:05:02


I think you won that one.

StuntGirl Mon 31-Dec-12 19:23:37

Ok, had time to read and digest everything!

running and lessthan thank you for the book recommendations, I shall check them out. Do you have a link to that video running? It sounds very interesting.

Ooh ldr I haven't seen that episode of QI, do you know which one it was? I'd be interested to see it. I do love QI but comedy is (like so many other industries I suppose) so male dominated so it seems by default all the guests are always male. But yes, I'm sure Stephen Fry is a very intelligent man but on QI especially it's all written down in front of him or one of the production team talking in his earpiece! Ah the magic of television grin

Thank you for the link tall, I will read that too.

Wow sunny, that seems crazy to me. How can equality be destructive?! To me it's much more about true equality, and that includes rallying against injustice to men too. I think its awful that men are looked down upon if they go into professions like teaching or nursing, I think its terrible that its assumed men will go to work and lose out on spending time with their family and raising their children. I think the current status quo is destructive, to both genders.

I like the idea of writing to/tweeting organisations for imbalanced programming. And I think this: "People have always been against change and change has always won" is going to become my new mantra! Thank you everyone for all your comments, I have some serious reading and thinking to do now I reckon! thanks

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Tue 01-Jan-13 16:46:59

Stephen Fry is a man with a posh voice and a more than averagely large vocabulary. Because of this he is lionised as some sort of great public intellectual. This isn't true even of women TV broadcasters who genuinely are intellectuals, like Mary Beard. And look at the contrast between how, say, Mary Beard and Brian Cox, who are both academics, engage with and are treated by the media. Brian Cox is all over the place - on panel shows, chat shows, being voted world's sexiest man etc. - while Mary is only heard of outside her programmes and blog when AA Gill says that she is too ugly to be on TV. Now there is a generational difference and it might be that Mary has better things to do than go on Graham Norton anyway, but this must in part be a reflection of them being viewed, and treated differently.

I have only ever seen one celeb panel type show which didn't have a horrendous bias towards male participants. It was called The Bubble, and was presented by David Mitchell. It had <drum roll> dead on 50:50 male: female participants, which I don't think can have been an accident. Someone in the production team put a lot of thought and effort into getting a real balance. Sadly it only ran for one series.

And it's not just factual programmes that this applies to: the bias is all over drama, sitcom, etc. Tropes http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheSmurfettePrinciple has a nice page on it, which includes panel shows. Even when you think there are a lot of women in a cast, it usually turns out that there aren't actually that many. The Simpsons is notoriously one of the worst offenders, as are children's TV and films, which almost always have male leads.

then this kind of thing filters into real life, with real economic consequences for women. http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/management/want-to-get-ahead-in-business-shut-your-mouth-20120607-1zxjy.html There's an often quoted statistic that whenever women speak for more than about one third of the time in a male/female setting, they are perceived as talking too much.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Tue 01-Jan-13 16:48:29

Sorry, messed up the links.

TV Tropes
Yale study

kim147 Tue 01-Jan-13 16:51:26

Just saw a trailor for The Iron Lady showing her sat at the end of a table trying to speak up but not being heard. Then she had a personality change it seems (wonder how true that really was)

rosabud Tue 01-Jan-13 19:51:07

I'd like to add that I've really enjoyed finding this section of Mumsnet, being able to talk/discuss things. Also, whoever posted earlier about the whole "female priviledge" of being saved first on the Titanic - this argument is beautifully referred to by Virgina Woolf in To the Lighthouse. It's years since I've read it (so someone may have to come on and correct this comment!) but, essentially, there is a dinner party and a young female character is having a dull time as she tries to help a more awkward male guest out with social chit-chat, and she acknowledges to herself that this is the price she must pay for the tacit understanding that should they ever be in a sinking ship together he will let her into the lifeboat first! Woolf leaves the reader to decide whether the price is worth it!

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 09:41:25

Hmm, sitting next to a boring bloke whilst eating dinner, or dying inside 10 minutes in the freezing ocean........can I come back to you on that one? grin

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 09:44:17

Or dying spiritually, every time you have to perform such a social function every day of your life.........so, on the ship option, it would be over and done with in 10 mins, you say?

CaseyShraeger Wed 02-Jan-13 09:59:22

Dara O Briain's Science Club features a lot of scientists who are female (possibly even the majority of its scientists?).

Brian Cox's wife is a TV producer and I think that's a big part of why he got the exposure early on. She actually wrote an interesting piece a couple of years back on how his success has negatively impacted her own career and social standing - I'll see if I can find it.

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:00:51

I know it's a slightly facetious point, but couldn't Ms Woolf have chosen a slightly more serious example than a tedious dinner guest? But don't let me burst the balloon of middle-class melodramatics and angst...'dying spiritually'...

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:05:57

One thing that I do wonder, is how good a scientist is Brian Cox? Is he just a pretty poster-boy, or has he done some serious work? Are there any physicists on here that have an inside view?

Dara O'Briain's wife is a surgeon, so I doubt you'll find him underestimating women within the science community. Wasn't he considering an academic career in maths prior to going all showbiz?

CaseyShraeger Wed 02-Jan-13 10:06:13

Here it is... The Lady Vanishes

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 10:54:03

Well how rude! I came on here, agreed with lots of things people were saying and mentioned an amusing aside in which the subject is mentioned in a book I once read. The author, book and particular passaged mentioned are now being criticised and analysed by someone who has clearly never read it and, on top of that, feels qualified to accuse me of middle class angst! As I am not middle class, I am free to assure the poster that such a social function is required of working class women too. Facilitating social chit-chat is another feature of the main idea on this thread that women are there to facilitate male opinion which leads ultimately to more male voices in the media. However, dismiss it as middle-class, spiritual angst if you wish, but many on here seem to find it very annoying and depressing indeed.

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:55:22

It's an interesting article, thanks Casey.

Two things stand out. The first one is her husband's lack of awareness of how she is treated in business meetings. Perhaps she could be talking to him, rather than pouring it out to the press. The second one is people's - mostly women in this case - obsession with celebrity, rather than achievement. Do any of these giggly middle-aged women know or care about the academic side of his life? Or do they just like the idea of fame for it's own sake? Because I imagine there are plenty of beardy, sandalled, baldy physicists in student bars around the country who would love some gushing female attention.

Oh, crikey, not this again.

Yes, let's all pile in to have a go at Virginia Woolf, why on earth didn't she just sort everything out single-handed, I mean, was she lazy or something?!


namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:58:48

I was accusing Ms Woolf of middle-class angst and melodramatics, as she wrote it.

namechange - how do you know she doesn't talk to him? I didn't get that from the article.

Oh, and of course, women couldn't possibly be interested in academics ... especially not <gasp!> middle-aged women.

Did you mean to sound quite so patronizing in the cause of getting some more 'attention' for poor middle-aged male physicists everywhere?

WeeWeeWeeAllTheWayHome Wed 02-Jan-13 10:59:58

I hope it's ok to post this here (it's from shakesville.com) but reading your OP made me think of this terrible bargain

I luffs Shakesville, I've learnt so much there (although I'm still too green to actually post on there as I know I've got much more learning to do first).

namechange - I did realize what you were accusing her of. I was wondering why you think she should be perfect, exactly?

Could you have done better?

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 11:01:18

Oh silly of me! I thought manechangeguy was being personally rude to me. Then, in his following post, on a feminist disussion board, I noticed he used the words "giggly middle-aged women" and realised he is just a rude aggravating man IN GENERAL! Oh, goodness, I feel much better now smile


I'm sure it were irony or summat, rosa. No doubt all will be revealed in time.

Let's go off and swoon over Stephen Hawking while we wait.

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 11:05:23

Good idea LRD but, although I am not middleclass, I am most certainly middle-aged - so as long as there's no giggling involved!

I am middle-class but not yet middle-aged. Together we'll do fine!

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 11:08:57

'Giggly middle-aged women' is a direct quote from Gia Milinovich's article - it's in the 4th paragraph down, for those who wish to find it. Try getting angry at her for that, rather than me.

We saw that, dear, we're all reading the same article, believe it or not.

My objection was to you quoting it.

Sorry that wasn't clear, what with me objecting to you quoting it.

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 11:20:09

So why are you objecting to me quoting it? That is not clear - dear...

My take on her article is that most people are obsessed with Cox's celebrity, rather than his achievements, as it occurred as soon as he had presented Wonders of the Solar System. I don't see how or why this is so controversial. Rosa, too, seems upset that I have quoted her.

It's not clear? Oh dear.

Never mind, I'm sure it's just one of those things.

I struggle with things too - particle physics is a closed book to me - so I do sympathize.

Phineyj Wed 02-Jan-13 11:27:31

I teach Economics in a girls' school and it concerns me how few female role models there are for the girls, both among the thinkers/theorists that we studu and contemporary commentators. However, hurray for Stephanie Flanders, and I have also noticed many excellent young female journalists present news items on the Al-Jazeera channel - there seem to be good Chinese ones in particular.

Phineyj Wed 02-Jan-13 11:28:12


runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 11:28:19

God, I just love that the thing NCG brings onto the thread, from that Brian Cox article, is the quote about 'silly giggly middle aged women.' hmm

The article was about 'invisible wife syndrome'. Something I have a lot of sympathy with, being the wife of a very successful man.

KittiesInsane Wed 02-Jan-13 11:30:01

LRD, particle physics, last time I was (vv peripherally) involved, was a very egalitarian society full of enthusiastic and endearingly style-free lads and lasses with remarkably similar outlook and haircuts, whatever their sex.

Next-best for gender-blindness was the staffing ration of a science magazine (though someone did once ask my boss, 'Why do all the girls on your team have short hair and all the boys have long hair?', to which she replied, 'So I can tell them apart.'

I can believe that kitty - a couple of DH's mates are physicists and they are lovely people, far too busy being interested in what they do to notice or care who's who!

Your boss's reply is brilliant. grin

FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 11:57:09


First post since the Xmas break so Happy New Year to you and all!

I have no idea about Brian Cox's academic work but what I can say (from working in planetary sciences for half my career) is that the ability to present and academic achievement are in no way related. I have worked with some of the brightest minds (male and female) but these have also been people that cannot even hold a conversation whilst making eye contact. Most just look at your shoes and are so socially inept that it's painful. I'm not saying that Brian is all charisma and no talent but just that the two don't always go hand-in-hand. IME you are genuinely fortunate if you have bags of charisma and are at the top of your game academically. You are even more so if you also have 'on screen' ability too.

I am a lot less 'gifted' academically but a people person. I've presented in schools and other events sucessfully so know I am good with people. However, I have had a go at TV presenting (science) and have no shame in admitting that I failed miserably. It was a "don't call us, we'll call you" moment, which is sad but the job requires a level of ability that I just don't posess.

Incidentally, just to level the discussion, the Rough Science series was presented by Kate Humble and consisted of an equal male/female scientist cast. In my search for more info I also found this article, which provides some counter argument.


But seriously, are we suggesting that men don't suffer from 'invisible husband syndrome' either? There are plenty of successful celebrity females that are married to unknown men and they suffer from exactly the same thing. However, the difference is the typical comment that the man couldn't stand a woman being more sucessful, which may be true (in some cases) but is simply another stereotype.

Really? I'm trying to think of celebrity women whose husbands are unknown. I do believe the exist, of course, but they don't spring to mind. Most women in the public eye that I can think of, I know who they're married to. I didn't even know Cox was married.

If we're thinking of presenters/TV personalities, I can't move for people talking about who Victoria Coren is related to, the fact (shock) that Sue Perkins and Sandi Toksvig are lesbians, etc. etc. I do believe people pay a lot more attention to who women are married to, than to who men are married to.

Of course, it may be the (oh-so pleasing) fact that there are fewer women in the public eye as presenters and physicists that is to blame here.

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 12:26:25

This is an interesting article from the BBC re attempts to improve their coverage of science;


It says this; 'The follow-up report adds: 'We are working hard to increase the number of female scientists we put on air, in the knowledge that women form 12% of the scientific, engineering or technology industry.' (sorry for quoting directly from an article, but I think it preserves accuracy grin )

If this is accurate, would it be fair to aim for 12 per cent of presenters of such subjects to be women? And as (hopefully) more women take up scientific posts in future, this percentage can increase pro rata.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 12:38:14

I don't know what I find more depressing - the fact that women only form 12% of the scientific, engineering or technology industry or NCG's posts.

Too difficult to call really.


I love the idea that it might be 'fair' to 'aim' to get 12% of women presenting, and just hope that'd somehow magically correct the other larger unfairness. Because, of course, it'd be totally unfair for a disproportionate number of women to be presenters .... good lord, man, it'd be almost as if we were allowing them to be as disproportionately well-represented as the men are in the actual subject! shock

FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 12:42:35


It's always tricky with this kind of thing as some people have more interest in partners and are more resourceful. However, I can honestly say that I do not know if/who these women are with:

Judi Dench
Helen Mirren
Julie Walters
Emma Thompson (although I did know she was married to Kenneth Branagh)
Delia Smith
Alison Goldfrapp
Kate Humble

Perhaps I am particularly out of touch but I genuinely do not know if these people are even single.

Yep, fair point. I didn't even know any of them were presenters but I will look them up. I am dead chuffed about Judi Dench though, I think she is utterly fantastic.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 12:47:14

You don't know who Judi Dench was married to? I'm quite surprised by that, as it was a very famous partnership (until his death, sadly).

All I know is that he sent her red roses every year, which I thought was absolutely lovely. I remember hearing her talk about it in an interview and he came across as a totally lovely bloke who she obviously still missed hugely.

But then, I'm obviously not terribly up-to-date on what she's been doing recently!

<just looked it up>

Of course!

But, you know, it strikes me this isn't quite the same thing? Is he an 'invisible husband'? It sounds as if he is very well known in his own right, whereas she is more 'invisible'.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 12:51:46

Sorry, LRD, that was to FamilyGuy, not you. I love Judi as well.

I actually know quite a few on list blush Must be a shameless celeb stalker grin

*she in the last line being Milinovich, obvs, not Dench.

It's interesting, isn't it - there's that idea that women are often part of a great partnership (that 'behind every great man' thing), but I think it's quite rare for a woman to be very famous and her husband unknown.

Eg., Greg Wise and Branagh are (obviously) both people I've heard of. I'd not heard of Taylor Hackford (great name), but he's obviously important.

I'm completely off-subject here so feel free to ignore ... but how many famous women have husbands who take on the role that traditionally women took on, and do the 'support' side of a famous career? Oddly enough, the one that springs to mind is Leo Woolf, but then, he had a sparkling career too and just managed to be pretty supportive alongside that (AFAIK).

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 13:05:00

No, Michael Williams most definitely was not an invisible husband. It's just that his wife was probably a more famous actress than he was an actor. I'm not sure that the concept of invisible husband actually exists at all.

I've always thought of the invisible wife syndrome to not be purely in terms of celebrity - although in the case of Mrs BRian Cox she obviously mainly attributed it to his fame.

I think the invisible wife thing is indicative to women being sidelined in society in general - and here we get back to the topic that the op wanted to discuss.

I think the 'sidelining' of women in society as a whole, becomes more apparent when a woman gets married. She then, esp if she has children, is in danger of becoming this 'invisible' force behind the man. Of contributing to his success, but from 'behind the scenes' I'm thinking particularly of the phrase 'Behind every great man lies a great woman' here.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 13:06:39

*indicative of

I think that's true, running - that it's general, I mean.

I've noticed it's surprisingly common to find people talk over me to DH - I've just bought a car from someone who tried very hard to address all his comments to DH despite knowing DH can't drive, wasn't buying the car, and wasn't selling the car we traded in. It was very odd.

Have you read 'Brother of the More Famous Jack'? There's a wonderful bit in there where the main character is in the gynae office discussing her fertility problems and the doctor is continually talking over her head to her partner about her malfunctioning womb. And she ends up idly pondering whether a man would ever talk over another man's head to his wife about an incompetent penis.


runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 13:12:10

Keep xposting with you here LRD.

I think it's a very interesting topic. Taylor Hackford is very successful in his own right, and I doubt he finds himself sidelined (in the way that Gia M describes) because he is married to the super famous Dame Helen. I think that is the point exactly.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 13:12:30

Ha another xpost smile

Sorry! I'll shut up for a bit. I agree re. Hackford (just going off wiki).

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 13:24:13

It is definitely my posts that are more depressing. LRD, every response so far has been a snarky, sniping comment rather than trying to discuss whatever is posted. Twelve per cent was a starting point for a discussion, not an excuse for you to try to exercise sarcasm.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 02-Jan-13 13:29:09

Thanks for the article, Casey. To be honest, Cox doesn't come across terribly well as a human being if he doesn't even notice his wife being ignored in business meetings etc. How sad for her.

I think though that even when you take presenting ability out of the equation, men seem to get opportunities in media that women don't - if you look at the three original presenters from Embarrassing Illnesses, who were all unknowns when they began and were all good on TV, my impression is that it is Christian Jessen who has emerged most strongly from that show and seems to be all over the place, relative to Dawn Harper and Pixie McKenna.

To go back to what the OP was saying, I agree that having a feminist epiphany can be a really difficult experience especially if the people closest to you don't get it. I had mine about two years ago and since then I have been walking around in a permanent state of rage. The upside is that this seems to have happened to an awful lot of women I know recently, so perhaps we are on the verge of a big feminist revival?

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 13:31:44

LRD It's ok grin don't shut up.

I find people often talk over my head to my husband too - tis very depressing.

That's funny about 'Brother of the more famous Jack' I haven't read it, but on the one occasion my dh came to an antenatal appt with me the mw talked to him more than me confused. Perhaps she was just thrilled to see a dad taking an interest??

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 13:36:59

So true, ChristmasFayre, so true.

I can't watch Embarrassing Bodies, I'm far too squeamish. But I know who Dr Christian is, and can picture him easily. I've never heard of the 2 women you mention.

bigkidsdidit Wed 02-Jan-13 13:42:27

I have no idea who Judi Dench is married to or who Taylor Hackford or Greg Wise are!

I agree we are on the verge of a big rise in feminism. I think women are increasingly pissed off and events like the India rape only make it worse. Also all the articles about rape / women in the media etc this year - I can't remember a time last year when they weren't in the papers.

It may be daft but I think twitter has an awful lot to do with this. It has been wonderful at giving women a campaigning voice and bringing groups of women together

I'm in the same position as running - never watched it, but I know who Dr Christian is. Not the women (didn't even know he wasn't the only presenter).

I think (hope) we are in the beginning stages of that feminist revival. There seem to be so many more of us, and things like Million Women Rise and Reclaim the Night are going strong again.

It's nice. smile

(I will say here, I find both Cox and Dr Christian to be smug, glib and patronizing from the little I've seen on other panel shows. But I'd always prefer to believe someone is different and nicer in real life.)

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 14:16:31

I've just told my 8yr old son son off for making his 5yr old sister bring his lunch plate out to me in the kitchen.

Start the education young grin


Good for you!

(Now, how much of that is just typical older sibling/younger sibling? Or is it only me who has guilty memories of telling my younger brother to do it or else? blush)

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 14:31:32

No doubt, there was some 'older sibling' thing going on too, LRD, you're not wrong there.

But my mum tells me that she always had to make her bed, help in the kitchen etc, and when she complained that her little brother didn't have to do this, was told 'it's because he's too young.' This went on for years - many years longer than their actual age difference iyswim, until she realised her little brother was never going to be asked to do any chores around the house! Because he was a boy, not because he was younger.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 14:34:03

Btw, my mum has always instilled in me a very good sense of feminism and equality, and is a very strong woman.

But these habits that are instilled in childhood die hard, and she does all the housework, while dad relaxes on the sofa.

FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 14:38:59


"I can't watch Embarrassing Bodies, I'm far too squeamish. But I know who Dr Christian is, and can picture him easily. I've never heard of the 2 women you mention."

Can I ask why you don't know who the two other women are? It's certainly not due to under representation as they all feature equally on the show. Therefore Dr. Christian gets one third of the airtime compared to his female colleagues.


Anyway, I read the OP with interest and whilst I fully accept that we do not live in a 100% balanced environment think that there is an element of seeing what you're looking for. In the same way that when you replace your car, you suddenly see more of the same model on the road all of a sudden. Look hard enough and you will see what you want to see in every situation i.e. confirmation bias. I'm not suggesting that feminism is some bogus ideal and that the OP is a crackpot, far from it. However, you need to be careful about all this. How does one know the intent of the producer? I don't and neither do any of us on here so why attempt to second guess whether there is some untoward bias or not? I've already posted an article, written by a female science producer, who claims that sexism isn't something she consciously thinks of so who are we to question her motives?

Admittedly QI is a predominantly male show but I would reckon that the OP would have quickly neglected the show if she had tuned into the episode where the guests were all female (Jo Brand, Sue Perkins and Liza Tarbuck).


I often watch Michael McIntyre but how does one know that the guests appearing that night were the only ones available? The same goes for Horizon. One thing worth noting is that scientists can travel quite a lot. Conferences, meetings, field trips etc. so are difficult to pin down. Perhaps the 1st choice females were at a conference as it was more important to keep abreast with progress than get 10 mins of fame?
Also, how does one know whether there was a leading female scientist with expertise in the field of interest? I know a number of leading female scientists but perhaps not with specific expertise to discuss the topics on Horizon. What I do know, however, is that they have been interviewed in the past by the media.

In fact, cast your minds back to the recent 'How to Build' series and there were a number of female engineers/scientists that were interviewed from Mclaren, Rolls Royce and Astrium.

I think it's sad that anyone should get laughed at for airing their beliefs but I would tend to scoff at the Bechdel Test too. Fiction is so called because it is exactly that. Thus it need not represent any factual or realistic events or people. Fiction has no duty to represent women/men/race without bias but to convey the intent of the author. If the author happens to be sexist, bigoted misogynist then so be it.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 14:43:37

Can I ask why you don't know who the two other women are? It's certainly not due to under representation as they all feature equally on the show. Therefore Dr. Christian gets one third of the airtime compared to his female colleagues.

It's a bit difficult to answer that question, but I guess that's kind of the point we're trying to make!

Why does the man on the show (I'll take your word for it that they all get a third airtime) get to be famous outside the show itself, whilst the women don't?

doyouwantfrieswiththat Wed 02-Jan-13 14:44:43

Is it just me? When I read the article about Brian Cox wife I thought 'typical, why can't he wash his own bloody underpants, washing machines are less complicated than particle colliders...'

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 14:48:28

namechangeguy said LRD, every response so far has been a snarky, sniping comment rather than trying to discuss whatever is posted.

Whereas his dismissal of my comment (and the highly respected, intellectual novelist who prompted it) which, although an aside, was actually addressing the main point of the thread, as "middle class angst" was, of course, not at all snarky or sniping or an attempt not to discuss what was being posted.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 14:53:24

FamilyGuy - Anyway, I read the OP with interest and whilst I fully accept that we do not live in a 100% balanced environment think that there is an element of seeing what you're looking for

No, we're really not 'seeing what we're looking for. Numerous studies have shown that women are under-represented in the media - please don't try to tell us we are imagining it.

And why stop at the media? Let's look at the more important positions of power. Women being so tragically underrepresented both in parliament, and especially in the cabinet. We are not just seeing what we want to see.

rosa, to be honest, I didn't understand that comment. confused

I was really enjoying this thread and my perspective (faulty as it must be) was that we were having an interesting discussion whilst gently and jokily explaining that it's nice sometimes to consider women instead of primarily men.

But, well, perhaps that was too much.

I thought you were making a really interesting point.

Separately, I found this interesting: 'Admittedly QI is a predominantly male show but I would reckon that the OP would have quickly neglected the show if she had tuned into the episode where the guests were all female (Jo Brand, Sue Perkins and Liza Tarbuck).'

Does it not occur to you that it might be we're actually discussing the fact that shows like QI are 'predominantly male'? That we're suggesting it may, perhaps, not be entirely coincidental that this is so?

I don't know what the OP does and doesn't neglect - not being her - but I must point out that her chances of tuning into a QI show where all the guests were female are vanishingly small. It's rare. That's the point. And she could never tune into a show where more than 3/5 of the panel are female, whereas she could easily tune into shows where 5/5 are male.

I am not knocking QI especially - I think it's often excellent.

But I just don't think you have a leg to stand on arguing this point.

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 15:57:54

I was addressing the fact that namechangeguy accused you of being snarky and sniping rather than addressing his points, by pointing out that he had behaved the same way.

Oh, I'm sorry, I understood your point, I meant that I just didn't understand his. It seemed odd to me given he'd begun all of this with a derailing and negative comment. confused

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 02-Jan-13 16:20:59

I don't really know where to start with FamilyGuy's post.

Can I ask why you don't know who the two other women are? It's certainly not due to under representation as they all feature equally on the show. Therefore Dr. Christian gets one third of the airtime compared to his female colleagues.

Isn't that my point? We went from a situation where they were all co-presenters with equal airtime, and where they were all good presenters, to one where Dr Christian is the one we mostly see popping up on panel shows and other medical programmes (I remember him a few years ago on the Christmas OBEM for example). He has in some sense become the face of the programme outside the show, reflected by the fact that the people here who haven't seen it have only heard of him, while there are three presenters. He also solo presented the one-off special on the little girl who appeared in the show whose immune system was found to be abnormal.

I would reckon that the OP would have quickly neglected the show if she had tuned into the episode where the guests were all female

Why so? I would have watched that. Is seeing just women talking boring?

Perhaps the 1st choice females were at a conference as it was more important to keep abreast with progress than get 10 mins of fame? Ha! If you knew how badly women are represented at conferences in many fields relative even to their numbers in their respective fields you would, like me, be rolling around on the floor at this idea.

I really think there is a limit to how long you can tie yourself in knots saying "but perhaps the women just weren't available that day" before you have to concede that this is a systemic phenomenon.

Lessthanaballpark Wed 02-Jan-13 16:21:05

'Admittedly QI is a predominantly male show but I would reckon that the OP would have quickly neglected the show if she had tuned into the episode where the guests were all female (Jo Brand, Sue Perkins and Liza Tarbuck).'

What does that mean? Was that particular show rubbish?

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 16:41:44

Well I've a bit of time on my hands - well I haven't really, I should be tidying and starting dinner. grin

But this talk of QI has interested me, so I've done a little totting up on the M/F panellists and:

In 2003: Series A: 4/12 shows, and the pilot were all male. The remaining 8 had 2 male guests and 1 female. 4 of these 8 shows featured Jo Brand.

Role forward to 2012 and: there was indeed 1 all female show (Jo Brand, Sue PErkins & Lisa Tarbuck). There were 3 all-male shows. 9 shows featured 2 men and 1 woman. 3 shows had 1 man and 2 women.

So, do I detect a slight improvement in the female participation on QI in the decade it has been running? Possibly. But even in the 2012 series, there were still a total of 30 men ( not including the male presenter) and only 18 women.

Interesting - because this is a show on the BBC - which is notoriously left leaning and 'women-friendly'. And so, I think this shows that people saying women are under-represented in the media are not "seeing what they are looking for."

Btw, FamilyGuy you can convert your links so that they're clickable - makes it easier.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 16:42:50

Should say roll forward to 2012 blush

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 02-Jan-13 18:00:12

Interesting that the BBC should be perceived as 'women-friendly' - I've never particularly felt that it was. Left-leaning yes, but that particular brand of lefty liberalism that wilfully refuses to examine its own misogyny.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 18:13:03

You could well be right, there ChristmasFayre, but I would think of them as more 'women friendly' than, say, Rupert Murdoch's lot.

kim147 Wed 02-Jan-13 18:55:19

There was an episode of QI - the male / female one where female comedians were discussed.


Someone has written out the whole synopsis - too much time and lots of stereotypes

Here's something they said:

"The reason why there are fewer women as guests on QI is because women laugh more, but they laugh less at other women. According to an American study women laugh more at men. Audiences in general laugh more at men, but the women laugh more. Therefore, the panel would laugh more, but the audience would laugh less."


FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 19:25:20

Don't get me wrong, I'm not disputing that women may be under-represented (I don't really notice TBH blush) but my point was that I found it incredibly difficult to make the connection given the OP's specific examples.

The trouble is, the link I gave (www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/may/03/women-science-tv) had a female producer explaining how ensuring an even balanced cast doesn't come into her decision making. Thus when I read the OP and then do some basic research it is difficult for me to make any cast iron conclusions.

Also, from my experience of watching various programmes i.e. Rough Science and the 'How to Make...' series, I also gave solid examples where females were either interviewed (more or less) equally or made up at least 50% of the cast.

Irrespective of your opinions I am almost 100% certain that you cannot categorically say that the producer of QI specifically selects men over women for sexist reasons. Nether can you say that for any other of the examples given (Horizon or Michael McIntyre). I certainly can't so could not make the giant leap and say that there is a sexist agenda present. This is what I mean about 'confirmation bias' i.e. seeing something without actually knowing the facts. We may suspect but without evidence then our assumptions are just that. Personally I don't like to get upset over what may be.

The same goes for Dr Christian. I have no idea why he's more of a celebrity than Dr's Dawn or Pixie so wouldn't like to pass comment. However, other people clearly know better.

If I were to hold my own TV chat show and came up with a celebrity lineup then it may or may not consist of a 50/50 split. If there were more men than women it certainly wouldn't be because I am sexist or that women have no place on my show. Any under-representation would be completely innocent but it would be unnaceptable to some on here. God forbid that I may also be under-representing trans/gays/lesbians/Chinese/Blacks/Asians except I am not racist or homophobic etc. Therefore are you suggesting that I would have to talk to people that I wouldn't want to talk to just to ensure that there is a 50/50 cast of females/males? Would this make for entertaining viewing? I doubt it.

Re: the OP neglecting the QI show with an all female cast, I meant she would possibly have neglected the inclusion of females from her opinion that the show is completely sexist. Having worked in research I'm well aware that people use specific examples to support a hypothesis and have been known to discard any examples that contradict. When I did my own research into the show it was clear to me that the show wasn't completely sexist, hence my comment. For sure, it is biased toward males but like I said previously, unless you know 100% that the intent of the producer is untoward then I don't believe it's worth getting worried about it.

RiaUnderTheMistletoe Wed 02-Jan-13 20:03:03

I don't think anyone has said the under-representation of women is due to producers thinking 'women belong in the kitchen, not on my show'. The problem is that straight, white and male are often the default settings for anyone on TV, and it shouldn't be, because the population is not overwhelmingly straight, white and especially not male. Suggesting it's a coincidence that men are greatly over-represented in the media seems at best very naive.

FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 20:26:20

I am not so naive to think it doesn't exist. Of course it does. However, there's a big difference between the recent dumping of over age women from TV (totally outrageous) and second guessing why women are under-represented on shows.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 20:38:01

Of course it's no coincidence - the default setting of the media, be it news or entertainment is 'male'.

Three quarters of the top jobs in Newsrooms are held by men. Two thirds of reporters are men. Two thirds of acting jobs are for men.

And thank you, FamilyGuy, for bringing up the subject of the dumping of women due to their age - such an excellent example of obvious sexism in the media.

zippey Wed 02-Jan-13 21:27:03

Here is a link to Kims episode of QI ehere they talk about why there arent more women in it


FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 21:32:12

If its a default choice then it's an unconscious choice and therefore oppression is not a factor. So where is the problem?

Unless producers are making a conscious decision but Ria has already discounted that a few posts back.

I raised the point about the dumping of women because its a clear example of wrongdoing. Paying women less for the same job is also wrong, as is promoting a male instead of a woman when she is clearly more talented etc.

However, saying that two thirds of positions are for men is an assumption. As I posted in another thread, HR departments vet all cv's and oversee equality issues and promotions etc. yet HR is a female dominated industry and the first line in ensuring positive discrimination is auctioned in the workplace.

Incidentally, as I type we have a documentary about queen Victoria on BBC2 with a female prof being interviewed. One Born Every Minute is on ITV and a film about a kick ass superhero woman on CH5. Carve Her
Name with Pride is on BBC4, which is a film about a woman secret agent in WWII. A real war hero of her era.

FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 21:33:00

Actioned not auctioned. Sorry, bloody iPad.

AbigailAdams Wed 02-Jan-13 21:49:53

running, yes men being the default is the problem and it isn't a coincidence. It is positive discrimination.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 22:13:35

Abigail, FamilyGuy thinks it unconscious - so that makes it ok hmm

I'm not sure it's 'unconscious', or even subconscious, but even if it was, I wouldn't see that as a valid excuse.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 22:15:19

However, I am now watching Carve Her Name With Pride grin

A great film. Thanks for the tip-off, FamilyGuy.

FamilyGuy22 Wed 02-Jan-13 22:39:52


LOL, glad I was of some use in the end wink Hope you enjoy the film.

But just before I go to bed....

If it's positive discrimination then it's ok for women but not for men. Fine, I get that because the industry is male dominated. I may not agree with positive discrimination but I can accept that some sort of balance may be necessary.

If it's unconscious then I don't know how it can't be anything but ok? Equality is about eliminating oppression/prejudice. If someone acts in good faith and without malice then oppression/prejudice fail to exist. It's all about intent, isn't it?

You are suggesting that it is wrong to innocently select a man over a woman for a job. I appreciate the 'innocent' bit is what's under question but I stand by my opinion that there is nothing wrong with an innocent selection. Anything else is not gender equality.

RiaUnderTheMistletoe Wed 02-Jan-13 22:42:41

If you are taught all your life that one group of people is better than another of course it will bias your opinions, even without you noticing it. It's called conditioning.

kim147 Wed 02-Jan-13 22:46:00
kim147 Wed 02-Jan-13 22:48:11

Violette Szabo was a brave woman as were all the SOE agents. To go into occupied France undercover. An awful end and I hate to imagine what she went through at the end sad

So many other feminine role models who often get overlooked.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 22:55:36

She was, Kim. Beautifully acted and directed film. Brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

That'll just be me being over-emotional and hormonal, though. Being a woman and all. (reference to the other thread raging on in FWR atm)

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 23:00:29

FamilyGuy - I don't agree that it's unconscious though - as I have already said.

The default setting being 'male' - where do you make the leap that it's 'unconscious'?

RiaUnderTheMistletoe Wed 02-Jan-13 23:07:37

That was probably me running I meant the majority of tv makers aren't (I hope) deliberately discriminating against women for the sake of it, though they may well believe that their show will do better with more men in it, for instance 'women laugh more at men'.

runningforthebusinheels Wed 02-Jan-13 23:17:32

"I don't think anyone has said the under-representation of women is due to producers thinking 'women belong in the kitchen, not on my show'. The problem is that straight, white and male are often the default settings for anyone on TV, and it shouldn't be, because the population is not overwhelmingly straight, white and especially not male. Suggesting it's a coincidence that men are greatly over-represented in the media seems at best very naive."

This post Ria? I totally agree with it.

I don't agree with FamilyGuy that it's ok/excusable.

mcmooncup Wed 02-Jan-13 23:18:58

On the tv thing.........I rarely watch tv anymore........Homeland about covers me but happened to watch the Royle Family Xmas special and there was an actual rape joke. I'm surprised there has not been uproar! The entire programme took the piss out of Barbara, but Jim Royle, on discussing sex with his wife said this...........<deep breath>

'I'd never get me leg over if Babs had to agree to it.'

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 02-Jan-13 23:47:33

If it's unconscious then I don't know how it can't be anything but ok? Equality is about eliminating oppression/prejudice. If someone acts in good faith and without malice then oppression/prejudice fail to exist. It's all about intent, isn't it?

No, I don't think it is about individual intent. It's about the cumulative effect those individual decisions have, which is that women (and people of color, people with disabilities, gay people) become, culturally, invisible - and this then conditions people even more to think that men are the default human beings. It's a vicious circle. I don't think it's an exaggeration to call it cultural femicide.

If you are a booker or producer for one of those shows, and you fail to consider inviting women, or don't make it a priority to have women (and not just the same small set of women over and over again) well-represented on the show, then you are contributing to the problem. In a passive way, perhaps, but nevertheless your choices, however unconsciously you make them, are still part of the problem, however much you would personally abhor sexism. It's about practices and behaviours, not about how pure of heart anyone is individually.

Part of the problem is that lots and lots of people fundamentally can't (won't?) make this distinction when it comes to themselves or people they like. They like to believe that they are good people who aren't capable of something as awful as sexism or racism, and thus it doesn't occur to them to examine whether they are part of some systemic form of discrimination. This is why you get the lefty liberal men who are so convinced of their own politico-philosophical virtue that they don't actually question their own privilege or practices. But because of the cumulative societal effect it has, I am just as concerned by this passive sexism as by the guy who is openly misogynistic and kicks the shit out of his woman partner.

If someone claims that they are not racist (and quite possibly truly believes it), but fails to stop unconsciously engaging in a racist practice, I don't think we should hesitate to call this a form of racism, and the same goes for sexism.

I'm not interested in the fact that otherwise nice people's feelings might get bruised when they realise they personally engage in sexist behaviour. I'm interested in the liberation of women from all of this shit.

Sorry, going back a bit and repeating, but I think this is the nub of it:

'Irrespective of your opinions I am almost 100% certain that you cannot categorically say that the producer of QI specifically selects men over women for sexist reasons. Nether can you say that for any other of the examples given (Horizon or Michael McIntyre). I certainly can't so could not make the giant leap and say that there is a sexist agenda present.'

I don't know the producer of QI, so you are correct, we can't say.

But you're not using logic when you jump from that to claiming that, therefore, you know there is no 'sexist agenda' present.

Of course there is a sexist agenda. How else could you possibly explain the fact there are fewer women? It may not be the producer's conscious choice, but you've got it arse-backwards to go from the individual's conscious choice to the underlying agenda.

I also completely fail to see why unconscious sexism is less damaging. confused

Surely it is worse?

You can correct someone's conscious prejudices, or argue against them, but it's much harder to shake something that is so ingrained it has ceased to be a consciously-reinforced prejudice.

mcmooncup Thu 03-Jan-13 09:05:57

I think it's quite overt sexism.

The reason women aren't booked is because they are 'not as funny as men'.

FamilyGuy22 Thu 03-Jan-13 10:44:02


Actually, after seeing that youtube clip I concede that there are fewer women on QI for the reasons given in the video. Whether that research is valid or conclusive is another matter but I guess we now know that there are purposely fewer women than men for "entertainment" reasons. Whether there is a sexist undercurrent or the producer genuinely believes the research we don't know but it's possible he could be using the research to give him reason to just throw in a few token females.

Re: the default thing. Default setting to me is an automatic action/event. Thus thoughtless. But you're right, if someone is conciously making a default choice then this is bad.


Are you asian? I am an ethnic minority and am well aware that asian males are raised to believe they are superior. BTW I was not and my daughters are not conditioned in any way. However, I do notice with my asian friends that their wives are generally subservient. Now they are living here though they are very clear that their daughters will not be conditioned either.


That's an interesting POV. Thanks smile

I guess we just see it differently but are getting into an area where it's not exactly black/white. I don't see it as a cumulative thing as that, to me, is a generalisation. It may be true to say that men are sexist but this detracts from the many that aren't. So who are you working against? Males en masse or a specific group? The trouble is, by trying to liberate women in the media you cannot use a cover all and bulldoze the innocent.

To me it's ridiculous to enforce a 50/50 split for the sake of an ideal. If you would indulge me for a moment; let's just say that the QI research was 100% and that women do actually laugh less at women. What does this say. One question that springs to mind is why women don't laugh as much at their own sex but that would be another PhD. If this really were true though, then are you suggesting that you would produce a show, knowing it would be less entertaining just to make sure that equality was satisfied. To me that's insane as surely the objective for any such show is to entertain. So then, what about non white males/females and other sexual orientations? Julian Clary was on the show but was he a token gesture? I guess having Stephen Fry as the presenter already ensures some balance, as did Clare Balding.


I suppose I'm guilty of seeing more good in people than is justified. To me an innocent act is exactly that. All one can do is to educate and hope history does not repeat itself. What else can you do? Beat someone into feminist ways?

If, in good will/nature, you act and it is deemed to be sexist/racist then I still fail to see how you can chastise someone for their actions. I certainly would not but maybe I have more liberal views.

But I can see that it is the whole "good will/nature" bit that you don't believe exists and that's fair enough.

runningforthebusinheels Thu 03-Jan-13 11:48:09

The default setting (whether conscious or unconscious hmm ) for the token female on QI seems to be Jo Brand.

McMooncup - I can't believe the Royle Family aired a rape joke shock I didn't actually watch it (but usually do). I was going to try and catch it on iplayer, don't think I'll bother.

doyouwantfrieswiththat Thu 03-Jan-13 12:02:05

Why do women laugh less at other women? -

For me, many women comedians seem uncertain/nervous in the spotlight, it may be transferrencet but I feel uncomfortable watching it, just as I feel uncomfortable when I watch male comedians lose it on stage (Rhod Gilbert -thinks shouting makes his jokes funnier, Russell Kane-seems to be having a public breakdown, I find both these guys smart & funny when they calm down & relax - I'm sure they'll be pleased to know! smile )

I like Sandi Toksvig, Ronni Ancona, Victoria Coren, Sarah Millican, Zoe Lyons, the late great Linda Smith, Katherine Ryan... there are plenty of good observational comedians who are woman

On panel shows I've often noticed that men bounce jokes off each other in a laddish way and it takes a strong woman to join in with that when they're in a minority. It's like a boys' club, or the cliquey mums at school.

Apparently I'm hilarious in RL, but I still let my brothers finish my jokes if they're around......grin Like many woman I have been conditioned to take a back seat. I also worry that some male friends may mistake humorous badinage for flirting, I assume that's why they look so scared.

grimbletart Thu 03-Jan-13 12:07:48

I've worked in pretty much male environments except in one job where it was the reverse.

I've roared with laughter in the pub with my male workmates.

But honestly, the funniest moments I remember were when, in my female dominated job, we got together late on a Friday for drink before going home. I can still recall weeping with laughter at the repartee, observational humour and the sheer "ain't life a blast" humour of those women only moments.

doyouwantfrieswiththat Thu 03-Jan-13 12:17:33

Same here grimbletart with the women only repartee. Relaxed, funny, good stuff, but when men join our mix it's uncomfortable for me. Conditioning here.

As for all female humour on a panel show, if only they could replace the loose women with some comediennes .....but I don't think it would attract a mixed demographic in the same way as the male dominated shows.

I wonder how many men currently watch loose women.

FestiviaBlueberry Thu 03-Jan-13 22:48:51

StuntGirl, your OP reminded me of this brilliant post which struck a huge chord with me when I first read it:


runningforthebusinheels Thu 03-Jan-13 23:20:37

Festivia I love the Shakesville blog.

There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil's advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women's Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that's so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

So true. A few these intellectual, clever engaged men frequent FWR.

gussiegrips Fri 04-Jan-13 14:46:35

Thanks, fries for pointing me to this thread, am loving it (seewhaddadidthur?)

Here's my post from the ~"comedian's" thread. Budge up, I'm inviting myself into your gang...

I do a wee bit of stand up as a hobby. Not enough women to chat to backstage, tis true.

It's a mix of reasons - I am usually told (by men, obviously) "women just aren't funny, you just go on about periods and stuff..." whilst young, skinny, white guys in tight t-shirts and falling down jeans going on about fiddling with their bits is just so witty and original

And, to be fair, there are a depressing number of women presenting themselves as pretty, ditsy, and "ohmaigawsh, I just said "cunt", how surprised are you?" Ehm, not very, love. Slightly disappointed in you, but, you're getting booked, so what do you care?

It's changing, there are some really very funny people on the live circuit...but, to make the break to telly you have to slog on the circuit for a long time. And, that's got the same childcare issues as any other job, so lots of women drop out, same as any other job.

There are lots of women writing for the telly. For, you know, the young guys in tight white t-shirts.

Anyhoo - in no particular order, just as they pop into my pretty little head, women you might have seen on the telly.

Susan Calman - clever, quick, flirty
Janey Godley - brutal, hilarious, kind of awesome
Jo Caulfield - sardonic, bitch, great recalls
Jojo Sutherland - great story teller, really fast, don't heckle.

two women in the Amused moose final - both very good. And, both Scottish, Anna Devitt and Fern Brady. As are, ehm, all of the ones I've listed above.

Perhaps the question should be, why are only Scottish women funny? it's because that's where I live, so these are the people I've seen, sorry about that

The chat I hear at the school gate is way more brutal and cutting and fast and funny than anything I hear anywhere else. But, until the comedy bosses realise there's money to be made from making women laugh about stuff they identify with, you might as well get used to patiently listening to "and then I raped her"

smashing article, feel free to debate

gussiegrips Fri 04-Jan-13 14:47:28
gussiegrips Fri 04-Jan-13 15:10:42

re. the humour...

In my limited experience - and, skooz the generalisations...

women laugh more at things they identify with. We are much more team spirited than men, we are more empathetic and so jokes based around social awkwardness, embarrassment or "I was so sleep deprived x, y and z happened" work a treat.

Men laugh more at situations where there's a butt to the joke. So, they like funny stories where there's clearly an idiot, they like to feel superior to the eejit who did WHAT?

They also revel in pure grossness - I have a prop that's a really nasty knitted bag (it's an anatomically accurate bag that looks like female genitals. It's called "the snatchel" . The premise is that I have teenage sons who are becoming sexually active, so I knitted them a bag to keep their condoms in, hoping to get them to develop a pavlovian response between female genitalia and condoms) which the men just applaud. It's got a punchline that upstages me every time, if it's a male heavy audience.

Men do find women funny, but, they are EXPECTING to be told off by women on stage, there's many female comedians who are gay or divorced, or both. Male audiences are super-sensitive to critisism.

The bookers and promoters though? They like pretty girls who say "cunt" Because, it's not too much of a gamble to put a pretty girl on stage.

I know that Susan Calman was told "shame you don't look a bit more like Zoe Lyons, love" by a promoter "you can be gay, or you can be fat, but you can't be both"

Shocked? Yep. Well, what's worse, is that the promoter is a woman.

Tell you what, you lot would love Janey Godley. There's a feminist and a half, cleverly disguised as a "what, did you lot think the cleaner had wandered onto the stage?" She's the only comedian who's made a rape joke that I've laughed at - she makes it work because she's (sadly) got personal experience of rape. To turn her situation into humour, and use it the way she does, and make good money at it - genius. She's a real trailblazer for older women - but, you'll not see her on QI.

FestiviaBlueberry Fri 04-Jan-13 15:23:36

Well maybe we should be campaigning for her to be on QI.

I actually don't watch it. I can't tolerate a bunch of smug willy-wavers laughing at each other's jokes, especially when one of them is Stephen Fry, whom I only seem to be able to tolerate in Blackadder nowadays. If there were more women on QI I might turn it on occasionally.

<Realises with shock that I've never actually seen a whole episode. Could never sit through it.>

StuntGirl Fri 04-Jan-13 16:12:24

Bloody hell, I go away for a day or two and look what's happened! Quite disappointed to see the arguing a few pages back. Have only had chance to skim read, will be back later when I can properly read all the responses.

I would just like to say though Family Guy, the examples I cited were not some sudden act of me noticing these things happen. I have always been aware of gender bias in society in general, not just the media, but for some reason (which I am not yet able to articulate) the cumulative effect of these incidents hit me like a ton of bricks where it hasn't before. Believe me, I've spent my life noticing that most people represented in the media are men. You, by your own admission, have not. It's called Male Privilege, I think I mentioned it in one of my first posts.

FamilyGuy22 Fri 04-Jan-13 17:00:40


It's ok, I've already been through that questionaire and it doesn't work with my experience in this country or my industry. It certainly doesn't reflect the views of myself or many people I know and work with. I posted a link supporting this (and by many women) in Pinkypoop's thread. Here it is again. It's worth a watch IMHO


I'm not saying it doesn't exist but I'm also not a white male and the theory of white male privilege is something I have either been immune to or have yet to encounter in any meaningful way.

I'm not trolling or trying to pull down the walls of feminism but genuinely think the concept of priviledge is becoming outdated. How can it not be given equality is changing in the UK?

But yes, I understand that being priviledged I can say that it doesn't exist hmm

Sunnywithshowers Fri 04-Jan-13 17:24:37

Thanks for the link on male privilege - it's useful ammo in a discussion I'm having on Facebook.

FamilyGuy why is privilege outdated? The points on that document are still largely true. Look at the power in society - who is it held by? For the most part, by white men.

Being a man still confers benefits vs being a woman. (I do realise it doesn't take into account other factors that confer / deny privilege, such as race, class and sexuality).

StuntGirl Fri 04-Jan-13 17:31:24

It isn't white male priviledge, it's just male priviledge. It was based on a similar study about white privilege (which I enjoy on a daily basis - I am not that blinkered that I think I am Perpetually Oppressed) but the one I linked to was just male.

Softywife Fri 04-Jan-13 22:56:17

{Off-topic. I've been lurking on this throught-provoking thread but I've just got to delurk to wave at GussieGrips! smile }

doyouwantfrieswiththat Fri 04-Jan-13 23:46:44

Hi gussiegrips from me too, I was intrigued by your name & checked your profile.
Having a laugh & pelvic lifts are intrinsically linked after a certain age I guess. grin

gussiegrips Sat 05-Jan-13 01:01:13

waving backatcha

the thing that muddles me is that, how come, after a certain age, it's ok to metion prolapses - in female only company?

At LEAST one in three of us reading this thread are a bit leaky.

How come we are still putting up with "that's the way it is the inequalities in medicine/law/everyblardything the representation on our tellies?

Seriously - if you don't find it that funny...and, the people you do find funny need to prove that they are air-time worthy...what needs to happen buggered if I know, but I can't help but think that if we get the "fluffy" media jobs to sort-it-out the the "other" jobs like medicine and law etc will follow suit

I'd, personally, love the odd facial hair joke. I'd raise zillioins for movember, were it socially acceptable.

ba boom chaaa

runningforthebusinheels Sat 05-Jan-13 01:15:45

Gussiegrips great post! I'm a great fan of Jo caulfield - loved her on grumpy old women blush I think I'm a grumpy old woman actually.

Just looked up Janey Godley on YouTube as I'd never heard of her - she's great isn't she - I might make a special effort to watch QI if she was on there grin

And finally, I was just flicking through the channels at 1am (as you do when dh gone to bed and you're staying up late on your own) and I came across an episode of Embarrassing Bodies. I was right to never have never watched it - I was confronted with some poor blokes willy. Oh yes. And Dr Christian - not a female in sight so far.

Ah, ok, now Dr Pixie is in a bit on obesity and the gym - narrated by the other woman. Mmm - the analytical part of me wants to tie the male/female airtime on the show, but I think I'll more likely switch over...

StuntGirl Sat 05-Jan-13 01:39:24

WRT Dr Christian whatever, I too have never seen an episode of Embarrassing Bodies yet I know exactly who he is because I've seen him on various panel shows. So the 'men are more funny than women' concept doesn't hold true in this instance, because he's a doctor not a comedian. And yes, perhaps the female doctors are not interested in developing a tv career, or any other 'what if' scenerios x a million.

“To go back to what the OP was saying, I agree that having a feminist epiphany can be a really difficult experience”

I think what feels worse for me is that I thought I already knew this stuff. I was raised with unbelievably brilliant female role models, I was rarely restricted with any ambition for being female and if I ever was believe me I called them out on it, even as a child before I had any real concept of discrimination or feminism. I think perhaps I became complacent? It was so normal and obvious to me perhaps I just started assuming everyone thought this way because it was so, well, obvious!

Festivia – Thank you for the link, it was a very interesting read. I too, am sure I enjoy my white/straight/British privilege at the expense of others every day, all I can do is try and be as respectful as I can to others and minimise the effect where possible.

FamilyGuy – if you accept we do not live in a balanced environment how can you accuse my noticing of this imbalance as nothing more than confirmation bias? Yes, that phenomena does exist and to some degree this may have happened here. However, as noted by other posters there is abundant evidence that men are portrayed more often than women in media, men are discussed on their merits on achievements rather than appearance or marital status.

If you can't see that women are under represented despite specific examples being given then I don't know what to say to you. As other posters have said, female under representation in media is a known phenomena and there is abundant evidence proving it. It is not something I have made up. It's also ridiculously unlikely that female presenters and guests are just so beyond busy that they can't make time in their schedules to appear on television. Busy doing what I wonder? It ain't promotional tv appearances that's for sure.

I don't think anybody here has accused men of deliberately excluding women. They don't need to deliberately do it, it simply happens by proxy - and that is the problem. In the same way no one deliberately excludes men from childcare but government policy, law, workplace ,societal and cultural expectations mean men tend not to be the ones who are primary caregivers to their own children.

QI still massively under represents women, despite their ONE episode in nine years which had an all female guest list. I could have used any panel show I enjoy watching in place of QI; Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You, Eight out of Ten Cats, Big Fat Quiz of the Year, ad infinitum, which all predominantly feature male presenters, male team captains, and male guests.

“If its a default choice then it's an unconscious choice and therefore oppression is not a factor. So where is the problem?” This statement succinctly sums up the problem. You've lost the debate with this and haven't even realised.

doyouwantfrieswiththat Sat 05-Jan-13 11:55:24

I was raised in a predominantly male household with attitudes that belonged in the 19th century (older parents), my father told me I was at university so I could educate my children because I wasn't expected to have a career, and yet, I still feel more comfortable taking a back seat even with that awareness. I have no confidence that people want to hear my views.

One of my best examples was a debate I had with my brothers about some philosophical issue when my eldest brother patronisingly said, 'I can see you've thought very hard about this Fries...', and I realised he had absolutely no respect for my opinion.

I'm now mum to two boys and already see the attitude that girls are different and somehow not equal in my eldest, it is as demoralising for me now as it was for my mother.

FestiviaBlueberry Sat 05-Jan-13 19:11:26

"What's the problem?"

There speaks privilege, eh.

Sunnywithshowers Sat 05-Jan-13 19:50:01

Absolutely Festivia

Privilege = not having to worry about this shit

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