The Week In Radio: Exasperated by only the company of men

 

It was around 7.57am last Friday, while listening to the Today programme, that I started quietly banging my head on the kitchen table. John Humphrys had introduced a story about the psychological welfare of women who had had abortions. A new report carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggested that having a termination appeared not to increase the risk of serious mental health problems, a conclusion that contradicts the claims of some anti-abortion groups.

So who did they bring in to enlighten listeners on this issue that applied exclusively to women, their choices during pregnancy and the stress that these choices can provoke? Let me give you a clue: none of them had ovaries.

I mean no disrespect to the men taking part in the debate, who comprised the author of the aforementioned report and the chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship. Both contributors had done research on the subject. But listening to them using phrases like "evidence collated" and "to go to birth" (the latter meaning to choose to have a baby rather abort it), I couldn't help but picture a group of farmers discussing the problems afflicting a herd of cattle.

Exactly how hard would it have been to get a woman on the programme? Maybe a counsellor accustomed to dealing with termination issues, or a spokesperson from a women's group. Failing that, perhaps a researcher could have stepped outside Broadcasting House with a loudhailer and shouted down Oxford Street: "Anyone here ever been pregnant and depressed?" There would have been a stampede.

When it was suggested that the study hadn't differentiated between the stress caused by pregnancy or that caused by the prospect of a termination, the report's author remarked: "I'm not an expert in abortion; we're experts in dealing with evidence", thus highlighting what was wrong here. This was an academic discussion, essentially a dispute over data. It had nothing to do with female experience.

I, like so many radio listeners, have grown up with Today. The voices of Sue MacGregor and Brian Redhead were, throughout my childhood, as familiar to me as those of my parents. Over the last 20 or so years I have relied on the likes of John Humphrys and James Naughtie to drag me out of bed and tutor me in the issues of the day.

But there has been an unease about this relationship. As a female listener I have often felt marginalised and overlooked. A cloud of despondency has settled every time I've heard the women presenters being steered towards the jokey topics, with the weighty stuff reserved for the men.

This status quo has endured even after the programme's editor Ceri Thomas's witless remark 18 months ago about women being too thin-skinned to hack it on Today. This is clear in the astonishingly low numbers of female contributors compared to male ones (according a newspaper report last week, men make up 84 per cent of guests and reporters on the programme). Tellingly, last Friday's main topic, David Cameron's veto in the EU treaty negotiations, contained not a single female voice. Why? Maybe they thought we were all too busy making our husband's breakfasts. or doing the school run, or just sitting at home with our clothes on back to front and knitting booties for the babies we aborted years ago.

Whatever the reason, the answer to the Today problem is quite simple: invite more women on to the programme, and if they decline invite some more. There are a lot of us out here, many with brains and opinions. And if you don't ask, you don't get.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Arts and Entertainment
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs at Suncorp Stadium on February 24, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans had initially distanced himself from the possibility of taking the job

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
British author Matt Haig

books
Arts and Entertainment
Homeland star Damian Lewis is to play a British Secret Service agent in Susanna White's film adaptation of John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor

Film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue