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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week