The Week in Radio: Women rule the airwaves for International Women's Day - but men still call the tune

 

"High-five a woman near you right now and tell them that they're great, because they probably are," instructed presenter Gemma Cairney on Saturday morning on Radio 1 during the 39-hour female takeover. This was the day that the station elected to feature exclusively female presenters from 7pm on Friday night through to 10am on Sunday, in honour of International Women's Day.

A radical idea? Some might say so. Would lady hormones flood the corridors of Broadcasting House, infecting the brains of male employees who would suddenly find themselves cooing over kitten pictures on the internet? Would the poor, ousted male presenters require counselling following the shock discovery that female employees aren't just there to read the weather and titter winningly at their jokes?

In the event, the world didn't end. And, let's be honest, radio wasn't revolutionised – at least not immediately. Cairney's mission was less to batter her audience with feminist ideology than to bring a sense of celebration to International Women's Day, gently cajoling male listeners between tracks into showing some appreciation for their girlfriends, wives, mothers, sisters, grandmothers and their female colleagues and friends.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Cairney knows as well as anyone that there's a lot more to International Women's Day than making your missus a cup of tea and congratulating her on her ovaries. Even so, it's probably not wise to scare your core listeners with the horrifying statistics on, say, FGM or domestic violence while they're fighting off hangovers on a Saturday morning.

In fact, the tone was kept deliberately light throughout the full 39 hours, although the presenters rarely missed a chance to remind listeners why they were there. On Saturday afternoon, Annie Mac elbowed Danny Howard out of his regular slot with the words: "Well, this is weird." More used to providing Friday night soundtracks and doing the graveyard shift on Sundays, she noted that she had now become "the filling in the middle," a position with which she quickly became comfortable.

In the evening Sarah-Jane Crawford's show was simultaneously beamed to Radio 1 and 1Xtra listeners, with Crawford bellowing, "No sausage fest out here tonight... it's all about the xx chromosome. Hehehe." She was a hoot.

One could ask how, in the long run, women stand to benefit from Radio 1 giving a bunch of male DJs the day off simply to prove to their listenership that, on one day of the year, they are, like, totally down with the girlz. And yet, on this occasion, they deserve some credit.

Giving over a day of broadcasting to women makes an important statement. It reminds listeners that, beyond children's nurseries, primary schools, maternity wards and other supposedly feminine domains, all-woman workforces are still unusual in the 21st century while male-dominated ones are the norm.

It reminds us that there is nothing good or defensible about the marginalisation of women on the airwaves in 2014. Last year a study conducted by the pressure group Sound Women found that only one in five solo voices on the radio is female, and that the ratio of men to women drops further during peak listening hours. Which, essentially, means that on the majority of mainstream radio, every day is International Men's Day.

It is, clearly, a sad state of affairs when it takes a global awareness day to fleetingly wake schedulers out of their misogynist torpor. But any initiative that addresses the gender imbalance and normalises the notion of multiple female voices on the radio is a good thing. It is, at the very least, a start.

Twitter.com/FionaSturges

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
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
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
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
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.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high