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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices