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Emma Barnett: The rise of the feminist champion set to breathe new life into Woman’s Hour

She can be seen and heard across the BBC and fans of her unique interviewing style include Jeremy Paxman. Sean O'Grady takes a look at Emma Barnett’s career so far as she continues her remarkable trajectory

Wednesday 23 September 2020 14:25
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 In an age of identity politics, Barnett is a good fit for modern journalism
In an age of identity politics, Barnett is a good fit for modern journalism

In her feminist-themed Tedx talk a few years ago, titled “The secrets that snails can teach women about success”, Emma Barnett showed why she is such an apt and indeed inevitable choice to be a new presenter of Radio 4’s long-running Woman’s Hour. Whenever she got her hands on another gig, she told her audience, her friends would obviously be awestruck and impressed. “Wow, great, that’s amazing,” they’d tell Emma, often adding “you’re so ambitious!” Barnett points out that the “so ambitious” bit was never added when her boyfriend, now husband, enjoyed some similar success in the corporate world. “Ambition”, so our culture dictates, is something remarkable in a woman, and her sharp observation, though purely anecdotal, is a sharp illustration of this. (What women have to learn from snails, by the way, is that snails have poor eyesight and so have grown those long stalks in order to compensate for it. Women need to similarly adapt to perceive the hidden, silent, pernicious barriers that still pervade society and blight their lives without them even realising it. I think I’ve got that right.)

A fair point, in any case, characteristically well made in Barnett’s talk with charm, wit and a fine sense of comic timing, but it’s fair to say that ambition must have something to do with the present ubiquity of this modern media personality. Nothing wrong with that, I, a cis male, hasten to add.  

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