Melanie McDonagh is a Catholic journalist and contributor to The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Independent, Spectator, Evening Standard, Catholic Herald…
The Times has just published a piece by her. She references the BBC Men’s Hour, seemingly unaware it was pulled years ago (are journalists incapable of doing basic Google searches?) No loss to the MRM, since the main presenter Tim Samuels was (predictably) a five-star mangina.
With the fanfare that the BBC reserves for the departure of one of its own from a flagship programme, there have been plaudits all round for Jane Garvey as she leaves Woman’s Hour after all of 13 years. It follows the lamentations for Jenni Murray’s departure from the same slot after a more impressive 33 years. Dame Jenni was a class act in her feline way but even she couldn’t redeem this dire offering to half of the corporation’s licence fee-payers.
My own reaction to the programme is the same as for The Archers — I hurt myself running to the radio to turn it off. My intimacy with WH is slight because I can’t bear to listen to the succession of like-minded women agreeing with each other about the subjects of the day; my husband is way more likely to listen to it, in a self-flagellating sort of way (if men talked about women in the way that women on WH sometimes talk about men, they’d be lynched). There’s something about the tone of the programme, like the kind of Bridget Jones, Chardonnay-drinking girl group you just don’t want to be part of, which is alienating if you don’t happen to share the groupthink.
It’s billed as Woman’s Hour, viz, aimed at half of listeners but you’re going to get short shrift if you don’t take more or less the same world view as the people who run it. Hilariously, the WH team had to undergo impartiality training in 2019 after Jane Garvey covered the controversial sex assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, then US Supreme Court nominee, in an interview that was so partisan as to cause complaints from viewers. That’s what happens in an echo chamber.
Then there’s the lazy assumption that family stuff, personal stuff, sexual stuff, chit-chat and children’s stuff are all women’s issues. There’s Men’s Hour on Radio 5 Live but it’s not given anything like the same prominence.
The fact that 40 per cent of listeners to Woman’s Hour are men tells us something, and it’s that the personal isn’t gendered any more. Maybe men would like to talk about male hair loss as much as women want to talk about menstruation? Maybe the other sex is interested in what to do with Christmas leftovers too? Just a thought.
The programme has been on air since 1946 when Listen With Mother served a genuinely useful purpose. It’s had its day. Put it down.
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