Two news items today on women gave me pause for thought.
I fully agree with Hadley Freeman when she argues that within mainstream comedy women are, on the whole, considered to be unfunny and demoted to their own special categories. Younger women are either passive benign objects of sexual desire, or the neurotic wives (apparently on their wedding day all women get an obligatory brain transplant).
For older women however….well…..it’s hard to say exactly….it’s not as if there’s really enough to be able to tell. In much of the media world it appears that women only live until they’re 35 and spend vast amounts of that time either shopping, putting on make up or scheming….and lacking a sense of humour.
This isn’t the world I know. In the world I live in, where I now class myself as une femme d’un certain age, plenty of women are way over 35. The overwhelming majority are functional human beings, are just as capable as men, and are very funny. While I acknowledge there has been some progress in certain genres, in much of the media women are still portrayed as one-dimensional characters, really only valuable for their aesthetic qualities.
There are still not enough women in influential media positions such as production and direction. Many people seem to be under the illusion that this is no longer a problem. Even the Guardian proudly proclaimed that 4 women were competing for the top title at the Cannes film festival. This was, you may remember against 16 men, which is not so good when you realise that more than 20% of the media industry is made up of women.
Popular media not only reflects public perceptions but also influences and to some extent determines them. This is why it’s important to change the message the media is giving out about women. Reality and the media have a symbiotic relationship. This is why I, as a female MEP, care how the media is portraying women.
The BBC does have a duty here as our public service broadcaster with the highest of reputations. The BBC must act reasonably and fairly towards women over 35 and make sure they are as fairly represented on our television screens as the Corporation’s army of middle-aged men.