2007 - 2022

A Smugasbord of Scotsmen

mediagAnd so it begins – the all-male, almost entirely white panel, the middle-aged men arguing with each other on prime time television. That’s right, a second independence referendum has been called and apparently, the rest of Scotland has vanished. Today, I will try to unpack the gender bias that exists within the media but in discussing who the media chooses to amplify, we need to talk about the representation of ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people and the working class.

When challenged on an illuminating lineup of four men for their referendum discussion, Scotland Tonight pleaded that “We appreciate gender balance is important. We rely on political parties to put up interviewees they think are most appropriate.” So by shrugging off any culpability for the lack of women on their panel, they place the blame entirely on the shoulders of the political parties. Apparently, Scotland Tonight are helpless in the face of these political parties and cannot even countenance the thought of empty-chairing political parties who refuse to put forward a woman.

On the day of the referendum announcement, Scotland Tonight thought it entirely appropriate to have an entirely male line-up. We were so lucky to have seven men over the course of the programme explaining exactly what the First Minister meant with her speech this morning. Whilst, there was a passing mention to the fact it was an entirely male line-up, it was just that – a passing mention. No acknowledgement on the show itself about their lack of women.

cajcoedwsaapklfHowever, while our ire this evening was focussed on Scotland Tonight, the rest of the media is not much better, the Q and A after the First Minister’s speech we heard from more Michaels than we did women. The photos presented almost an entire sea of suits & hipster jumpers, we do have some fantastic women working in political journalism in Scotland but, on the whole, the lobby is overwhelmingly male. Then Channel 4 News blessed us with a discussion between Pat Kane and Alex Massie because after all, a woman made the pivotal speech so why would we need to hear from any more women after that?

Though, did you hear? It was not the First Minister who decided to announce the referendum. No, Sky News had sources who informed them that “…First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was pushed into seeking a second Scottish independence referendum by Alex Salmond and others”. Because, of course a fiercely competent, incredibly astute politician like Nicola Sturgeon cannot make decisions like that, no it must have been a man who told her to do this.

Then of course, we could not be without the MailOnline, that problematic website and a half, who were left mortified that Nicola Sturgeon would wear the same red dress twice in one week and over eleven times in one year. I know, I took to my fainting couch in shock at the fact a woman in the public eye had dared to wear the same outfit more than once! Whatever was she thinking?! Does she not know that she should wear something different everyday so that the MailOnline can then lambast her for wasting her money on clothes. Alas, we women can never win with the MailOnline.

un_infographicWhat can we do to fix it? To start with the panel problem, the producers of television companies might have to grow a spine and tell the political parties that they would like both a man and a woman put forward so that they can ensure gender parity in their panel. If a political party refuses to do this, empty chair them and explain exactly why you are short of a guest.

We are fortunate enough to have organisations like Women 50:50, Women for Independence and Engender all who could be tapped for smart, capable women who could provide analysis on the radio, in print and on screen. We do not need a constant cavalcade of Davids on our screen, not when everyday on Twitter my feed is full of engaged, intelligent and yes, often sarcastic, commentary from women from all sorts of backgrounds.

With the starting gun fired for the second referendum, it is more important than ever that we amplify women’s voices on both sides of the debate. We deserve better and the debate is richer when we have a diversity of voices. We need more women’s voices otherwise we will be stuck with that same cavalcade of Davids and nobody wants that.

Comments (20)

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  1. tickle says:

    what can i do to help?

  2. Wul says:

    Hear hear! I’m sick of this too. The debates are always better when women are on the panel.
    Sometimes they can even agree with each other on one point, but differ on another.
    The guys, I’m sorry to say, too often descend into a who’s-got-the-biggest-c**k bun fight.

  3. Alan Bissett says:

    It’s fairly straightforward. If there isn’t 50/50 representation of men and women in the media then there is an obvious structural bias that needs to be addressed somehow.

    1. Mumps says:

      “It’s fairly straightforward” he explained, “If there isn’t 50/50 representation of men and women in the media then there is an obvious structural bias that needs to be addressed somehow.” he said, telling us all the exact point of Eilidh Lean’s article.

      I think a more helpful approach would be to provide some suggests as to how change might be enacted or just to say you supported her comments, which we all here understood.

      1. Alan Bissett says:

        I just did write in support of her comments.

  4. Alba woman says:

    Hear Hear what a load of old rubbish….The patriarchy is alive and very well here in Scotia.

    Mind you it has been much worse. Women in Scotland were subject to the worst witch hunt in Europe besides Germany. They were written out of Scottish history for two hundred years. Women in Scotland have been subject to intense historical silencing which has had serious implications for women in Scottish culture.

    I thought Fiona Hyslop did well in her interviews with the msm. These folk being rude and showing their ignorance of the realities of Scottish politics. Women in Scotland have fought historically and currently to end this cultural silencing. Nicola is a fab example.

    1. JH says:

      All of this begs the question about why women who actually do have power have not done more to promote genuine gender equality. There have been so many wasted opportunities. Sturgeon has at least tried – but how many other women in power have?

      The Queen is a woman, the PM is a woman, the FM is a woman. The leaders of the Scottish Labour & Conservative parties are women…

      The UK has had the same female ruler throughout my lifetime, had another queen through most of the 19th century (who did little or nothing for votes for women), a female PM through the eighties (with hardly any women in her cabinets) and now the two main parties in NI (possibly the most patriarchal part of the UK) are led by women. Stella Rimington also ran one of the major spy agencies. All of these women could or can do something.

  5. Heather says:

    Couldn’t agree more 🙂

  6. JH says:

    In arts & literature quangoes, it is often the othe way round. The Edinburgh City of Lit is completely dominated by women.

    1. Laura Waddell says:

      Research shows that whilst there are more women in literature and publishing, the highest paid, highest level jobs still disproportionately favour men. Not only that, but male writers are reviewed more often by literary publications, are shortlisted more often for prestigious prizes, and the same is true for books that feature story lines about men. If ever there was a quick and easy way to showcase bias, the culture of literature and publishing shows it – a workforce predominantly female whilst all the cushy spots go to men. See BookCareers (https://www.bookcareers.com/survey2008/gender.htm and their submission to the Dept of Work and Pensions equality committee), the VIDA count, and Google.

      1. JH says:

        The highest paid writer in Scotland *by a country mile* is a woman. I don’t need to name her.

        Women are just as capable of forming networks. The current poet laureate used to be the long term lover of the current makar. It’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

  7. Interpolar says:

    Meanwhile, the three largest political parties in Scotland are headed by women, and for good measure, so is the ruling UK party. Surely there’s an inverse gender gap there. No?

    1. JH says:

      Not sure what you mean by that… the SNP are, and the Tories are. Labour isn’t.

      Lib Dems aren’t, Plaid Cymru is and Sinn Fein is.

      There is a female prime minister, female FM, female FM in NI and female monarch. The London Mayor and Welsh FM are male.

      However the two rulers of the UK are both female, and one of them has been in all my lifetime.

  8. Jim Ferguson says:

    “To start with all working class males should shut up and keep silent, just go to their minimum wage work and do as they’re told. The vast majority of females should do the same, with the exceptions of the high-flying wives of the rich and powerful or batty blondes from English private schools with rabidly right wing views, who appear to get more air time than any other women in the news media at present. What have merit, intelligence or articulacy got to with the media anyway? There’s always some crazy-right-wing-nutter opposing everything that the French Revolution (1789) stood for, never mind equality in the 21 st century. What a preposterous idea that is, old chaps!” … “This is no time for stupid comments, give those pickininnies a sniff of equality and next they’ll be saying they don’t need their betters ruling over them any more, and we won’t be having any of that rubbish, by God. Do I smell an unemployed person in the vicinity? Send for the Police or whatnot… army, social security staff, anybody!”

  9. Jo says:

    Can’t be doing with all this gender stuff. Sorry. And I’m female.

    I’d also like to say that some of the worst panelists I’ve seen on political programmes have been women. Women can irritate people just as much as men do. I’m interested in what they say not their gender.

  10. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Most who work in media are public school or middle class privileged men and women.

  11. Frank says:

    I find the prospect of enforced gender balance just as worrying as all male panellists.

  12. e.j. churchill says:

    ‘More women’ is a pretty pitiful example of ‘diversity’ but then the ‘diversity warriors’ care nothing abt REAL diversity, only optics.

    Translating: She Said / She Meant is not an especially rigorous challenge for Jnr School and they may well have thought new thoughts, v. the usual suspects.

    BTW, ‘gender’ has no universal meaning; the biological determinate ‘sex’ does. Use it.

    ’tis sad


  13. Sadler Brent says:

    Curious: if the writer cares so much about gender equality why not research how political parties prevent it onscreen. Fiona Hyslop turned down Scotland Tonight and the First Minister was “unavailable”. If you empty chair, it creates political balance problems. If you simply abandon the discussion, viewers (rightly) complain about the absence of a pertinent debate

  14. JH says:

    I’m glad this article does mention class. Are the Katie Hopkins, Kirsty Warks, Louise Menschs etc representative of the average working class person? Very few working class women appear on the TV except in light entertainment.

    Let’s not just mention private schools – include the Oxbridge set. As soon as you pass their interviews you are in the elite.

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