A Smugasbord of Scotsmen
And 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.
However, 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.
What 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.