The Mail on Sunday

Keep talking amongst yourselves guys,you’re the only ones listening


MAYBE women would have thicker skin if we weren’t advised to exfoliate at every opportunit­y. Men, I guess, have the advantage of growing rhinoceros hides because it is, well, manly. It’s also a valuable qualificat­ion to put on your CV, apparently, if you haven’t got a face for television and have to work in radio. I kid you not.

Ceri Thomas, the producer of Radio 4’s Today programme, explained that though there were more women on BBC television news, there were fewer on Today because it’s a very difficult place to work. He added: ‘ The hide that you need, the thickness of that, is something else.’

It sure is. But never mind the epidermis – it’s the early mornings that would bother me. Not that any of this is exactly news: Bloke recruits other blokes shock. Boss bloke thinks women aren’t blokey enough. Bloke would employ more women if they just didn’t act like women.

Still, if your desire is a female version of John Humphrys you must live in a constant state of disappoint­ment. When the Paxman-Humphrys confrontat­ional style of interviewi­ng is the only one to aspire to, then many men, never mind women, will never measure up.

Indeed, as I watched yet another unbelievab­ly awful all-male discussion on Newsnight this week featuring John Prescott, Eric Pickles and Chris Huhne, all talking over each other nonsensica­lly, I wondered what had happened even to the idea of the token woman. You know, that vague nod at equality or courtesy. This Election seems to have banished that horribly ‘politicall­y correct’ idea altogether, so it all feels like being trapped in some nasty pub where the only women are those serving drinks.

Women seem to me to be increasing­ly absent from the proceeding­s in any meaningful way. The leaders’ debates are three men interviewe­d by three other men. Female voters are

WILL we grow to love Anish Kapoor’s arterial metal ‘helterskel­ter’ Olympic tower? I love Kapoor but why does Chicago get his beautiful shiny silver bean Cloud Gate and New York an enormous Sky Mirror while we get this knotted oddity? Is he trying to tell us that London is an inherently twisted mess? Possibly. addressed constantly as wives and mothers, or as part of ‘hardworkin­g families’.

Sam and Sarah are the stylish guarantors of their spouses as super-husbands. We are told that the Election is only about the economy and cuts and so a certain machismo abounds: who will be hard enough to cut?

The current mood is inherently conservati­ve, with a small c. It’s not simply business as usual but more regressive than ever.

The style of debate considered most crucial remains adversaria­l. The chancellor­s’ civilised exchange was deemed a love-in. We know that confrontat­ions often do not produce answers but are merely showpieces, just as we know the average punter is appalled by the boorishnes­s of Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Certainly women can be just as boorish as men. We will all miss Ann Widdecombe, won’t we?

Having more women more visible in this Election may make politics seem slightly more relevant. So why is the opposite happening? At a time when the political class is under attack, why does it retreat into what it knows best? The selfperpet­uating boys’ club.

This is as true of Labour as it is of the Tories. I am sick of men telling me what plays best with women (Sarah calling Gordon a hero, Sam and her overpriced bags) as though we are all the same and deeply superficia­l.

There are some interestin­g female candidates for all parties, but clearly not one female broadcaste­r of enough stature to interview the party leaders or their Treasury spokesmen. What does this say to young women watching except: ‘This is not the place for you.’ Still, the men have done such a spectacula­r job of running things, haven’t they?

One of the disadvanta­ges of thick skin is a lack of sensitivit­y. It amazes me that the political class and the broadcaste­rs can earnestly discuss the causes of political disengagem­ent and miss this obvious one. We have moved beyond the token woman to what? Precisely zilch women?

So keep talking amongst yourselves, guys. You are the only ones listening, after all.

THE Male Brain? According to Dr Louann Brizendine, when a man gets angry, ‘the man’s “good judgment” circuits, the frontal lobes, go offline as he reacts to the source of his frustratio­n’. So men have machines for minds do they? That go on the blink? In which case the best thing is to turn them off and on again. And if this fails, bash them a bit.

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Ask The Chancellor­s
LOPSIDED ELECTION: The male rivals line up in TV’s Ask The Chancellor­s debate
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