Week Woman

A Pox on the Patriarchy

“More or Less”: The Stats on BBC Sexism


- Caroline Criado-Perez

I’m starting to think the BBC is trying to play hard to get. Is it something we said, BBC? Did we come on too strong? Perhaps we should have started with a simple card that read, “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Women Can Speak, You can Hear them Too”?

It’s not that we didn’t consider that. We bought some stamps and everything. But, on reflection, we thought we might as well cut out the middle-man (what are the gender stats on BBC researchers?), and just give them a fully-fledged present, aka, our online binder of women.

This binder is something else; frankly, it’s the best present ever. It’s full of fantastic women (many of whom are experts in pregnancy) primed, ready and waiting to speak to the media on a whole range of topics, from the arts to the sciences and everything in between. The enthusiasm and response from women has been overwhelming; they’re not just waiting to speak, they’re demanding that they be heard.

We really thought we’d played a blinder with our binder.

So you can imagine how we felt upon hearing the teasing taunting tone of Tim Harford in “More or Less”, as he introduced a segment on morning sickness. In a voice dripping with knowing irony (and remember ladies, if you don’t find it funny, it’s because of your sense of humour – or lack thereof), Harford informs us that “the only way to cover the experience of pregnancy and morning sickness sensibly is to have two men discuss” it. Ohoho. Excuse me while I split my sides.

The problem with Harford’s Humour™, is that, well, standard procedure (by which I mean men discussing women’s bodies) just isn’t that funny (sorry FHM). Mainly it’s yawn-inducing. Occasionally it’s enraging. Today, it’s just a bit sad.

For the pedantic amongst you, no, the programme wasn’t entirely on morning sickness itself; it was on what the implications of morning sickness are.

For bookies.

Yep, a condition that had a woman hospitalised was being discussed, by two men, in the context of probabilities and “data sets”. The BBC wanted to help us with that perennial problem of whether or not to bet on a bonanza royal birth. How kind of them. Kind and funny. Just how I like my coffee.

Perhaps this data set context explains it though – because as is well known, if there’s one thing women are less qualified to talk on than their own bodies, it’s probabilities and “data sets”. Because, you know, we’re “too pretty to do math”! Maybe the BBC really did consult The Women’s Room, only to find, to their horror, that not only were there no women who knew about pregnancy, but also, there were no women who knew about figures.

Except, oh. There are. There are women who can speak on statistics, biology, mathematics. There are women who specialise in reproduction; there are nurses, there are doctors, there are midwives.

And all this leads me back to my original question: was it something we said? Because otherwise, the only reason for this refusal to ask women to speak is plain old sexism. And that’s neither kind nor funny. It’s just standard practice.

3 comments on ““More or Less”: The Stats on BBC Sexism

  1. TheVicar
    December 10, 2012

    Fantastic piece.

  2. Bealtaine Cottage
    December 10, 2012

    An excellent analysis of the BBC patriarchy. The cringeworthy Newsnight panel of usual suspect men with one woman used to annoy me…not any more as I ditched the telly. The more distance I put between myself and the patriarchal poison, the clearer and sicker it all seems. The telly was not the only patriarchal institution I broke away from!

  3. shellz123
    December 10, 2012

    Great piece. Continue the campaign as this sexism is not only prevalent at the BBC.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on December 9, 2012 by in Features and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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