In recent weeks, it’s been reported by both Sandi Toksvig and Natalie Haynes that footage of female comics is routinely edited out of broadcast comedy programmes.* What’s left in typically shows the women laughing at the men’s jokes, when in fact the women were just as funny as the men during recording.
This highlights two key points for me, the first being that the comedians’ experiences reveal just how important it is that we’ve got so many women broadcasting on live shows such as the Today programme where there’s no scope for female contributors to be edited-out. The more women who are involved in broadcasting, both as presenters and behind the scenes and across every genre, the more likely we are to hear a fair representation.
The second point is that we all need to make more effort to tune into women’s voices. I had an epiphany many years ago, when I switched my music collection from vinyl to CD. I discovered that almost all my records featured male singers so when I started buying CDs, I made the effort to include female voices in my repertoire, and what a revelation it was. I can choose to listen to Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, Patti Smith, Beth Gibbons, Kate Bush, Chrissie Hynde, Elizabeth Fraser, Lisa Gerrard, Martha Wainwright, Amy Winehouse and jazz-era singers like Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. Wow! My new challenge is to add more women of ethnic origin now that I listen to Spotify, because although this list represents a range of styles, it’s still conservative for the world of music.
Listening to women is a long way from being the default setting, whether we’re speaking or singing. As a woman, I know I need to try harder to hear other women, to encourage them to say what they mean, and for me to take account of what they say. That’s how I want to be treated and if my upbringing and the culture I live in are making this hard for me, when I know how important this is, then I have to respect how hard this is for us all. That’s why I’m going to keep talking about it: to hold myself to account and to raise awareness to help you change your behaviour patterns too.