14 Dec

Wimmins’ Freak Show

Dear Ms Garvey,

I have long been a devotee of Woman’s Hour, but something strange and unwelcome has happened to it lately. The programme has plunged into self-parody and turned into something like a satire on wimmin. Yesterday, for example, I caught the last half hour. It began promisingly with an interesting feature about a woman brewery worker who secured promotion for herself by her competence and hard work.

But after this it was all macabre and surreal. We heard form a woman who, thirty years ago, had joined the anti-nuclear protestors at Greenham Common and we learnt how she subsequently left her husband and turned into a lesbian. Well, it takes all sorts, I suppose. What was so disappointing about this item though was the lack of any intelligent examination of the unilateral disarmament supported by the Greenham women. No stray word of criticism or counter-argument was allowed to intrude. The women were spoken of in revered tones, as if they had been saints or goddesses. An intelligent thing to do would have been (at least) to ask the question, “But what if nuclear deterrence prevents world war? After all, the only country ever to have suffered nuclear attack was Japan – which did not possess a bomb of its own.” Instead, we had to endure what sounded like a grisly, sentimental sapphic love-in.

Next there was a trailer for BBC Sports Personality of the Year in which your listeners were urged to vote for a woman. But what if there are women who actually think that the best candidate is Lewis Hamilton, or that golfer whose name I forget? Isn’t it really rather sexist (and insulting) to ask your listeners to vote for a woman as it were a priori and without consideration of merit?

Then came a woman novelist who drank coffee and smoked a lot. She was mildly chided for her love of “the ciggies.” But what made me laugh was her admission that she smoked because she deplored political-correctness – when the whole of the rest of the programme was political-correctness incarnate!

The show ended with an item which had me transfixed in a sort of hypnotised stupefaction: teenage sex – though I hear the approved term is “gender” – change and a Woman’s Hour play about the subject. The extract we heard was so corny and gooey it might have been Kern Loach meets amateur dramatics.

All documentary and magazine shows benefit from the occasional oddity, but when the whole lot is so weird and untypical of what most of us take for ordinary life, then it merely becomes a freak show. And that’s a pity.

All good wishes

Yours sincerely

Rev’d Dr Peter Mullen