Dear BBC Scotland,
I am writing to you at 22.05 after watching, nay, enduring, your program on “What Woman Want” which was supposedly an analysis of women’s views and the “gender gap” which has been identified. Latest polling showing that 67% of women intend to vote no in the Scottish Referendum. I, like many woman have made up my mind, I have analysed the situation, I have found my information, I have asked my questions and I will be voting no. This isn’t about how we are voting though, this is about how you patronised us. My sisters on the Yes or No side are not amused.
The program came with such promise. An hour, a whole hour, dedicated to talking to women and asking their political opinions, trust me this is unheard of. Given I still have to endure on a daily basis, all male panels and all male opinion makers on my screen, on my radio and in my newspaper, I was rather excited. But much like the parents of a rebellious teenager, I shook my head in disappointment; because you didn’t rebel, you stuck with the status quo of feminine clichés and patronising scripting.
We talked to women politicians in their kitchens and in cafes. We went to find women at the roller derby and at a wedding exhibition. Really? Today I was on a university campus, I was in an office, I was at the bank and later on a bus. Pretty gender neutral things, and other women were also there. Sometimes, we like to push out of patriarchy’s tight grip, sometimes we even do that with trousers on – I can only assume, this shocks you. Jackie Bird decided to visit a bridal shop where she said “women like to shop” (I don’t, actually), followed by “we take our time with decisions, whether picking a dress or a political system” (again, no, I have to say, the dress is bought if it fits and is on sale, the political system on the other hand I consider just a little longer…). Then we went to a shot of a neurosurgeon to remind us that men’s and women’s brains are not particularly different, it’s nurture not nature. What we could have said here was its sexism not biology, but it seems you were not looking to take this matter particularly seriously.
Credit to you, there were almost some rays of hope. When Jackie Bird pointed out the Yes campaign’s newspaper with Nicola Sturgeon in the Kitchen and pictures of babies, it was a cheap shot for women’s votes. When Johann Lamont talked about women not being reduced to a single cohort and being respected as a diverse set of minds, I eagerly nodded. We were educated on women suffrage and the women forgotten in history (and not taught in our schools), we got to applaud women comics, but on both occasions we drifted past the issue by saying “isn’t this bad?” rather than calling it out properly.
At one point, Jackie even mocked the idea of the cliché of women baking scones in a kitchen, but then decided to interview one of the top women politicians of Scotland, as she made a cup of tea, apparently continuity in scripting was not a priority here. Have we ever had Alex Salmond interviewed as he makes a cup of tea? If we are going for clichés, I presume the interview would take place at a men’s only golf club somewhere…
Then came the round table with real women voters; we ask them a couple of questions whilst nodding our heads “sooo what do you think, so of this stuff is super hard yeah?” (that might not have been what the presenter asked, my rage is getting the better of me). This lasted about 5 minutes, which is a shame as I thought, this was the entire point. Then the presenter finished with “the women seemed to not be occupied by the economy but the smaller, everyday things and what they cost” newsflash – that’s a pretty big part of the economy. Now I am not hating on the women presenters, no, no. They will have been asked to follow a format, yes? I thought so.
Well, at least it ended with the right commentary; Jackie explained that women come at this from a variety of angles, that they are not “risk averse”, that they make up the majority of the electorate and that considering options is a very rational thing to do. But why couldn’t that have been the mindset with which you recorded the programme. I left with a feeling that I and women are nothing more than clichés to you.
The reasons why women are not engaged is institutionalised sexism. The reason women are not at the forefront of the campaigning is institutionalised sexism. The way you decided to put this programme together is institutionalised sexism.
Let’s get women front and centre of the debate, let’s get their voices heard. But let’s not do this but reinstating clichés and patronising them along the way; respect them for the intelligent voters they are.
A proud feminist, who will no doubt be writing to you again.