Opinion

Where have all the women gone?

5 Mins read

It seems that when a woman reaches 50, she is viewed as not capable to present on TV anymore.

Blonde, size eight dress and just the right amount of cleavage on show – that’s what we Brits wake up to – on TV of course. 

Please remind me who these graceful gazelles, (or airheads as my mother likes to call them) on Sky Sports are sat beside? A man. But of what age? How much grey hair? How many times divorced? It doesn’t matter. Why? Because he’s a man.

Eye rolls from 20 year-old males who believe all feminists have: “I hate penis” tattooed on their unshaven bodies.

Wrong. Just a bit of equality would be nice, wouldn’t it girls?

It is infuriating that we have not moved on from the stereotype that women are viewed as unattractive when they wilt and sag, whereas men seem to never age in the eyes of the media. Research compiled from UK broadcasters found that just 18% of presenters over 50 are women. Shocking, right?

This isn’t just happening under the glitzy spotlight of colourful sofas of Daytime TV, even wildlife documentaries are in on the discrimination landslide.

When Miriam O’Reilley was axed from Countryfile in 2009 at just 51 years old, she said it reflected “deep rooted misogyny”. Although she won a discrimination case against corporation, she decided to leave the BBC in 2012.

National treasure David Attenborough is 91 yet still considered in his prime. Why? He’s a man. Although he is widely considered one of our greatest presenters, regardless of his age and gender (and yes, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Blue Planet too) it’s his talent and enthusiasm that make him such a treasured presenter. Not his age or looks (or lack of).

So why is this not always the case when it comes to the fairer sex?

Some critics will have us believe that men are better at presenting, but what about the likes of a certain Northerner, who a lot of people no likey due to his lack of talent (not to mention, despite his unfortunate looks, he has the audacity to cheat on his wife). 

So, what about when Holly Willoughby becomes “Holly Willough-saggy”, will she get the chop like ‘ol’ Miriam did too? The fact Keith Lemon gave her such a sexual nickname says it all really. Rather than being known for her presenting skills and being a woman with a *gasp* brain, Holly “Willough-booby” is best known for BOTH her assets.

Holly Willoughby, best known for co-presenting This Morning and Dancing on Ice, as well as being a team leader on the Celebrity Juice panel [Wikimedia: S Pakhrin]

The BBC has been in the firing line for sidelining five female presenters in the last year. As part of the merging of the BBC’s domestic and foreign news channels, Martine Croxall, Karin Giannone, Annita McVeigh, Geeta Guru-Murthy and Kasia Madera were moved away from the spotlight, whilst they were kept on full pay.

Despite the fact that the BBC may have achieved its benchmark of employing 50% women in full time positions and reaching 55.2% in female on-screen contribution, the numbers don’t always add up.

On Saturday 13th January, both the BBC and ITV were pulled up on the lack of females presenting prime time TV in comparison to the ten male presenters who appeared on our Saturday night screens.

Of course, the broadcaster has insisted that this was just “a snapshot” of the BBC’s scheduling of programmes. It seems unfair to have to stare at middle aged white men on a Saturday night after most of us spent the week with far too many of them at work.

Research suggests that men are twice as likely to appear on TV as women, so I guess we should feel grateful when we glimpse a shot of the fairer sex on our screens?

Don’t get me wrong, all our male sports presenters are good at what they do, engaging us in the recent action on the pitch and filling us in on important stats. But surely there are women, over 50 or under, who can do just as good a job.

Gabby Logan is a good example when she presents our boyfriends’ highlight of the week – the testosterone filled Match of the Day. An attractive and knowledgeable woman, she comes across as intelligent and that she enjoys the subject she is talking about. 

Unusually for female presenters, she isn’t just being made to sit by Gary Lineker’s side, smiling and nodding, while the big boys do all the “real” presenting.  The question is that now she is 50, will we still be seeing her golden locks on our screens? Or will that vast abyss (where “past-their-sell-by-date” female presenters get chucked) open itself up again?

However, this all makes no sense statistically. Women are the bigger audience when it comes to daytime TV, so why on Earth would we not want women presenters to appeal to an audience made up of predominantly women?

Gabby Logan is not one to be sidelined by the men of the industry. She presented The Premier League Show alongside Jermaine Jenus [Wikimedia: HonorTheKing]

Ah, because we don’t decide do we. Obviously, we are too busy at home with the kids and the ironing.

Ageism and sexism just isn’t affecting men on TV the way it does women and how can that still be the case in 2024? We may be 100 years past women receiving the right to vote, but even now the urge to blow up a few post boxes like a suffragette is overwhelming.

Of course, then we would be dismissed as hysterical, psychotic and insecure women who only use violence to get attention from our emotionally-stunted husbands. Watch out boys, we’ll be seeing Gabby Logan under the Prime Ministerial car outside 10 Downing Street.

Like many of us, I thought we had grown out of patriarchal ideologies long ago. Yet now there is the debate of the show of power and equality depending on what side of the sofa you sit on.

Ludicrous is not the word. It came about after Louise Minchin, despite being the more experienced presenter, was placed on the right side of the sofa whilst new host Dan Walker sat on the left.

When the late Bill Turnbull, who was considered more experienced, sat on the left during the show, Louise always occupied the right. I mean who even has the time to analyse this sort of shit?

Personally, I prefered to watch Good Morning Britain so I had more examples to use when complaining about our Piers Morgan who has criticised the likes of Arinna Grande and the ‘vacuous’ women’s march against Trump. He is clearly not one for female empowerment but let’s not go down that rabbit hole.

Apparently, where you place your backside on a sofa has been analysed and it’s always the man who sits on the left.  I’m sure the likes of Piers Morgan would have a heart attack to wake up and see “OH MY GOODNESS A WOMAN ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE SOFA”.

What is the world coming to? It’s almost like we’re pushing for equality in society; such an outrageous thought to be had!

So, why are we letting women be pushed out for gaining a few wrinkles compared to some men who are purposely hired for their “silver fox” looks?

Let’s make 2024 the year we only hire presenters for their talent. I say to 50-plus female presenters all over the world: “Keep your butt firmly placed on that sofa.”

Bring on the revolution.


Featured image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.

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