There I am, innocently driving through Kilburn at 8.30am with the radio on. It’s Radio 4’s Today Programme and I’m feeling almost pleased to be back in the UK – something comforting about familiar voices in the dark. Well, near dark still. Anyway, Wilbur Smith was being interviewed. First, Humphrys (I think it was Humphrys) got his age wrong and, instead of apologising like a normal person, he announced; ‘Someone’s going to be sacked.’ It was a joke, one imagines. During the course of the interview Smith mentioned that his wife is younger than him. Afterwards one of the presenters couldn’t stop himself asking how much younger. Smith revealed that she is 38 years his junior. At this the two presenters chortled lasciviously. ‘That’s the secret!’ said one. ‘I wasn’t going to go there!’ jeered the other. The men laughed. A woman as a rejuvenating sex thing was the joke, I believe. On Radio 4’s flagship high-brow breaking news programme. Three old guys laughing at the idea of an octogenarian rutting a buxom young wench. Lovely. Welcome to Britain’s radio station for the intelligentsia, ladies. Or rather, bugger off ladies, this isn’t for you.
I pulled over to Tweet some outrage. Obviously, there is no reason Wilbur Smith’s wife shouldn’t be 50 years younger than him if they both desire. But that the hosts of this show should guffaw over her as a sex object is appalling to me as a female person. But, okay, I don’t have to listen. I don’t watch Top Gear and nobody is making me listen to Today. But what, then, is aimed at me? Woman’s Hour? Magic FM? Actually, I like both, but neither is especially informative in terms of current affairs.
Could we have, then, an early radio programme for women with an 85% female input? We’d have men when a man was the best person for the interview but we’d interview more women because that would fit better with the style of the show? Need such a programme be man hating in the way in which Today is occasionally (unintentionally, to be sure) woman hating? Would such a show lack gravitas because of being positively discriminatory? The Today programme doesn’t, but they’re men, of course. Would it seem gratingly worthy? Would it be irritating? Would all the women interviewers and interviewees (politicians, economists, pundits) pretend to be men on a douche panel programme – over-assertive regardless of intelligence and knowledge?
It seems to me that women can be funny, intelligent and knowledgeable without seeming hate-fuelled and lapsing into misandry. But could they be all these things and dominate the nation’s flagship radio show without being dismissed by some establishment old men on the basis of gender? I don’t know, but it seems worth a try for God’s sake. Half the people going to work in the morning are female and I can’t see why they can’t catch up on the news without being subjected to the misogynistic jeering that bubbles to the surface when the scripts are put aside.