Radio 4’s Today Programme – sexist guffawing




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.

About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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4 Responses to Radio 4’s Today Programme – sexist guffawing

  1. Dru says:

    Another example of casual misogyny on R4 this morning when the presenter said ‘Men are from Venus Women are from Mars (he got it wrong) one of those books all men have because they have been given it and none have read’. I was given one, read a few pages and tossed it aside as irritating rubbish. My husband picked it up and read a bit of his own volition and had the same reaction. In this, we were both identically from Earth. I was mildly insulted and very annoyed that the presenter assumed ‘all women’ would want to give it to anyone at all and also by the implication that ‘all women’ try to change men by giving them books. I switched off.

  2. Serge Baruch says:

    Not only women but men, too, are sexual objects for each other… so what? How come it’s misogynist to notice the age difference of 38 years between spouses? It’s really huge, innit? In other words, storm in a teacup, Ms Blundy!

  3. miriamturley says:

    I remember a recent article on the Today Show when two female Formula 1 drivers were being interviewed, and they were saying that in order to get on in their careers some female drivers choose to do sexy photo shoots. They weren’t talking about themselves, but the interviewer insitsed on asking the interviewee in a lecherous voice if she would pose naked or topless. The lady was hesitant to answer, rightly so, it’s a pretty cheeky question, but he asked her again, with a horrible leer in his voice and was probably pleased when she said she would consider it. It felt like bullying to me, really unpleasant.

    This morning John Humpries was interviewing a woman who speaking for a group who had done a topless protest against Putin, I think it was. He didn’t understand what the woman was saying about making the decision on how she wanted to use her own body and kept bringing it back to sex. I really think he doesn’t understand. The woman speaking was able for him, she was pretty cool. It’s just annoying, like this blog says, is the Today show not intended for me? Sexism before breakfast…

  4. Amur says:

    For the benefit of both of the author-whom I very much admire-and myself I have to point out the frequently disregarded fact: women don’t need to be funny. They can jolly well be funny as they can be, but one shouldn’t forget that chaps are the ones who won’t get laid if they fail to regale their female partners with wit and humour. So I submit to you that it is indeed a valid claim; women don’t need to be funny, for we’ll already find you attractive, thanks.

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