Oct 17, 2008

Women: Can we stop being our own worst enemies now? Please?

Working in radio, you'll often hear this phrase: "Women don't like listening to other women on air".

For years I've thought it was bull. For many women, it will come as a surprise. They might be avid listeners to the ABC, where gender equality is a given, and female on-air presenters as normal as hot days in summer.

But take the ABC out of it. Ratings, while certainly very important, are not everything for the national broadcaster. It is not ruled by market forces in the way the commercial stations are. Their guidelines will ensure a mixed bag of presenters no matter how bad the ratings get. Blessed be the public service.

In commercial, the attitude of women towards other women weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of program directors, station managers and other bigwigs. I've never seen any cold, hard proof that "women don't like listening to other women" - but the anecdotal evidence seems to be overwhelming. Women actively dislike hearing other women on the radio. The problem is even worse with older women, a key demographic of the station I work for. They just turn off.

What are the reasons? I can't give you definite answers. I would like to think women don't like listening to women because the way they're generally portrayed on-air is as a "token" chick on an otherwise male-dominated program, who talks about shopping for shoes, babies, and celebrity gossip. Certainly that's the kind of on-air female presence I personally find distasteful.

But what about sensible, articulate, educated, entertaining women who are capable of conducting strong interviews and interacting well with callers? Why is when they're trialled, there's a ratings drop-off, and the female on-air presenter is pinpointed as the reason?

Turns out, from my best investigative work, it's the disapproving green-eyed monster. Women, it seems, don't like other women in a position of authority. Talking to them. Telling them what to think. Expressing their own opinion. Women (I can only guess due to hundreds of years of social conditioning) will listen to a man talk about an issue, and give him the time of day... but will turn up their noses when a woman does the same. "What does she know?" they seem to be saying. "Why should she tell me what to do, say or think?" they cry. And most of all "Who does she think she is?!?!"

Age is an issue. Young women in particular apparently know nothing. "Get some life experience and get back to us". A friend who works in radio even suggests it could be as simple as the sound of female voices. Too high, too feminine - a contrast to the slow, measured, deep, instructive, authoritative tones of the all-mighty male announcers. Men know what they're talking about, and sound like it too. Women hit a different tone, harmful to the eardrums. They know nothing. Why should they be given airtime to talk about nothing?

Radio is a man's domain. And it's women helping it stay that way.

I say this because radio is my chosen career. A career that I don't want to be obstructed by immovable social "facts" that govern the way those in charge of radio stations pick and choose who goes on-air. I don't want it to be case of "I'm a woman - ergo, I'm pre-destined never to succeed". I believe my hard work and intellect should count for something.

Sure, I could quit. But then it just goes on. It continues. And radio will forever and ever be a man's game, a man's domain, with 50 per cent of the population left without representation.

Let me be honest. I have been jealous of other women. Many times, in fact. I understand what it's like, which is why I'm so emphatic about changing it. Why are we being our own worst enemy? Why are we slagging each other off? Why are we critical of a women's success, or joyful at her failure? Why don't we support each other?

I would like to be able to tell my stories to the women who will follow me in years to come, and have them react in horror. "Women did that to each other?" they'll cry. "Women didn't give each other a chance?" And most of all "Women let men do all the talking?!?!"

So women of Australia, I urge you. Please give other women a go. Please DEMAND variety and depth from your local media. Sure, there'll be women you don't like. That's fine. But disagree with them on their opinions, or expression - not just because of their gender. Don't buy into this myth that women aren't entertaining or knowledgeble. Don't let the media owners perpetuate the cycle.

Men - you can do your bit too. Treat women with respect. Insist they look after their minds, rather than just their looks. Give creedance to sensible, smart and funny ideas or opinions when women express them, and take umbridge with dumb or ill-researched ones. Let's start evaluating all humans on their individual record.


  1. u r so spot on nat..

    but alas i feel regardless of how hard u strive 2 change things..u will mainly always end up with the same result..because

    other women enjoy it 2 much..

    as u mentioned slagging off?

    it would b very hard 2 change a persons attitude even if they know its the wrong attitude 2 have simply because they get a kick out of it..

    myself included..

    im an avid listener to 4bc and again as u mentioned im part of the older demographic but i know that if your an idiot u couldnt possibly get a job there..

    jealousy..envy and obscene admiration will always be within us?

    men certainly arnt capable of nor want 2 change the above..

    y would we even try 2?

    listening 2 a lady take it out on another lady..


    thats enjoyment


  2. I wonder if there a corrolary between older people turning off and the pitch of the presenter's voice.

    Our hearing works because of tiny tiny hairs in our ears. The smaller (and more fragile) the hairs the higher the pitch recieved.

    Higher pitched sounds are harder for the elderly to hear so perhaps more find it frustratingly difficult to make out the content when it's higher pitched.

    If this were the case, I wonder if you could pitch shift a lady's voice down to make it more palatable.

  3. Dan has hit the nail on the head on the shifting pitch idea. It has been shown that women with deep voices seem to fair better in the media than women with high pitched voices.

    I also think that problems of women in media stem from a generational attitude that has only recently started to be overthrown. For a very long time men were the primary bread-winners and the 'little lady' stayed at home. This is not the reality anymore for many Australians but there is always a delay in what is actually happening in the workplace and the attitudinal shifts of the general public.

    Never let the bastards grind you down. Keep kicking against the pricks (in this case.. literally!)

  4. lol

    yes men can b pricks

    but if women were men they'd b bigger pricks


  5. I think the problem often lies in the type of women actually chosen for commercial radio. The powers that be seem to always present women to us as listeners that are destined to fail. It's like we're being told what we're supposed to like listening to.

    The aforementioned "chick to talk about babies and shopping" (zzzz), or "glam gal who goes to all the music industry events and swans about looking stunning in her designer outfits and comes back with the goss". They just don't translate to interesting listening for an intelligent woman.

    That's why I like Meshel Laurie. She's feminine but not shallow, she's open about how she doesn't fit the little box that most women are put into, and she's damn funny. And six times as intelligent as those dear boys she works with. As much as I like Kip and Ash, those guys are interchangeable, I'd listen to any programme she was in regardless of the blokes.

  6. I stopped listening to commercial radio a long while ago because I didn't like how they told me the world should be.

    "The missus talked so long on the phone that she reckoned she didn't have time to get me a beer before she put the kids to bed" kind of "banter" bores me to tears.

    It's odd, I couldn't handle the JJJ in my early 20's, but now I'm "too old" for it, it is pretty much all my car radio is ever tuned to... most of the time.

  7. Mr Crazy Horse,

    I'm afraid it's views like yours that aren't helping.

    Two women arguing is enjoyable to you?

    That's wrong! You shouldn't find pleasure in the bitchiness of others.

    And I feel you're generalising by saying that if women were men they'd be pricks.

    We're all human, and we all have the capacity to be pricks. This is my point - there are women I like and women I don't like in the world - but I base my opinion on their personality and actions, not solely because of their gender.

    Kath, I believe you're very right about Meshel Laurie. Nova really have a star in her.

    But she did get into radio after a successful career in stand-up comedy.

    That happens a lot in radio - people are "poached" to add their particular celebrity/charm to a station's brand.

    Women who begin and work in radio seem to face a tougher time, because they need time to develop their on-air identity, and time for the audience to respond. Men seem to be given the time to do that, whereas women seem to be on a ticking clock.

  8. yes i know its wrong nat by wat society dictates..

    and yes i do find it enjoyable and entertaining..

    makes for very entertaining radio

    dont we all generalise in 1 way or another at times?

    i didnt realise my views were meant 2 help?

    terrific topic nat

    keepem coming


    p.s.its a lot more fun to talk to a woman than an angel..


    it is absolutely adolescent to be uncritically devoted or fanatically opposed to any famous person

  9. Well I will have to admit to being one of the minority.

    I listen to ABC because I prefer clear concise reporting without the ramblings of over-the-hill hacks or would be John Laws'. Michael whatever his name is appears to want to be a Shock Jock so much that if you said "White" he would say "Black" just to play the "Race card" I have never heard anyone so inept trying to pull in the mugs The unfortunate thing is he does get the odd nutters ringing in

    On ABC Madonna King and Kelly Higgins-Devine are able to swing between serios and amusing quite seamlessly and botheir programmes are informative and amussing

    Unfortunately it seems that commecial radio is run by hacks who are happy to give jobs to other hacks.
    All you can do is
    . Get your CV's out to all areas
    . Go for the ABC
    . keep every iron in the fire and keep the fire hot

  10. In light of your comments, I wonder how the 4BC audience will take to Courtney on the breakfast show next year.

  11. I don't know Courtney; I look forward to meeting her.

    I can only wish her the best of luck - the more women that are on-air, the more regular and "normal" it becomes, the better it is!

  12. and what a talent gail watson is..

    melbournes gain our loss

    i wish u all the best gail

    your simply the best though stuart lait comes close..


  13. wats the difference between a banker and a pidgeon?

    the pidgeon can make a deposit on a porshe..

    obscenity is whatever gives a moral crusader an erection..

    why does sour creme have a use by date?

    diamonds are a girls best friend..dogs are mans best friend...now tell me which sex is the smart sex..

    if civil engineering was as perilous as social engineering..youd be wise to never cross a bridge.

    the civil libertarians and do-gooders who crave equality will find it only in the cemetery..

    people usually despise in others what they lack in themselves


  14. and 1 of the many entertaining moments on 4bc would have 2 b with smithy in the afternoons wen he has jackie m c donald on...

    she is so inspiring and full of life..

    after listening 2 her i feel like going out the front and doing hand stands down and around the cul de sac...


  15. "Radio is a man's domain" and unfortunately leaving your chosen profession will find no other, currently, where that isn't the case.

    But I think I have mentioned this before, -given the fact you out number men, you live longer and you can reproduce when you women folk stop tearing each other down and get organised you are going to realise you only need keep a few of us around to take the stuff down from the top shelf and open jars that are stuck.

    Just give us a couple of days notice to get out of town.

  16. though she doesnt work @ 4bc...one alison carabine does come 2 mind...this lady is incredibly informative but i feel she loves the sound of her own voice far 2 much..particularly when she closes off..

    alison carabine fairfax network canbrAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA......

    cheers.p.s.will someone please give the veronica's a decent feed..something overpowering in calories and fat...

  17. Tsk Tsk Crazy Horse !

    Here is the Australian public heading to hell in an obese barrel (so we are told) and your advice is more high protein and carbo loading

    Tut Tut

  18. hey i know ancient man

    but these girls really could do with a huge hit of pork..

    and triple amounts of fat dripping crackling