I have some questions about Question Time. That’s what it’s there for, no?
The first is why nobody has remixed the unbearably catchy theme-song, come up with some kind of animal-related dance move and stormed the UK charts therewith. The second is where DimbleDarling procures his incomparable neckwear (suspect they are constructed from the undergarments of the audience members and mailed to him with loving acrostic poems accompanying). The third regards women, and the lack thereof.
Politics and television, at least in the UK, seem to strut proudly hand in manicured-hand. People who have never bought a newspaper in their lives sit down to watch political panel shows, whether they be earnestly well-intentioned like QT and QI, or rather more tongue-in-cheek (and other places) like Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week.
I watch QT every week, on Thursday at the slightly absurd time of 10:35. I sincerely think the fact that it exists can only ever be cited as a good thing. It tours the country, it deals with popular issues, the colour-scheme is purple and pink. It incorporates Twitter, live audiences and the odd purple-haired audience member. It manages to be both modern and traditional and it traverses the political spectrum (more or less). And if all of this means that occasionally I have to watch Peter Hitchens onscreen while a combination of blood, red wine and sweat oozes from my clenched fists, then so be it.
QT has many a good point, not least of all being the burgeoning number of bowties in the audience. But you don’t have to be dangling a smoking bra from your hand to notice the great number of penises resting beneath the desk.
This could quickly become a rant – but much of it has been said before. What can quickly be summarized is this: rarely – if ever – have the number of women on QT outweighed the number of men. Further to that, when women are on the panel, they are subjected to criticism on voice and dress, rather than politics. Mary Beard anyone?
QT consists of a panel of five. There are often two women on the panel. There is also often only one. That one is alarmingly frequently Nadine Dorries, palpably still trying to digest that ostrich anus.
The @BBCExtraGuest account occasionally goes to a woman, but everyone knows that that’s the booby prize.
But is this really the problem?
DimbleDelicious, when interviewed on the subject in 2012, made the point that the panel attempts to reflect public life, and that this remains a male dominated environment. Oh, David. In the same interview, he admitted to a certain sadness in his inability to morph his own gender. He also stated that he couldn’t “create women to put them on Question Time”, suggesting that parts of the DimbleAnatomy aren’t in such good working order as that firm index finger of his.
Sexual inadequacy and voluntary hermaphroditism aside, does he have a point? Is QT, rather than being the problem, merely a symptom of a bigger issue? There are currently 146 female MPs in the UK, a mere 22% of the total. Common sense tells us that that number simply isn’t high enough, especially as the same document informed me that women make up 51% of the population and 53% of the civil service.
There’s no easy nor fast solution. Numbers of female MPs are on the up. The percentages in the parliaments of Scotland and Wales are considerably more favourable. And, if all else fails, women live longer so there’s that. Did you know that of the number of UK citizens aged 85+, two-thirds are female? So, statistically, if we wait around long enough, sharpening our canes, the revolution should be fairly easy.
It’s easy to joke and it’s easy to bitch – it’s less easy to approach the patriarchal culture of the BBC head-on and tell them that begging off responsibility to Downing Street is not enough. If they grant younger female political minds the exposure that the political panel show inevitably garners, then perhaps they would rise higher, faster. If women on the show were savvy and politically-punchy then other be-bosomed viewers might take the same path. The responsibility of the media and the press has been at the forefront of many a debate in recent times – debated on QT itself at length – and that power should be used to impress rather than merely reflect established politics.
In one recent episode of QT, beneath the echoing ceilings of St Paul’s cathedral in London, Michael Heseltine’s phone rang. Jokes on the Twitterverse poured forth, expressing surprise that someone as old as he owned a phone, speculating upon what his wife wanted to ask, generally titillated and amused.
Would the jokes have been as good-natured if the panelist had been a woman? Time we had a few more opportunities to find out, I say.
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