Funny Women

I watched Newsnight (BBC2 last night) conclude with a discussion on the insistence of Danny Cohen (head of BBC TV) that more women be included in panel shows such as Mock the Week and QI.

Now, I’m all for equality, but is this a good way to tackle the problem of imbalance?

Let’s take QI – chaired by the lovely Stephen Fry with teams of mainly male competitors and an esoteric scoring system. Undoubtedly a testosterone-rich environment, this is blokey comedy at its richest, not feminised by having a (whisper it) homosexual presenter. And there are women who thrive on the show – Sandi Toksvig (hey – is homosexuality compulsory here?) gives the male panellists a run for their money, whilst Jo Brand could almost be Les Dawson reincarnated as a woman. That’s two females who do well, in part because they behave in a mannish manner by standing up for themselves when necessary, but without trying to be men. They are women – and they are funny.

So – does a policy of increasing the number of female panellists mean we need women to act like men? Or should we change the format to be more feminine? Stephen – time to camp it up.

No, I can’t believe this would work. I applaud both Sandy and Jo for being entertaining women in a man’s panel game. And make no mistake – it is a man’s game. Not only are the panellists mostly men, the whole idea was created by a man (John Lloyd) specifically for Mr Fry and Alan Davies. I don’t know if they ever thought about including women or if we snuck in afterwards. It’s a big boys’ playground game. That’s why it’s fun to watch.

I worked for many years in male-dominated environments and I know how much it takes for a woman to get any respect. I’ve been told on many occasions that I was thought of as “one of the boys” and other, less printable, terms. I’ve worked in teams where there was more testosterone than oxygen in the air – and it isn’t healthy. Groups of men will act in ways they know will cause problems, but no-one is prepared to say anything in front of the rest. And so…

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked in all-female offices, too. And it can get so bitchy that I sometimes wondered if I should keep a note of who’s not speaking to whom and who’s staking a claim on which fellas…

Danny Cohen is correct that we should have more women on panel shows. But shoehorning females into the boys’ own world of most TV panel shows won’t work. You’ll annoy the fans by diluting the male hormones, which will change the feel of the shows they love. And the poor token women will know they’re included because of their gender, not because they’re likely to be funny.

Tokenism doesn’t work. If a panel game has to have a women in front of the camera, what about someone from an ethnic minority? Or a disabled person? QI, at least, is already in the clear on the LGBT front – should we insist all other shows toe the line, too?

Imagine the advert:
_____________________________________________________________________________________
Panellists wanted for new quiz show. Successful applicants will have appropriate qualifications or be able to demonstrate proficiency in at least two of the following areas:

Female
Non-Caucasian
Visible Disability
L/G/B/T
Over 50 years of age

GSOH desirable but not essential.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

No – this isn’t the solution. For women to be entertaining and successful in panel games, we need to involve them from the start. We need female designers and writers, as well as males. Perhaps in a few years we could all be enjoying panel games where men and women compete on an equal footing – and they can all enjoy being themselves. An entertaining panel of people.

Read more here:
http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/feb/08/bbc-comedy-shows-male-panels-female-presence

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Feeling Good Alone

January: a dark month to be alone.

You’re stuck in the house – haven’t left it for days. The last conversation you had was with that weird guy who tried to sell you a dodgy-looking Blu-Ray last week and you’ve started talking to the house plant. And that’s been dead for years.

Whether through illness, career choice, retirement, a baby, personal circumstances or something else, you may find yourself entirely on your own for days on end – even months. But we are gregarious animals, we need to be part of the herd. So how does a solitary human cope on their own?

Many writers spend the working day on their own, a lot of people with chronic illness barely leave their home and an increasing number of single people have little reason to leave an empty house. There are many of us living alone with no real interaction with the outside world – and that number looks likely to increase.

I’m luckier than many stay-at-homers, I have my Hubby to keep me sane. Or is it conversations with the cats? Anyhow, my disability makes it hard to leave the house and go somewhere, while my writing work keeps me chained to my computer. But I’ve found a few little tricks to stop me going stir-crazy.

Don’t be Alone All Day

For a long time, I used to make a point of getting out of the house and having a conversation with someone – even if it was only the person making me a coffee. But between worsening health and the closure of my nearest café, that isn’t realistic any more. But there are still options. There are friends I can call – or they may call me. I have some good friends I can connect with online – real friends, not just social media contacts. One way or another, I can interact with another human being.

But not everyone is so lucky.

Yes, there are organisations who will listen if someone is desperate, but they aren’t much help if you’re just feeling a little lonely. The internet is a great resource, with chat rooms and social media, free phone calls to be made and a worldwide community where someone is always online. Many of my social media contacts are also friends, but you can’t beat the face-to-face conversation for making you feel human.

There’s a lot to be said for shopping from home. Whether it’s the postman ringing your doorbell with a parcel from an online retailer or a uniformed man bringing a week’s shopping from a supermarket – it’s human contact and that’s a bonus that comes with the free delivery service offered by many retailers.

If you can get out of the house, take a walk when the dog-walking brigade are out, visit a café, a church or your local library. Many clubs are free – it doesn’t have to cost anything to socialise.

Love Yourself

Not leaving the house isn’t an excuse not to make yourself respectable. Many stay-at-homers report living in their pyjamas, not bothering with personal hygiene and generally letting things slip because no-one’s going to see them. I don’t agree – you will see yourself. Aren’t you worth getting dressed for? Is your life so busy you don’t have time to wash and dress?

Yes, I have days when I’m officially “ill”, worse than just the usual disability problems. And I’ll spend a day or three in bed when I need to – not dressing, even not brushing out my hair. But as soon as I feel that bit better, I behave as if I’m going back to “work” – as myself. Someone who has a bath, gets dressed and wouldn’t have to apologise if the doorbell rings and there’s a hunky young man come to deliver a parcel.

I go further. And these are some of the things that make me feel human when I’m on my own all day. I wear perfume every day, just for myself. It’s a luxury, but it doesn’t cost much for the number of days’ wear in each bottle. Sometimes I wear a necklace or a pair of earrings, just because I can. I’m not one for makeup even when I go out, but if I was…

Or for the blokes – why not shave each morning? Or keep the facial hair trimmed, as you prefer? Assume you’re going to open your door and see someone so fanciable you’d regret not having made an effort.

Create Something

I know my books aren’t great literature, my knitting isn’t going to win any fashion awards and I’ll never be a Celebrity Chef. But people appreciate my writing, my jumpers and the food I make – people including myself! The feeling I get from baking a loaf of bread is completely disproportionate to the small effort that goes into it. Even doing a craft I’m useless at is fun (I can’t draw for toffee, but my notebooks are littered with sketches of machines / clothes / maps I’d be embarrassed to show anyone!) One of the benefits of giving up work is having time to make stuff and I only wish I had more time to create in my life!

Look After Yourself

Cooking for one is such a hassle. It takes so long to prepare food. It’s easier and cheaper to eat ready meals that will poison me. Or nothing at all. I mean, I don’t have time to peel veg!

Wanna bet?

There are myths in the media about how difficult it is to eat properly. How expensive fresh veg is – and that there are no greengrocers anywhere. Programmes on telly give the impression only celebrity chefs can prepare food that’s fit to eat – so buy their latest book and drool over glossy photos of five-star cuisine while you stuff your face with greasy takeaway food full of salt and sugar.

Or buy some good old-fashioned veg from a supermarket and cook it for yourself. It doesn’t have to be exciting or exotic – it doesn’t take much effort to wash a carrot. And if your experiments don’t always work, is it really a disaster? It’s probably edible – and you’ll do better next time.

Endorphins are Your Friends

Big word – tiny chemicals. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones generated by your body. They are the way your body is programmed to reward you when you do something right. From the happy feeling when you eat a good meal to the warm afterglow in the bedroom, we should all take time to get a little of this legal and safe “high”.

Yes, even stay-at-homers have sex drives.

Research shows your body will produce endorphins when you eat a good meal, meet someone you fancy or go shopping. But also when you meditate, exercise, talk to someone or make something. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!

The Little Things

One of the greatest perils of the stay-at-home life is the blandness of daily existence. Don’t let yourself be shut in like a cockroach in a tiny cupboard. Open the curtains and look out at the world. If you’re down – have a good cry. Get it out of your system and step back into the world. Treat your life like a job – something you have to make an effort for.

Because YOU’re worth it.

If you really can’t cope with being alone, there are many organisations to help. On a really bad day, there are always The Samaritans on 085457 90 90 90 (UK) for anonymous, non-judgemental listening.