Friday 30 September 2016

Radio review: A woman's place is on the airwaves

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 06/06/2016 | 02:30

Colette Fitzpatrick
Colette Fitzpatrick

Colette Fitzpatrick was adamant that she hadn't been drafted in as a "token woman" when given her own slot on Newstalk last summer. "I'd be insulted if anyone thought I'm just being put on air because I'm a woman," she said.

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She'd be right to feel affronted. She's a formidable broadcaster with a long track record in her own right.

Her defiance, however, missed the point. The real question is not whether she herself is there to represent women in what remains a very masculine line-up, but whether The Colette Fitzpatrick Show itself exists to plug some perceived "women's issues" gap on radio.

Last Sunday's discussion on feminism was typical. Fitzpatrick even began the show by referring to "the big, bad F word", as if there was something dangerous or radical about debating women's rights, when similar conversations can be heard regularly across mainstream media, from The Ray D'Arcy Show to Moncrieff and all - well, most - points between.

Monday's Today With Sean O'Rourke included an entirely affirmative report on the so-called 'Waking The Feminists' movement in Irish theatre. Later that day, on Today FM's Last Word, Matt Cooper interviewed US feminist Lindy West, who was in Dublin to promote her new book Shrill. Abie Philbin Bowman chatted with the same author on Tuesday's Arena on RTE Radio One too. The days when there was anything cutting edge about promoting feminism have long gone.

If anything, the balance has swung the other way. Philbin Bowman even said in passing that a "disproportionate number of internet trolls are men criticising women", when, as Matt pointed out to West, more than half the examples of online trolling of women in the most recent study came from other women.

Her rather unsatisfactory explanation was that society had "entrenched, systemic misogyny" and "it's only natural that women absorb that as much as men do"; but then it depends what you label misogyny. Warren Farrell, dubbed the "father of the men's rights movement" after writing his book The Myth Of Male Power, has had that label thrown at him too but, speaking on The Right Hook on Monday's Newstalk, he came across as a thoughtful and stimulating thinker.

Whether he's right or wrong isn't the issue. What's interesting is that a belief in the innate righteousness of feminism is so embedded into modern media culture that it is ideas which challenge that consensus which now feel transgressive.

Naturalist Eanna Ni Lamhna, meanwhile, was on Wednesday's Anton Savage Show on Today FM, where she was asked what advice she had for a couple who were woken each day by roosting crows on the roof of their small cottage.

"What do you expect if you live in the country?" she replied with refreshing bluntness. "Move back to Dublin if that's the way you feel about it." Now that's what you call a role model for feisty women.

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