Tuesday 25 October 2016

There's more to life than sex and star power

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 30/08/2015 | 02:30

ROSANNA DAVISON: Giving her side of that diet story
ROSANNA DAVISON: Giving her side of that diet story

The title makes no bones about where it's coming from, but the pleasing thing about Woman's Hour, BBC Radio Four's mid-morning magazine programme, is the diversity of topics which it covers each day, from literature to politics, science to music.

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There's a recognition that women may have experiences specific to being female, but they're equally interested in the business of just being human. Gender isn't destiny.

That's what makes the new Late Night Woman's Hour on Thursday evenings so disappointing. Presented by Lauren Laverne, best known as a DJ on BBC 6 Music, this is very much pitched at a younger audience, and showcases many of the weaknesses of modern feminism, namely an over-concentration on sexual identity and expression as, seemingly, the most important aspects of female experience.

Last week's edition was on the subject of lust, with guests including a former dominatrix and a "hands-on sex therapist". The week before, the theme was "dating in the digital age". Is this all that being a woman is about these days? Are we that easily reduced to the sum total of our bodies? Feminism used to be about big ideas.

Another broadcaster who appreciates the value of diversity is Newstalk's Henry McKean, who goes through a wider variety of assignments in one week than many reporters manage in a year.

Recently he was in LA, covering the Special Olympics. Since coming back, he's met a seagull who drinks coffee; resat (and failed) his driving test; been on a gay historical pub crawl of Dublin; and on Thursday's Moncrieff even got into the ring with Irish wrestlers such as the "Ballymun Bruiser" to try out some moves: "I'm giving you a serious headlock. Are you OK?"

McKean reminds listeners that it doesn't need a big name presenter to make entertaining radio. Consider too the current line-up on RTE Radio One, which comprises Mornings With Dave Fanning; Keelin Shanley sitting in on Today With Sean O'Rourke; and Kathryn Thomas helming The Ray D'Arcy Show.

In a few weeks, all with be back to normal, and Ryan Tubridy will be joining D'Arcy on the schedule; but ultimately do these big-money stars really make that much of a difference to listener satisfaction? Fanning, Shanley and Thomas sound just fine.

So does Philip Boucher-Hayes, who was also back on Thursday's Liveline.

Rosanna Davison was on Today FM's Anton Savage Show to talk about the "ruckcus" caused by her views on the health benefits of giving up wheat. It was an interesting discussion, and it was good to hear her get some support from callers because the monstering she received at the hands of social media's pious outrage merchants in recent days was out of all proportion to her supposed offence.

Rosanna surely wouldn't have been so lambasted for her musings on nutrition if she was an Indian guru with a long beard, rather than a former beauty queen. She has every right to speak her own mind. It's called free speech.

Sunday Independent

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