Saturday 27 December 2014

Rachel Wyse: How dare you call me an auto-cutie!

Geraldine Lynagh has had to get used to the tweets. They comment about her clothes, her hairstyle and her make-up.

The TV3 journalist – whose work involves both on-the-job reporting and studio anchoring – tends to shake off the comments, but occasionally some stick.

"I'd be getting ready in the morning," she says, "and I'd go to choose a particular top or jacket and I'd remember that someone had said they didn't like it and I'd begin to wonder if they were right."

It's not, she adds, something her male colleagues in the newsroom have to contend with.

"But you get used to it," she says. "It goes with the territory."

Earlier this week, Miriam O'Callaghan said women on television tend to be judged differently to men. It can deter them from going on air.

"Sometimes women feel they are not as competent as men," she told the Irish Independent. "For instance, if you ring them at 7pm and ask them to come on that evening and discuss the Budget, a woman would sometimes doubt she knew enough about it, whereas a man would just say 'sure'.

"Also, as a woman, you're more conscious about coming in, about getting ready and washing your hair."

Her words come just weeks after RTÉ's Head of Television, Steve Carson – who also happens to be O'Callaghan's husband – acknowledged that there weren't enough women on television.

He has subsequently said that the station is working to include more women on the panels of popular television shows like Prime Time and The Frontline.

The words of O'Callaghan and Carson ring true for this newspaper's legal editor, Dearbhail McDonald. As a regular guest on TV3's Tonight with Vincent Browne, she too has had to get used to being judged on her looks.

"Women are subjected to levels of scrutiny about their appearance that would make even the most confident woman think twice about appearing on TV," she says.

"Your weight, your nails, your hair; everything about your appearance is parsed and pulled apart."

In September, shortly after standing in as presenter while Browne was on leave, McDonald laid bare some of the scabrous comments that were directed at her.

And yet, McDonald believes other women who appear on such shows have been subjected to even worse abuse.

Lisa-Marie Berry, who produces Browne's show, says: "As programme makers we have a responsibility to have gender balance across programmes. We have to actively encourage women to participate.

"Twitter can be very critical of both women and men but I notice when women are on air there is more of an emphasis on how they look rather than the importance of what they are saying. I don't think criticism is necessarily a bad thing but sometimes the criticism is unfair and can discourage women from going on air."

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