It’s true: The Archers is far more sexist than James Bond | Television & radio

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Using the analytic tool beloved by patriarchy-smashers everywhere, the Bechdel-Wallace test, the researchers Cara Courage and Nicola Headlam have found that The Archers is more sexist than the James Bond film From Russia with Love. To recap, the test requires two women to engage in dialogue about something other than a man for longer than 30 seconds. Only one-third of Archers episodes met this test even once. The BBC responded with a staunch but hard to comprehend defence: “Unlike the Hollywood films this test was designed for, over 18,000-plus episodes The Archers has charted the whole lives of the men and women of Ambridge, both professional and personal.” So, erm, it can’t be sexist because there are women in it, and they’ve been talking for a really, really, really long time.

Germaine Greer, always ready with a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing remark (like … it sounds sexist … but she’s a feminist … so it can’t be sexist … except it sounds sexist), cut in: “It’s probably true to say that when most women talk to other women they talk about men and their feelings.” I suppose. If by “men” she means the chef Joël Robuchon, the musician Herb Alpert and the band Franz Ferdinand, then sure, she has described every conversation I’ve had today. But if, by contrast, she means we just yak on about our misters and how we feel about their habits, then she really needs to have a word with herself before she becomes “ex-feminist”.

Look, Archers, you’re bang to rights. Women who have nothing but their menfolk to discuss are not sophisticated and, more to the point, not accurate representations of the real thing. But your problems really would snowball if anyone were to update the Bechdel-Wallace test so that it reached beyond Hollywood to cover your average agricultural drama of very long standing. Then it might exclude: women who are always making tea; women who are always talking about cake; women who become fiercely competitive with one another over trivial activities such as amateur dramatics to hilarious effect; women who have sexual awakenings that, far from being celebrated by those who love them, are considered inherently ridiculous; women who disapprove of their daughters-in-law; women who get annoyed by their mothers-in-law; women who cluck and fuss; and women who go on about their cats.

If the Archers were to expunge all sexist tropes, then apart from the odd millennial, who has to go away to university just to avoid the deadly choice (busybody or good listener?) that all fictional women of the very old school must face, they would end up with no women at all.

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