So we’ve finally started talking about how many of us don’t like Page 3, what with it marginalising women in general and female consumers of news media in particular. Great. Good for us. And while we’ve been busy doing that, the Telegraph has sneaked in and revamped the “women’s area” on its website. Called – I kid you not – Wonder Women, it claims to be “a new daily online section filled with sassy, irreverent and intelligent content about politics, business, family, life and sex”. To demonstrate the sass quotient, we get a series of headshots showing smiley, preened, young-ish female commentators, all of them vaguely reminiscent of The Day Today‘s Collaterlie Sisters. Wonderful. As a woman I just can’t handle my politics without that added bit of sass.
Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I can’t help asking – just what the hell is all this about? How is it that, five years after children stopped being fobbed off with the eternal disappointment that was the Funday Times, women are still being treated to their own special ladies’ section of the news? This isn’t just the Telegraph – look even further to the right and you have the hate-filled shite-fest that is Femail. Turn left and you have the Guardian Women section which, however worthy, is still buried away in the Life And Style part of the website.* Am I alone in finding this strangely archaic, not to mention totally crap?
Remind me again why we women need these “special” news sections. Is it an extra bonus for us, a special treat for after we’ve been good and ploughed through all the hard, taxing bits of the news? Or is it essentially all we’re meant to be looking at, “our news”, a distillation of all that’s meant to matter to us. As for everything else – main news, sport, finance, culture - well, all of that is for the the real, non-specialised readership, the default people, the men.
I do not wish to suggest that all those boring things we wryly term “women’s interest” should not ever feature in newspapers or on news websites. Hell, if a new make of car or someone kicking a ball into the back of a net constitutes “news”, I don’t see why BB cream vs the latest new breed of foundation shouldn’t. The trouble is, I don’t really wish to be told that this is my “news”. Men might flick straight to the football section, but there’s no heading alerting them to the fact that this is “their bit”. I guess if there was you’d have to conclude that no one read the actual news reports, and that’s clearly untrue – some reports are so straightforward, even a woman could grasp them!
Of course, newspaper women’s sections aren’t all about makeup and cupcakes. Some bits are, and those I propose moving to a new section called “frivolous crap you might want to read in the bath, providing you’re willing to risk making the paper soggy and getting newsprint everywhere / dropping your iPad into the water”. This section would be non-gender specific, for frivolous crap should be for everyone. As for the rest, well, we’d have to split it up / rebrand it in ways which are more newspaper-specific.
For Femail, you might as well just change the name to “people we hate for random cosmetic reasons” (to differentiate it from the main section of Mail, “people we hate for obvious, out-and-out bigoted reasons”). As for the Wonder Women, pretty much all of the articles could be subsumed into the normal Telegraph albeit with a massive disclaimer at the start of each (“Beware! The author of this piece was not a man! But don’t worry – she’s not feminist or anything! Trust us, we’ve even called our business blogger Board Babe!”). To be honest, despite all the fanfare, I don’t believe the creators of Wonder Women would even mind. If you read between the lines of their snippy, anti-feminist introduction, you can tell that even they are mortified by the site’s very existence. As for the Guardian, well, let’s not be too harsh. For sure, gender issues and equality sit uncomfortably beside homes, gardens and celebrity. I wouldn’t mind moving some of it to a brand new section just called Fucking Important Stuff About People Being People. Or perhaps, more realistically, Come On, Men’s Rights Trolls! We’re Right Here Waiting! (The rest I’d leave for Hannah Betts to sort through and categorise. I just can’t be arsed.)
In case all of this sounds irrelevant given that there are “more important things to worry about” – Neil Wallis, I’m looking at you – I would like to make it clear that I have performed all of my “real woman” duties for the day. The kids are fed, bathed and in bed and it was a choice between writing this, doing some knitting or watching CSI. At no point was I going to head out in my silken tights, fighting for my rights, so no loss there. Even so, I believe there is some validity in just not wanting there to be specially demarcated woman-y sections of the news – is that really so much to ask?
* Guardian Woman even got booted off the main menu over the Christmas period to make way for a “festive” section. Fashion, you’ll be pleased to know, got to stay.