I pretty much fired off yesterday’s complaint to the BBC (click here to read) in a fit of righteous indignation, finding it cathartic but not really expecting any response.
However… This morning I got a call from a chap at Over To You (the listener feedback show broadcast on the World Service at weekends) saying that not only were they taking my complaint seriously, they actually wanted to feature me on this week’s programme!
Cue panic, excitment, surprise, cynicism, excitement, and panic.
We had a chat and he said he needed to go away, work out who at the BBC should respond to my comments, and generally think about how to do the piece. He called me back later in the day and said that they probably won’t do it this week because they really want to lead with this piece and therefore they want to do it in a later programme. The problem is that they’ve already got this week’s show pretty much planned, apparently, and also they are needing to work out how to do the piece. It is really a high level editorial issue, but it apparently isn’t appropriate to challenge high level editorial people to respond to specific examples, they are more for general issues – so it is not easy to work out exactly how to put the piece together.
Fob-off? Not sure, don’t think so. He did seem keen on doing the piece as he felt it was a really strong one, and fairly topical given the current interest in “size zero” stories.
So now I feel this MASSIVE weight of responsibility to get this right, because I feel as though I am speaking up for The Movement. If I can come across well and put my points persuasively, billions of people could have a moment of feminist epiphany; if not, billions of people will snort and myths of how feminists are wrong and dumb and shrill and uptight and prudish will be perpetuated forever. OK, maybe not billions. Maybe this isn’t a moment that will Change The World. But that’s how this weight of responsibility feels, you know?
Anyway, dear readers, here is where I need your help.
Firstly, any thoughts, tips, ideas on how not to get set up and make a total idiot of myself would be welcome. The show is prerecorded so there’s no danger of live on-air freeze-ups, but I’m quite keen not to say anything completely daft or get taken for a ride.
I think I will be expected to stick to the “topical” size zero issue if I am going to get any airtime, and I will have to be sensitive to the fact that they will edit me out or down if they don’t really like what I say… within those constraints though, I think I am allowed to say more or less what I want.
I have in mind to try and take the general point that BBC presenters rarely challenge and often perpetuate the sexist / sizeist attitudes that enable them, and others, to judge women’s bodies; and that this contrasts with the generally much better approach taken when other prejudiced or discriminatory attitudes are at issue e.g. racism or disability discrimination. I would use the examples I mentioned in my e-mail (see yesterday’s post) as evidence of this. And I would then want to use that general point as a platform to ask the BBC about their editorial policy on this kind of sexism.
So: Do they have an editorial policy on handling stories about women’s body image, to ensure that they avoid trivialising women’s experiences? How does the BBC expect presenters to respond to instances of body fascism / sizeism on phone-ins? What steps does the BBC take to ensure that its producers and presenters have appropriate awareness of these kinds of gender issues? That kind of thing.
Any thoughts on that? Any more ideas?
What kind of questions would YOU ask if you had the chance to actually speak to and possibly influence (albeit admittedly in a probably very minute way) a senior BBC editor on the subject of sexism, the beauty myth, and sizeism generally?
Secondly, the producer person I spoke to suggested that if I do hear any more examples of the things I was complaining about, I should drop him an e-mail as this might help give him the angle he needs to make the piece work. So, if you happen to be a World Service listener and you hear anything in the next few days that makes you want to spit, let me know! If you can tell me when you heard it, on what programme, I should be able to listen-again on the website and come up with an opinion of my own.
Finally, and most importantly – please, people, promise that you won’t hate me and denounce me as a traitor to The Cause if I screw this up. Or if it all turns out in a boring anti-climax because nothing more ever comes of it. Pretty please?