The BBC recently used male “experts” to discuss breast cancer and teenage pregnancy. Just read this article courtesy of the Guardian. So, they asked women who had breast cancer, survivors, people who had been through treatment, women who had advised on treatment? Sort of, for anecdotal evidence. The report on breast cancer being discussed was on distress and impact. On whom? Women! Yet a man was interviewed about it? For the teenage pregnancy piece it asked a young woman who had a child when a teenager, a mother of a pregnant teenager, a woman at least? Nope. A man. So of course they had great insight. NOT. Caroline Criado-Perez writes a really interesting article here about the BBC’s messages it gives out on experience and expertise.
How on EARTH can a man know what it is like to be a woman? Never mind one with breast cancer. How on EARTH can a man put himself in the position of a teenage girl never mind one who is pregnant? Any sensible man asked to do that would laugh in the questioner’s face and say “Don’t be so ridiculous”. Now, I am a great believer in the arts and the use of drama to teach just about anything (and that’s another worry for anyone who cares about education taking the arts out of the Ebacc) and so believe role play is very important in getting people to empathise and all that. But seriously, that’s not what is going on here is it?! The opinion is being asked for by a so called expert in the field. It isn’t a lesson aimed at people sharing and learning from each other and seeing other people’s points of views is it?!
I don’t think there is any discussion to be had! It is quite simple. If you want an expert in a certain field, particularly one that requires experience and/or ability to empathise you don’t ask someone unable to do that however much knowledge they may have. It is insulting to all concerned. It is quite ludicrous for the BBC to say that they were unable to find women. Criado-Perez and her co-founder, Catherine Smith founded The Women ‘s Room UK a site for women to register as experts for the media. Within 48 hours they had 40 people register. So the BBC couldn’t even put out a single Tweet? Rubbish. Why couldn’t they do that? Laziness? Stupidity? Apathy? It’s not rocket science (bet they’d get a man to speak on that though!) Get me in that BBC on the Board I’d soon sort them all out I can tell you!
But seriously, it’s like my saying (point 8) that if you are a company selling to children/young people/families and you aren’t involving them in feedback and development then you are missing a trick and what about the people you don’t know you aren’t getting feedback from? (point 7) Similarly “Points of View” and focus groups have their limitations. The BBC needs to get ahead and involve its viewers more. The customers. If only the BBC was more innovative involving their customers! Is that too scary a thought for them? Perhaps we the customers know best and the BBC Powers That Be might be surprised by how much expert advice it gets.
I asked the question on a LinkedIn Q & A and someone thought that my saying that you need a female to answer questions on how a female feels about having breast cancer or be a female to understand being pregnant as a teenager made me prejudiced and offensive. I like to think of myself as unprejudiced and well I can certainly be offensive but I don’t believe that this point of view is either of those things!
What do you think are the reasons for such a shortage of female experts on the BBC?
May 2014 update. Well, given that I have appeared on the BBC a few times now regarding complaining and consumer rights I’m not sure whether that is an improvement or not?!