Why the F is Aussie TV still so sexist?
Australia is an amazing country. With every ‘Australia Day’ that passes I feel more and more grateful that this is my home. Living here we sometimes forget how lucky we are particularly as women, exempt from the plethora of horrors that women in less privileged societies encounter in their daily lives. Some of these atrocities include turning a blind eye or worse encouragement of gang rape, female genital mutilation, restriction of women’s freedom and laws that are not applicable to men. It is almost impossible to believe the human rights violations that are bestowed on the women of this world and considered an everyday part of life.
With this in mind I always feel grateful for the life I lead in Australia with safety, freedom, independence, which is a blessing in comparison to many countries around the world. However, there still exist room for improvement in our society. Just because Australia has equality between the sexes on a primary level, we are still lacking in many ways, particularly in important areas such as our media landscape that is completely out of whack in its representation of women.
It’s likely that nothing comes to mind as you try and rack your brain for the last overtly sexist or blatantly offensive act of shovenisim you saw on commercial television. Well in a way that is part of the problem and exactly what makes the whole matter all more frustrating. Australian television isn’t overtly sexist; there is no ‘Naked News’ and a fair share of female presenters dressed in conservative ‘respectable’ outfits. On closer inspection of programming there is an underlining air of sexism that once noticed is hard to ignore and really makes you question what the F is going on?
If you take a look online the most common complaints are regarding the sexist double standards displayed by networks. With male news anchors that become more distinguished as they grey and wrinkle, in contrast female counterparts are all to commonly perky and fresh faced. Followed by a trend of overwhelmingly obnoxious male personas, partnered up with female co-hosts who simply giggle and play the fool.
The current status quo doesn’t bother me as much as what is currently non existent in commercial media landscape…
Where are the strong women???
I’m not talking about the overweight comedian who gets away with a few risqué comments or the ‘mature’ age woman sporting the men’s haircut who can afford to have a sharp tongue without creating too much controversy. Where are the attractive, strong, smart, funny sharp women who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, who are capable of taking the lead and giving it back to their male co-host (without giggling like a pre-pubescent school girl)?
I want to see female media personalities – with personality. Not just personality but also looks. Yes I said it, it’s TV and people want to look at beautiful people – but please lets reserve the ones who haven’t developed a personality for print media and advertorials.
As a female, the more you begin to realise how much this is lacking the more insulting the issue becomes and inevitably leaves you questioning why we as a society are afraid of strong feminine women, who can be funny, sexy, opinionated and sharp all at the same time.
Australia tends to follow the States when it comes to entertainment trends, so why haven’t we caught on to the vastly popular outspoken female TV personalities that reign on U.S prime time screens? Is our country to conservative to see a stunning woman in a hot dress have a strong opinion, say something controversial or just make a sexy joke, I don’t think so.
To further compare this phenomenon, I am fortunate enough to be able to watch the ‘wog’ TV channel when visiting my grandparents (that is on 24/7 at maximum volume). You will be shocked to know that even Eastern European countries that are famous for ‘mail order brides’, women who know their place is in the kitchen and stilettos commonly worn to the supermarket have outdone our networks and embarrassed strong female TV personalities. Female hosts are opinionated, well spoken and unapologetic, to the point that she could be chatting about the most serious of topics in ‘stripper’ heels and a leopard miniskirt, without causing the slightest bit of controversy. Picture that on TV while you eat breakfast.
It’s truly disappointing that the Australian broadcast landscape doesn’t represent the diverse, modern face of Australia – in particularly its women. The real loss isn’t just a matter of cringe-worthy, boring programming that prefers familiarity over innovation, but more importantly a lack of strong female role models that haven’t had their opinions and sexiness toned down for fear of controversy. In addition to sexism there is also another issue that can be highlighted by the fact that SBS still stands out in its choice of multicultural and diverse presenters, while the other networks predominantly maintain a cardboard cutout formula. It only takes a short walk through our CBD to see what a ‘typical’ Australian looks like.
When Victoria and I brainstormed ‘The V&S Show’ we felt that there was a gap in the Australian media landscape, being a distinct lack of diverse, strong female leads, prompting us to create the kind of content that we wanted to see on TV and a truer representation of the young Australian women. After getting to know the industry and studying the content, it still makes very little sense why most free to air content is so incredibly male skewed. I’m pretty sure there is a fairly equal male to female ratio that populates our country, which could only mean there is a very uneven male to female ratio in the commercial networks – particularly the top decision making roles. Quality Australian content plays an important role in the development of our country, not just in growing the arts sector but because the media plays a pivotal role in shaping society and its norms.
Food for thought.
I personally would have stood up for my designer metallic heels and flicked Kochie some spare change as he danced around the pole himself.