Here’s a question for you – with equality between the sexes apparently won, done and dusted, (according to some pundits) – where are all the female game show hosts?
Now, before you jump down my throat, I’m well aware that the female standing alongside the male host – always a glamorous and exceptionally well-dressed beauty – is called a co-host. But who are they trying to kid? We all know she’s just set dressing and can be (and often is) replaced by the next tall, glamorous bombshell who walks into the studio.
No, I’m talking about the central role of the smart, witty, always-has-it-together game show host with the answer cards in his hand. We never see women in this role. In fact, the only time I can remember seeing a woman in charge of any kind of game show is the UK version of Blind Date with Cilla Black – but that was twenty years ago!
So why don’t production companies consider women as suitable for the host role? Is it because if there’s a woman in charge, who are they going to get to artfully drape themselves over the prizes to sex it up a little? Are women in game shows only really useful as set decoration – and if so, what does that tell us about how women are viewed?
Women have made it successfully into that other former male bastion: news reading. There’s a hearty sprinkle of women across both news, weather and most recently, sports reporting (although that’s still a little light on). What is missing, however – and hugely noticeable in its vacuous absence – is the reporting of women’s sports.
Anybody looking at a television today would think women never play sports. Or if they do, they look like Stephanie Rice or Anna Kournikova. Or they do something horribly wrong.
For twenty years, the Australian Women’s Cricket team were unquestionably the best in the world – but the average person would never know. We’ve produced the female version of Tiger Woods (sans his sexual escapades) in the form of Karrie Webb with her 36 professional titles (much more successful than Greg Norman), and a seven times Surfing World Champion in Layne Beachley. Only in recent years has Layne showed up on TV – but that’s because she’s retired and has turned her hand to commentating. Yet Greg Norman, seen by many pundits as a bit of a choker when it comes to the big tournaments, is hailed as something of a national hero despite only a handful of major career wins.
I could go on. The list is almost endless – with a couple of notable exceptions. Coverage of Australian women tennis players has been notably better than any other sport, and during major championships, the women swimmers get as much coverage as the men. Congratulations to the ABC for consistently showing netball competition – if it wasn’t for this dedicated coverage, I would have assumed nobody played it any more.
Outside of that, it’s a bit of a black hole. And it stinks. It seems the only way women in sports can get any media reporting or coverage is if they take their clothes off. Note this recent news story about Matildas player, Lisa De Vanna, who unwisely posted sexy photos of herself on her Facebook page. The photos came to light when a young fan’s mother complained – and the newspapers picked up on the lewdness of the photos, ever desperate for a good, juicy sex scandal. Hands up anybody who’d heard of De Vanna prior to this story.
Women sports teams are told by their PR advisors that the best way to get some media attention is to strip off and do a calendar. They know it’s cheap and tacky, but they do it hoping that once they get a little attention, the good story of their sport and their success will start to build up some momentum. They truly believe that one day, women’s sport will be valued as highly as men’s.
I’m sorry to say, I’m not seeing it. Still. And that stinks, too. In a country that loves sport above everything else, it appears to be only the men who matter – whether it’s a game show or a game of sport. We report every single last detail of our footballer’s lives, no matter how trivial, but we can’t broadcast the success the Matildas had in qualifying for next year’s World Cup!
We have a woman prime minister – surely we can cope with seeing a little women’s cricket on television now and then!