entertainment

Is this the biggest boys' club of them all?

Boys club much?

 

By RADIO GIRL

Sexism, it would seem, is the current topic de jour. Whether it’s Julia Gillard making headlines worldwide for her attack on Tony Abbott, or Tracey Spicer delivering a scathing letter to a former employer that demanded she take “two inches off her hair and two inches off her arse,” sexism and whether it plays a role in our lives has become a hot button topic.

For me, it’s easy. I’ve no doubt that I work in one of the most sexist industries still operating – radio. Even as I write this I’m not sure if I will submit it or attach my name to it, knowing the kind of reaction I will get from the industry I am still a part of.

For the past six years I’ve worked my way up, from a stint in a small country town, progressing on to bigger markets and eventually capital city radio. I have worked in pretty much every department; copy (ads), announcing, panelling, producing and managing. I’m proud of how hard I have worked and what I have been able to achieve. And for 90% of the time I have loved it. The other 10% is full of stories that sound like something from a 1960s soap opera:

– The General Manager who hired me over the phone then told me, to my face, he wasn’t sure if he would have hired me in person.

– Being asked if I was hormonal, if my marriage was okay, and if there was something else going on in my life when I had a dispute with a work colleague.

– The group of managers who rated every woman in the company on how good her arse was. (They had a points system and everything.)

– The work experience girl who was told it would be good for her career to go back to a visiting (and married) announcer’s hotel room.

– Being told by a fellow announcer not to go for a promotion because my current job was a great one to ‘have a baby in’.

A female-only breakfast show? How absolutely outrageous. Presenter: Chrissie Swan

– The General Manager who hired a girl unsuitable for the job because she was #@$%able. (His words. He was forced to fire her less than 3 months later.)

– The high profile journalist who asked me, with my husband sitting next to me, if I had %$#&ed anyone else since I’d been married. And would I like to? (I still can’t believe I even dignified the question by saying ‘no’.)

– The General Manager that told the girls in the station daily whether their ‘racks’ looked good or not.

– Being left in no doubt that a married woman’s affair with her co-worker had made her somehow a more valuable work asset.

– And just this week I was overlooked for a job, given to a bloke who has less experience than me.

Then there are the countless jokes, the continuous sexual innuendo and the unwanted physical attention – ranging from staring to groping.

Don’t even get me started on the discrepancy between men and women in high profile roles. There was hysteria earlier this year when ARN announced a female-only breakfast show with Chrissie Swan and Jane Hall, when male-only shows have dominated the airwaves for years. (Martin & Molloy, Hamish and Andy, Merrick and Rosso, Ross and John…)

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And why, when women make up at least 50% of the population do they not have a voice on talk radio? Probably because the men that run the industry see women as fitting a certain role in society that wouldn’t quite fit the macho macho man image of talk radio. Tracey Spicer recounts her attempts to enter talkback radio:

“He put it simply yet eloquently: ‘There’s a reason why you don’t hear women on commercial talkback radio,’ he said. ‘No-one wants to hear the whiney sound of a female voice. Us blokes get enough nagging at home!’ Really, in retrospect, it was foolish to think I was worthy of such a role.”

Tracy Spicer

As part of a breakfast team I was told to alter my personality to fit the typical female stereotype. “Must not be provocative, must love animals, must complain about husband,” was some of the delightful feedback I received. Because no woman can say anything provocative, be ambivalent about animals or actually like her husband (yet strangely I fit into all 3 categories).

I was also actively discouraged to discuss sport, particularly if it was a sport I knew more about than my male colleague, because well, silly girls don’t know anything about sport, do they?My reactions to encountering sexism have ranged from an eye roll to genuine fear. The eye roll is reserved for the man who announces, “Phwoarr, I love summer,” when I walk in the room in a summery dress.

The fear is how I have felt when away with a co-worker, when I could not get inside my hotel room fast enough.I also want to make clear there are many, many men who I have worked with who have been genuinely wonderful, respectful and encouraging in this industry. But they are sadly few and far between.

My fear is that I have been complicit in it, because until now, I have done nothing. I’ve fake laughed my way through my career, burying my head in the sand, all the while knowing that if I’m seen as a ‘good sport’ it will advance my career. But enough is enough. Somewhere out there a 16 year old girl is rocking up to her local radio station, desperate for some work experience and a foot in the door. And because no one has told these men that they can’t behave this way, they are going to continue to do what they’ve always done.

I applaud every high profile woman in this industry, because I know, regardless of whether or not they admit it, what they have endured to get where they are. I just don’t think I can endure it anymore. I am exhausted. And I am inspired by the passion. The passion of Julia telling Tony, “No more”! The passion of Tracey giving a big one fingered salute to the man that told her “to stick her tits out a bit more”.

So Julia and Tracey, I’m with you. It’s time to stand up and speak out.

Radio Girl currently works for one of Australia’s top commercial radio networks. She wishes she had the ability and courage to put her name to this article, but likes having electricity, food and a roof over her and her family’s heads.

Tags: career-and-money , current-affairs , women
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