What is women’s television? On the face of it, it is a programme featuring lots of women doing womanly things that women in the audience can relate to. The epitome of women’s television is Call the Midwife. It’s about women, going about delivering babies, eating bits of cake, washing the dishes, crimping their hair, twittering about boys and patronising old, demented biddies. Sometimes to spice things up someone will have a post-natal psychotic break or use someone as a sex slave or there will be a bomb scare or something. But even when something interesting does happen, the women deal with it like women do – they talk to people reasonably, make preachy speeches about the essence of life itself, wag their fingers about and make it boring again. There is nothing so interesting that Call the Midwife can’t make tiresome and twee. Men do not want to watch it.
Place this in contrast to the manliest of all of the manly shows in the history of men – Sons of Anarchy, and ask yourself – what would you prefer to watch? The Real IRA having a shoot-out with a motorcycle gang in a multi-storey carpark or two women bickering about the best way to organise the seating plan for a vaccination clinic? Obviously, I’d go for the latter. I am a woman; I am often bickering, I have been in waiting rooms and have many opinions about seating options. This is very relatable stuff. On the other hand, I have never killed a man by backing an articulated lorry through a solid brick wall. Not through lack of trying; I just couldn’t figure out how to get the thing into reverse on account of my vagina impairing my ability to understand motor vehicles. A man would have handled things differently.
Men need action, intrigue and someone who knows how to throw a punch. So what about Orange is the New Black, a show where a dominantly female cast engage in power plays, acts of savage violence, casual sex and witty repartee? That’s got enough action in it to keep anyone going. Men would watch that, wouldn’t they? Well, no they don’t. It’s a woman’s show. It’s got all women in it and stuff. Given that, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion that women’s television is a television show dominated by a female cast and scorned by a male audience, so saturated with privilege that they can’t stand even one hour where women are the centre of attention.
But is that really true? What do Orange is the New Black and Call the Midwife have in common? On the face of it, not very much but they do share one common feature – they both feature zero interesting male characters. In Orange is the New Black the men are stupid, wispy or just plain psychotic. In Call the Midwife, they are quaintly chirping nausea factories or evil exploiters who stalk around punching anything with a pair of tits. Really, it’s insulting.
Essentially, women’s television is a television programme featuring a predominantly female cast completely devoid of male characters with any emotional depth or interesting motivations. Of course, programmes of this nature exist with the genders reversed, it’s just that we don’t call that ‘men’s television’. We just call it television.
Women watch significantly more television than men, yet are under-represented in its production. Currently, women make up only 40% of television producers, 26% of television writers and only 13% of television directors and this disproportionate representation is reflected on the screen with only 38% of characters on prime time television being female, and only 44% of these even having a job. Women are accustomed to viewing programmes where there are no positive or even interesting representations of our gender. After all, if we started to get sniffy about it then we wouldn’t have a whole lot to watch.