Some short months ago the big-wigs of the BBC pledged to give us shows which included more women, throwing out the all-male line-ups that categorised so many of the prime-time comedies on our screens. A positive step for women in the entertainment industry and a welcome change to the balding, middle-aged, middle-class man that usually fronts our favourite shows.
In line with this promise, and with the retirement of Bruce Forsyth, the BBC handed over one of their biggest shows, Strictly Come Dancing, into the capable hands of Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman. Two women hosting a prime-time show that goes out to ten million viewers every weekend is certainly the change we need to see on our screens and a cause for celebration.
Yet as the opening glitter ball rolls across my television, we watch as Tess and Claudia are escorted onto our screens in the arms of the able professional male dancers and my excitement and anticipation very quickly turns to irritation and annoyance. Every single week both Tess and Claudia are walked down the stairs by men and ‘given away’ to the nation for the night. Although they’ve been awarded a hot spot on British television, and are two incredibly successful women in their own right, they are apparently incapable of walking down a flight of stairs and introducing themselves without leaning on the strong arm of a man.
Bruce Forsyth, although far older and more fragile than either Tess or Claudia, was never ‘walked on’ screen by a young woman. No one would dream of helping Alan Sugar into his chair and both John Torode and Greg Wallace can walk onto the set of Masterchef all by themselves, without any help at all. Similarly, Graham Norton manages to make it to his sofa completely unaided and David Attenborough always stands alone. So why then, must Tess and Claudia clutch onto a man as he brings her into the spotlight?
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are left to traipse around the British countryside without the aid of a male chaperone, but perhaps that’s because they’re wearing ‘sensible shoes’ and trousers, as opposed to long frocks and heels. If that is the case, it leads me to wonder if Tess and Claudia dressed in a less stereotypical vision of femininity, could they be trusted to take centre stage without a man’s guidance?
You might argue that it’s a little point and irrelevant, but it’s the finer details that matter the most. When the BBC is making such a huge step in the right direction, championing women and working to change a fundamental and unjust bias in the entrainment industry, why then must that change come on the arm of a man?