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pissed off feminist fights back: underrepresented and unimpressed

pissed off fem

There is such a thing as a funny woman. I don’t know why I have to say that. I shouldn’t have to say that. It’s not a topic for debate. It’s an irrefutable fact. Women are funny. They are also intelligent and snarky and sarcastic and worthy of space on television and in all media.

I’m complaining because as it stands, women are underrepresented, not just on comedy panel shows, but on all panel shows. They should be up front and centre as hosts, guests and regulars. After all, women make up approximately half of the Australian population. Why aren’t they half of panel shows? Do people not respond well to a female making jokes and snide asides on television?

Take shows like The Agony of Life (more of an interview format, but an easy way to demonstrate the unevenness on prime-time television): eleven men, nine women. It’s at least closer to equal than the upcoming Tractor Monkeys, which purportedly has ten female guests scheduled out of a total 32. That’s less than a third. And then there’s The Last Leg where for the most part three men interview another man or, on an off day, a woman.

As Suzy Freeman-Greene from The Age writes: ‘Panel shows are survival-of-the-fittest affairs… about showing off, shooting the breeze and overt displays of cleverness… Why aren’t women getting the same chances to show off?’

Television is blatant in its disregard for female stars (outside of soaps and breakfast TV). There is a token woman (if that) on shows like Gruen Planet: just one, with two male regulars, a male host, and one male guest. Maybe two women, at most, out of five guests on Q&A with a male host.

At the very least the commercial channels have Chrissie Swan and Carrie Bickmore.  They had Good News Week, which although far from equitable had strong female guests like Amanda Palmer to add a certain air of fabulousness to the whole thing. And SBS has Julia Zemiro. But Channel 10 does not get off scot-free – they did decide to can The Circle.

The loss of The Circle, a female-centric panel show, is something we should still mourn. Because we don’t have that anymore. Sure it had its problems, and a lot of it comes down to the way shows are marketed. There must be a mentality where a show that has an equal male-female ratio or is in women’s favour must be for women only. The same can’t be said for shows with an entirely male cast. Both men and women are encouraged to watch and engage with The Footy Show and its testosterone-fuelled shenanigans, but not with, say, a group of women discussing current events.

The gender imbalance can be easily remedied. All you need to do is add a couple more women where unfunny men already are— replace Dave Hughes with Kate Langbroek, who held her own amongst four men on The Panel ten years ago. Heck, replace him with anyone. Anyone is funnier.

After all, it’s not like we are wanting for female talent. What about Hannah Gadsby? Not only has she proven herself to be politically engaged and sassy and  funny at the same time, shining a light on issues of mental health, homosexuality and rape culture in her comedy. Or bringing Claire Hooper back onto our television screens? Freeman-Greene even suggested Linda Jaivin, a novelist whose fiction is biting and subversive.

And where do we apportion blame? Is it the fault of women who are not willing to put themselves out there? Or the fault of networks who don’t go looking for, or outright reject, female talent and who don’t notice an imbalance when they see it?

And how can you support these up-and-coming (and established) comediennes? So they get onto panels, and the chance to create their own shows like Josh Thomas’s Please Like Me? You go to their gigs. You write to television stations. And you make a point of criticising shows that don’t bother to address these issues of representation.

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