Girls speak: on Harry Potter, Radio National, and how to fix a sexist screwup

I’m catching up on my podcasts, so I’m just now listening to Books and Arts Daily from the 24th February. And I have to give this selectively ignorant male presenter, Michael Cathcart, some props.

In a previous episode, he screwed up pretty badly. He had just learned about the majority of the attendees at the Harry Potter expo being female, and he made an off-the-cuff remark about how these girls must find Harry Potter “dishy”. He received some feedback after that rather massive sexist gaffe (not, not “quip”, for a quip is witty):

That quip provoked this letter from listener Lynn Beaton: ‘Shame on you for your astonishment that girls have been the majority visiting the museum, and to suggest is that because girls fancy Harry Potter—perhaps girls have adventurous and independent spirits and are able to relate to more in the world than what ‘male’ they fancy!’

In the 24th February show, he freely admitted that he’d screwed that up badly. Which is good. Most presenters would have left it there.

But he didn’t. He hosted several English literature students from a high school on the show: Imogen Salzman-Bye, Joanna Yan, and Mieke Foster. He invited them to speak about Harry Potter, about fandom, and about fan fiction (which he’d never heard of). He came off a touch condescending at times, complimenting them on being “articulate” (but then seeming to catch himself in the act – he bumbled a bit about that). But he did seem to value their viewpoints, let them talk, and above all respected them as authorities on this topic, as people who had something interesting to say to his listenership.

This rather highlighted in my mind exactly how rarely this happens in the media. Teenage girls as experts in their own experience? Teenage girls having something worthwhile to say about the literature that they consume? Teenage girls having something to say in a mainstream/middle-aged type forum like an ABC National radio literature and arts show?

I’m pleased. May there be more of it.

Categories: gender & feminism, media

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

  1. Wow, a radio presenter who not only admits that he screwed up and apologises, but actually goes a step further? Kudos. If only there were more.

  2. Radio National is just the bee’s knees.

  3. “May there be more of it.”
    (Also seconding the props for the admission of error and let’s-fix-it-attitude.)

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