On the face of it, BBC Radio 5 Live's 'Men's Hour' is a perfect platform for some of the biggest issues facing half the population right now, in the same (obvious) way in which the excellent 'Women's Hour' has done for nigh on 70 years for the other fifty per cent. Sadly from what I can glean from recent episodes, it's dangerously far from the mark and is a feeble, half-committed, almost apologetic attempt at tackling issues which need urgent attention. Its approach, far from addressing issues, almost reinforces the (mis)perceptions and embedded clichés.
Let's take this weekend's episode, which featured a discussion about what motivational tunes are played on the campaign trail Party buses. Quite how this addresses male societal issues is beyond me, unless there's a concern about voting into power a bunch of Swifties who'll spend their time in power twerking rather than voting in policies that make a difference. This was positioned as being part of a wider discussion (which didn't really happen in any detail) about whether there should be a Minister for Men, given everyone else has a dedicated voice - a rather misguided and naïve notion, and one which was batted away as part of the somewhat rife 'epidemic of victimology'.
The nadir however went to the opening question (a benchmark established early) in the 'Dr Mark' section where he answers 'questions a man daren't ask' - such as this week's gambit, "where is the best place to get stabbed?" ('The Cotswolds' remarked Charles Lawley online). The insensitivity, stupidity, and vulgarity in the question, and the jocular manner in which it was posed was just crass - why is a show about male issues and anxieties joking about being stabbed?
The tired theme of politics then reared its fat head again into the Doctor's slot, with 'hilarious' follow-ups to the stabbing insight such as "can I get a cold off kissing a baby on the parliamentary circuit?", and "why do I sometimes forget my football team".
Finally, the discussion moved onto behaviour in the corridors of power and whether there had been a cultural shift in Westminster to stop 'bottom pinching', which featured a couple of female MPs (neither of whom had really experienced it), and a male MP who questioned why this was being discussed on Men's Hour and not Women's Hour, and what the point of the programme actually was. Strangely we didn't hear from him again.
This show could be so much more, and it could so easily tackle some of the biggest taboos in society and start to genuinely make them more digestible, more accepted, and more openly discussed among those who need it. But when the presenter introduces a guest as being the author of 'Wealth Of Nations' and, on being corrected, says "Oh, we couldn't book Adam Smith in today!" (presumably due to his being dead for over 200 years), you really have to worry.
Sadly though, Men's Hour is pathetic, puerile, and misses the point - whether for fear of offending or through outright bad planning at producer level; and ultimately it could be regressing the cause by openly making it difficult to discuss, which goes against the entire ethos of the show.