Danny Cohen, head of BBC Television, has announced that all male panel shows are 'not acceptable' and from now on shows like Mock the Week and QI are going to include at least one female contestant. This move away from what Caitlin Moran described as the 'boys' game that works for boys' has been welcomed by many in the feminist community. Campaigner Laura Dodsworth said it was 'good' because she 'feels disconnected from programmes which constantly have all male panels.'
The No More Page 3 Campaign went to see Bridget Christie's Edinburgh award winning show, 'A Bic for Her' for their Christmas Party. I enjoyed it so much I went back and saw it again with a friend. Hearing Christie talk about the ludicrousness of Bic having made a pink pen for female hands (because the standard ballpoint is too difficult for the female gender to operate) I felt a tremendous sense of relevance and connection that I have never felt watching a television panel show. I can find male comics funny, hilarious at times, but when you have only ever been presented by male dominated line ups the comedy becomes tiresomely irrelevant for a female audience. As campaigner Kathy McGuinness said it was 'about time' this move took place, she is 'so bored of malevision.'
There is a concern, voiced by Jan Ravens on an all female panel on Newsnight, that female comics will be made to feel and look like the token female. 'We have to normalise it,' she said, 'with more female hosts' and 'more female team captains.' Lucy Porter, also on the panel, said the worry is you can approach the job thinking, 'I'm representing my entire gender today I better be good' and 'you don't really want to go in with that pressure.' But Ravens, Porter and Maureen Lipman sounded confident and comfortable on Newsnight- so perhaps the answer is simply to put more than one woman on.
Having had some experience working in comedy I know there are many capable female comics out there. I used to work on the new material night, 'Laugh and a Half' at The Pineapple Pub in Kentish Town. One of my favourite memories is when Tiffany Stevenson came and did a gig with us. Somehow managing to be hilarious about sensitive subjects like abortion, Stevenson had me in stitches. 'I stand up by shaming sexist attitudes in my comedy,' she says. I have also had the privilege of being involved with the wonderful 'Stand up for Women' comedy nights which are directed by the passionate Dr Sasha Rakoff in order to raise money for women's charities. These nights have witnessed fantastic performances by Andi Osho, Sara Pascoe, Ada Campe, Josie Long, to name but a few. I have also reviewed for the organisation Funny Women whose objective is to nurture female talent. Set up in 2002 by Lynne Parker after a comedy promoter she worked with declared that 'women aren't funny.' In response to Cohen's comments Parker stated that, 'Over the past 11 years I have seen at least 2000 female comedians and performers, it is inconceivable that there isn't a pool of brilliant, articulate funny women capable of sitting alongside the men on panel shows.'
With the force of feminism hitting the UK with unflinching determination right now, it stands to reason that this would have an effect on the comedy circuit which is usually the first to spot trends and reflect on them- after all, isn't that what being 'quick witted' is all about? In 2014 women are continuing to make more of a space for themselves and I know I am not alone in feeling tremendously excited by the prospect of seeing a lot more funny females on TV.