Should There Be A Quota For Women On Panel Shows?

The BBC recently declared that all-male panel shows are a thing of the past, but when it comes to the casual misogyny of shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats, should we be happy about appearing on them at all?
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If you were watching 8 Out of 10 Cats last night – or any night in fact – you’d have noticed what can only be described as a bona fide sausage fest with a token laydee clapped on the end. We might refer to the current media brouhaha over representation as ‘recent’ but, like so much else, it’s an issue that rears its head every couple of years before simmering back down quietly afterward, with not much having changed. It’s the thin end of the wedge. Soon, it’s hoped, we’ll stop howling on like banshees and settle into a nice, thick fondue, looking delicious again: instead of smoking and burning down the kitchen.

BBC director Danny Cohen recently vowed that all-male panel shows will no longer be produced at Auntie, a decision criticized today by television historian Mary Beard, who’s announced that having panel show quotas for women was a mad, bad plan: that they “do not get to the root of the problem”.

Now, I think quotas are good. Very good. Until we’ve reached a stage when everyone – male, female, animal – reacts with confusion and outrage to a board of directors or parliamentary debate comprised almost entirely of men, they’re a necessity. On this issue, however, Mary Beard’s right, as far as shows like 8 Out Of 10 Cats go. She claims that a quota will lead to women being “vilified in reviews”, picked upon for their “glaring eccentricity and deficient grooming”. And she’s right: this is exactly what would happen.


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What doesn’t seem to have occurred to producers of the show and its companions is that women very rarely want to appear on it. Would you much fancy rubbing shoulders with Jimmy Carr, a man who recently offered “How do you make a gay fuck a woman? Shit in her cunt,” to audiences? Call me old-fashioned, but I’d be rather rim a bee than try and wangle into an old-boys’ club. It’s ok, Jimmy! we should say. You don’t have to ask us to be on! Do away with your quotas and enjoy your bukake of comedy! We will form our own, and dance lickety-split away from any mention of weights, childbirths or marital status! Think Loose Women, on Monday night at 9pm – 8 Out Of 10 Pussies.

In the case of comedy shows that have always prided themselves on a bit of casual misogyny, why encourage women onto the platform? If JK Rowling can write Harry Potter on a pack of wetwipes in a Wimpy baby-changing unit, we can run hell for leather towards our own brand of comedy, go gently into that good night and not look back. There are as many feminisms, as many stripes of women as there are cheeses in a fondue. One or two can’t hope to represent that, nor should they.