Broadly, The Pool and Colette Fitzpatrick: Media for women, by women

Newstalk’s new Sunday show promises to ‘give women a platform’. It’s not the only one

 Newstalk 106-108 FM revealed that Colette Fitzpatrick will join the station to present a brand new Sunday morning show, “The Colette Fitzpatrick Show”, sponsored by Marks & Spencer

Newstalk 106-108 FM revealed that Colette Fitzpatrick will join the station to present a brand new Sunday morning show, “The Colette Fitzpatrick Show”, sponsored by Marks & Spencer

 

The press release announcing the arrival of The Colette Fitzpatrick Show to the Newstalk schedule made its ambition clear. The Sunday morning show wouldn’t just be hosted by that lesser spotted variety of radio presenter, a woman, it would also be about women.

Fitzpatrick had been looking to get back into radio to do a show where she could “give women a platform to discuss issues that are important to us”.

Opening with a put-the-world-to-rights panel discussion on balancing work with childcare, and why this so often seems to be the mother’s problem, her first show progressed to a report on whether “strong is the new skinny”, which turned out not to be about coffee, and a politely challenging chat with the Rose of Tralee.

So far, so female . . . and so promising. The title of the Marks & Spencer-sponsored programme may follow the usual presenter-name format, but its editorial focus was pleasingly overt. With RTÉ reluctant to make a version of the daily BBC Radio 4 show Woman’s Hour, Fitzpatrick’s show appears to be the closest thing to the format on Irish national radio, for now.

Online, digital media publishers have no qualms about specifying the gender of their target audience. “By women, about women, for women” philosophies are in fashion, with some sites explicitly set up as an alternative to a male-skewing media default. Brands appear more than happy to back them.

April saw the launch of The Pool, which promises “interesting, inspiring, original content for busy women”, by broadcaster Lauren Laverne and ex-magazine editor Sam Baker. The-pool.com, which counts Clinique as its main native advertiser, describes itself as “a pool of women like you – who actually like you” .

I’ll admit an email promoting a column on the evils of “vontouring” with the line “yes, it is what you think” made me sad in its assumption I would guess the definition of vontouring. Perhaps The Pool is not full of women like me, as it claims.

But there are many things to like about it. The Pool enjoys arts and culture, rather than treating them as an afterthought, like most women’s glossies do. It illustrates a piece on “10 things you need when having a baby” with a picture of Tom Selleck. And it has more non-objectionable contributors than not. It is all mild and reasonable. From its super-clean design to its apologetic notices advising that an item will take only “30 sec” or “4 min” to consume, The Pool is more gentle wave than angry river, and that’s okay.

Over on video-led Broadly, a “partnership” between Vice and consumer goods giant Unilever, they are more likely to dwell on marijuana than make-up. Edited by Tracie Egan Morrissey, late of Gawker Media’s Jezebel, the trailer for this new “women’s interest channel” squeezed in motorbikes, boxing, “some chicks doing DIY” in Kenya, objectification of the male body (for a change) and “the festival of the steel phallus”, which you will find in Kawasaki, Japan. “Who’s afraid of vagina art?” asks one of its correspondents. Well, as long as it doesn’t involve vontouring.

It may feel relentlessly studenty, but Broadly’s original reporting intentions elevate it to a higher journalistic league.

Morrissey is blunt: Broadly is a feminist channel and abortion rights reportage is its “top priority”. She also dismisses any argument that Broadly is a “pink ghetto” – and quite right too. Women, being half the population, are not a fringe group, and the media they create and produce are no more niche than the things men obsess about. There is no “female ghetto” any more than there is a male one.

It turns out men are not delicate flowers anyway. BBC radio research has suggested 44 per cent of the Woman’s Hour listenership is male. Brilliant. But even if it were only 4 per cent male, Woman’s Hour would still be a valuable corrective to the many hours in which female voices are absent. Why worry for a single second about alienating a male audience if your target one, women, are signed up?

The female audience is no less worthwhile than the male one.

The cost of being obvious is that media “for women” can be accused of being essentialist – that by covering fashion, fitness and guilt, it implies that all women are inherently preoccupied with fashion, fitness and guilt.

But no media platform, whether it’s a radio show, magazine or site, will ever be the perfect reflection of our identities. It is normal to like some bits, reject others and respond to the rest with weary-face emoji. Holding media that courts women up to a harsher mirror would be ironic indeed.

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