“If we can find who – or what – to blame, we know what to change. Is it the culture? Is it men? Or is it women, afraid to ask for what they’re worth? The reality is that it’s a messy combination of all these things. But only one of them can be changed quickly: how women feel about themselves and their value.
This is difficult stuff to talk about. Philip Hampton, co-chair of a government-commissioned review into the number of women in senior business roles, was reviled last week for saying that the BBC women on the best-paid list “let it [the pay gap] happen because they weren’t doing much about it”. During his career in the City, he said, “lots of men have trooped into my office saying they are underpaid, but no woman has ever done that”. Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey hit back, saying he was “peculiarly out of touch”.
Is he out of touch, or is he speaking from experience? After all, the real story here is not about whether 20 wealthy women at the BBC are paid the same as 40 wealthy men. It’s about the millions of women elsewhere who feel uncomfortable about saying: “Can I have a 20% pay rise this year?” This is the internalised pay gap, and it’s everywhere.”
I set myself the insane task of getting close to a real-life Anchorwoman. And got rather more than I bargained for — on set at Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. It was an extremely, um, interesting morning…
“As I shadow Reid for the morning – right down to the 3.45am start and a generous application of makeup – I find myself thinking: in her shoes, sitting next to Morgan, what would you do? How distracted would you be by dark thoughts about his salary? How would you hold your own? How would you avoid coming across as “the little woman”?
For the past year, I have been writing a standup show inspired by Angela Rippon, who became the UK’s first woman to hold a position as regular long-term newsreader on a national news programme in 1975. More than 40 years on, we have had dozens of anchorwomen on breakfast television and national news. Women are more physically present on our screens than they were and yet, as the published salaries of the BBC’s talent proved last week, they are often paid far less than their male counterparts.”
Writing in today’s Observer about Macron, Trump and the Daft Punk mash-up. Who do they think they are? Cool Britannia?
“If Richard Curtis were French and writing a bromance movie (L’amour, actuellement?), he could not have conceived a better climax to the narrative than a troupe of Alain Delon lookalikes (and some women: no sexism here), all in full-dress uniform and raising an ironic eyebrow, serenading the happy couple who have just cemented their union. They even had a sexy majorette dude throwing a giant ceremonial baton up in the air and catching it! Oh, France, with your contemporary take on field music, you are really spoiling us.
But what does it all mean? It means France is trying to be Britain, that’s what. This was like a homage to the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, only a much cheaper, lo-fi version costing a lot less than the £27m we spent on recreating Glastonbury Tor and the Thames and flying a giant Pink Floyd pig between the towers of Battersea power station. France’s display of national pride must have taken half a day to put together and cost about €50. (This was a replacement drumstick for Jean-FranÇois who got carried away in the transition from “Do it faster, makes us stronger” into “Like the legend of the phoenix…” No one can blame him.)”
“I came across an interview with a neuroscientist recently whose daughter was asked: “What does your father do?” She said: “He replies to emails.” He was gutted. I know how he feels. When my son was asked at the age of five what I do for a living, he replied: “She goes on her computer.” I’m a writer and a comedian, but as far as my kids are concerned, I’m a professional technology user who gets paid to ignore them.
Maybe I’m an extreme case because I work from home, so there is no delineation between home and office life for me or for my three children, aged six, ten and thirteen. Does the six-year-old think I spend too much time on devices?
“Probably, yeah. On your phone and computer.””
Well done me.
My new show is coming to Edinburgh this summer – very excited. It’s dedicated to all the women newsreaders I grew up with. I was obsessed with them and inspired by them: Jan Leeming, Angela Rippon, Sue Lawley, Selina Scott, Moira Stuart. If only the news could be as easy to understand as it was then. Ten minutes of Angela and you’d be done for the day. Much better than being on Twitter 24/7. I’m at Stand 5 at 5pm every day (except 14th) from 3rd to 26th August. Tickets here.
“A series of new reports suggests that young people aged 18-32 (in this case, in the United States, but in line with trends elsewhere) are becoming increasingly convinced by the idea that it would be “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family”.
It’s the words “much better for everyone involved” that I find particularly distressing for some reason. They have the ring of the capitulation Betty Friedan described in The Feminine Mystique, a kind of surrender that was traditionally best treated with Librium, Valium and strict observance of “gin o’clock”. Younger sisters: believe me, you don’t want this. I understand the lure of the siren call, but it must be resisted. No one is going to look after you apart from yourself. It’s an illusion.”
From today’s Guardian… The six-month anniversary of Trump’s “pussy” comments and how strange it still seems. That caused such a fuss and yet had no impact on his electability whatsoever? Why exactly was that? Let me explain…
“…Six months on, and liberals still don’t get why the “pussy” moment was not instrumental in raising questions about Trump. In fact it had the opposite effect. It galvanised his support. It boosted his campaign. It played well to the base, as they like to say. Just as, in the face of all the current investigations, the men-only White House photo line-ups play well. Just as people can shrug and say: “What do you mean, no women? They have Ivanka and Kellyanne.”
The crucial attempt to understand that moment and why it didn’t represent the end of everything for Trump is finally starting. Oprah Winfrey has led the charge. For the latest issue of O magazine, she gathered a cross-section of voters, five from each side. In her best therapist’s voice, Oprah says: “He said a lot of hurtful, divisive things. Can we all agree with that?” The Democrats spend the meeting weeping (literally). Oprah acknowledges their tears, but lets the Trump voters have their say. When Oprah works her way up to a discreet mention of “the P word”, the responses are blunt: “It was a private conversation and I’ve heard men say far worse.” And, importantly, the next reply: “What about Bill Clinton?” This is the pussy version of “But her emails..” These defences have not changed in six months.”
I presented this half-hour documentary on L’Origine du Monde for BBC Radio 4 on the 150th anniversary of Courbet’s painting — and in the wake of a big court case against Facebook in Paris about censorship. A century and a half after this work was first created, it’s still causing controversy: if you post it on your Facebook wall, your account can be suspended because it activates the pornography sensors.
Recording for this programme with producer Natalie Steed was a lot of fun. We spent two days at the Musee d’Orsay, where the painting has been exhibited since 1995, interviewing tourists and museum visitors about their reactions in front of the canvas. They were everything from excited and impressed to indifferent and blasé to passionate and, in one memorable case, “aroused”. (A very eloquent young Chinese gentleman who spoke beautiful English. I will not forget him in a hurry. I had to take a break after recording his interview because I couldn’t stop laughing. At least he was honest.)
L’Origine is just one of a series of artworks – and other images – causing problems on social media sites who struggle with the distinction between art and obscenity. I wrote about this for Sunday Times New Review. My favourite example is the lady who had the picture of her simnel cake removed from Instagram because the marzipan balls looked too much like nipples. Not quite the same as censoring great works of art, perhaps, but just as pointless.
Pic: Billie Scheepers for Sunday Times Style
A second sold-out run at the Fringe in Stand 4. Reviews:
Thanks so much to everyone who came to the show. It ended up being a lot more about Brexit than I had intended… Because I didn’t feel that you can talk about being middle class anymore without talking about the effect of the EU referendum, which has split the middle class right down the, er, middle. A lot of the show was rewritten and reworked through July. This new focus led to some “interesting reactions” (euphemism) in the room on some nights as audiences were frequently split between Remain and Leave themselves, especially amongst those who were fans of The Good Life. (Not saying that Margo and Jerry would definitely have voted Leave but…) I would never get anyone to out themselves as to how they’d voted in the room but it’s always fairly obvious who’s laughing at what. All that was fascinating and not something that will happen at any other Fringe, I imagine. So I kind of felt privileged to witness it. Although it was often also extremely odd.
On the other hand, there were always young people in who had no idea what The Good Life was (which I find wonderful — these are the people who come to a show called Be More Margo without having a clue who Margo is — I love these people). And there were always non-Brits who also had no idea about (a) The Good Life and (b) what we think of as the definition of “middle class”, Americans especially. The whole show was designed to examine how we define the middle class and took Margo as a starting point so I don’t think too many foreign types went home completely confused. Just mildly confused. Except for one Danish woman, a Professor of Economics, who admitted to being cheerfully clueless throughout but seemed to be able to enjoy life in spite (or perhaps because) of this. This must be the Danish way and a very nice way it is too.
Mark Lawson wrote about the effect of Brexit on shows here and gave Margo a mention. Meanwhile I wrote in the Sunday Times about losing weight partly because I was sick of making fat jokes about myself and in the Financial Times about whether it matters what you look like on stage (answer: yes, for good or bad — although whatever you look like you can use it to your advantage. Or I’m telling myself that as I have eaten loads of chocolate biscuits to get over Edinburgh withdrawal).
Twenty four hours to go! I arrive in Edinburgh tomorrow. On BBC Radio 2 with Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp this weekend, I gave some tips for the Fringe based on my Edinburgh traditions: people who I make a point of going to see every year. I’ll post some more tips soon, once I’m up there. Everyone I’m linking to here I would recommend to anyone — but I particularly recommend if you’re going up to Edinburgh for the first time and/or you don’t have much time. There’s a mix of the traditional/quintessential Fringe and the new/surprising. For the full experience, you also need to throw in something you get randomly flyered for and don’t really want to go to.
Lucy Porter — Consequences — a new Edinburgh venue and a brand new show: always witty, inspiring, though-provoking and the best kind of silly.
Jo Caulfield — Pretending to Care — The first show I saw when I first came to Edinburgh as a punter in 2009 was Jo Caulfield at The Stand and I have never forgotten it. It was a work-in-progress that year and she was reading stuff she had written that day off a clipboard, the first time I had seen anyone do that — it was raw and fresh and brilliant. Always sharp and original.
Tom Allen — Indeed — I can’t go and see Tom Allen too much because he makes me laugh in a painful way. He has beautifully crafted material and wonderfully caustic observations but it’s his delivery that really kills me.
Austentatious: An Improvised Novel — Just the best long-form improv. Six performers in Austen period costume dramatise a novel, the title of which is suggested by the audience. I must have seen them about 10 times now and I can 100% promise that every single show is different, every moment is improvised and every performance is guaranteed excellent. This is a Fringe must, especially if you haven’t seen improv before (or if you “hate” improv — it will change your mind).
If you are chomping at the bit and want to book many things at once (yes, do this!) then on R2 I also mentioned Lauren Pattison (Katherine Ryan tour support), Laurence Owen (new Tim Minchin) and Lolly Adefope (brilliant sketch work). But I have a million more recommends (well, maybe not that many — although there are over 3,000 shows) coming soon. Or message me on Twitter @vivgroskop telling me what kind of thing you like and I will suggest stuff.