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Home > Media

Buerking nine to five

20 August 2005

Not since Sam Sillypiss drowned in his own septic tank has a surname been so pleasingly in accordance with its bearer's idiocy. Listen again to the gobsmacking Michael Buerk in the Radio Times this week:

'Life is now being lived according to women's rules... The traits that have traditionally been associated with men - reticence, stoicism, single-mindedness - have been marginalised. The result is that men are becoming more like women. Look at the men who are being held up as sporting icons - David Beckham and, God forbid, Tim Henman.' Go on, Michael, it's a really splendid spade you've got there, put your back into it.

'Men gauge themselves in terms of their career, but many of those have disappeared. All they are is sperm donors, and most women aren't going to want an unemployable sperm donor loafing around and making the house look untidy. They are choosing not to have a male in the household.' Yes! Yes! Sydney's only a few shovels away! 'Products are made for women, cars are made for women - because they control what is being bought...' He polished it all off by saying that whilst making the new programme which he was plugging with all this bogwash, he found that 'almost all the big jobs in broadcasting were held by women - the controllers of BBC1 television and Radio 4 for example. These are the people who decide what we see and hear.' What we see and hear, he indicated, is a heap of increasingly oestrogen-addled kaka.

Many enlightened people of both sexes opened their mouths in outrage at this preposterously retrogressive utterance. So manifestly daft is it that it's almost not worth dissecting and refuting; the man might as well have asserted that 'the people who live on the Ooja-Ka-Piv stand around in bundles of nine'. But
given that we live now and not thirty years ago, when companies were allowed to advertise for a 'pretty secretary', and given that idiocy is so much worse when it comes from a prominent and highly-respected idiot, a good stab is indeed necessary. Buerk's motivation has been interrogated to what for anyone would be a pleasing degree. Perhaps he is bitter. Perhaps he has taken leave of his senses. Or perhaps he is being deliberately provocative.

Taking the last of these options, Buerk is a twat. If you're going to stimulate debate, you do it with eloquence and aplomb, not in the tones of a sulky adolescent poking at his pimples. And you don't play devil's legal assistant with something which is still beyond a joke, knowing that as a trusted public figure people will take what you say at face value. Taking the penultimate option, Buerk is an idiot.

It's hard to imagine that this veteran newscaster would suddenly go off into a Father Ted-like daydream of fame over appearing on a Channel 5 programme, but it does rather smack of that. Hell, maybe he's rebranding himself as an unreconstructed badboy, freed from the snoozing shackles of balanced reportage. Taking the first, Buerk should be telling it to the pub, not the nation.Where his individual points are concerned - for starters, women up and down the land were irate at being implicitly compared with Tim 'God Forbid' Henman. Essentially, it's dismissable as a startlingly ill-thought-out, ill-delivered tirade from someone you can't quite believe wouldn't know better, and it's been
thoroughly and wittily dismissed as such all week. So there's really no need for us to address his slightly sinister 'they're taking over - look! Breasts lurking under every BBC suit!' bit about women getting their talons into the media. Nor the more general 'we live under the kitten heel of feminazi oppression' stuff. It's unnecessary for us to mention this week's excellent Economist article explaining that the glass ceiling is still well-glazed - no need to drag up anything about female managers in the US earning 72% of what their male counterparts haul home, or anything on the 17 female executive directors to nearly 400 male ones in the FTSE 100. (The rest of the figures quoted are not especially curvaceous either.)

The publication - whose umbrella group has a bird for a Chief Exec - described the slightly rosier outlook for women in business as 'progress', but of a 'glacially slow sort. The glass-ceiling phenomenon is proving peculiarly persistent. The top of the corporate ladder remains stubbornly male, and the few women who reach it are paid significantly less than the men that they join there.'

No, we won't waste time opining that any dumbing-down in broadcasting has nothing much to do with gender, and everything much to do with chasing the soft-brained millions who make up the heavy bottom of the consumer pyramid. Nor shall we muse on the validity of the idea of a crisis in masculinity, with all the hunter-gatherers left a bit spearless by the invasion of fickle women, who've suddenly decided to muscle in on the whole hunting-gathering racket. And we certainly shan't sink to signing off on the whole sorry mess with that same damn name pun (although, having pulped 51% of the population into threadbare stereotypes, it's apt enough that he should be reduced a wee bit). No. Not while there's a whole world waiting to be made to cower beneath the high heel of total, total tyranny.


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