Soapbox: BBC Question Time and its failure to represent women in Northern Ireland…

The BBC is always beset with criticisms of bias. Recently Question Time faced criticism of for loading the panel to the right. When the programme came to Belfast last week Rosa Thompson was dismayed when none of the questions chosen from the floor included a woman. 

I was nervous and excited as I turned up to be part of the audience for Belfast’s Question Time last Thursday. I had prepared my question, learned it off by heart.

I felt I was making a stand for the women of Northern Ireland; I wanted to know when the 1967 Abortion Act would be extended, I wanted to know when our politicians would get their noses out of our bodily autonomy.

I was fired up and I was ready and mostly, unfortunately, I was unprepared for what then happened.

You may not have noticed it at home but women didn’t feature very heavily in this issue of Question Time.  In fact, women were ignored completely.

51% of Northern Ireland’s population are women, however we make up less than one fifth of MLAs.  According to David Dimbleby only 1 in 6 applicants for the audience and only 1 in 3 of those given tickets are women.

Even with those numbers in mind you could be forgiven for thinking that a woman would be chosen to ask at least one of the four or five questions.

You’d be wrong. One woman was chosen to ask ‘the warm up question’ while 5 men were chosen to ask the live questions.

As these people were pulled out from their seats, murmurs and ripples began to go through the rest of the audience.  I started to panic, who would ask my question?

Who would stand up for the 20 women a week who have to travel to England for an abortion? It seemed that the women around me were as upset as I, they wanted to know why a woman wasn’t asking a question too.

So I stood up, I asked, loudly, and I said that it wasn’t fair.  We need women, women should be represented.  The BBC staff at first seemed bewildered, they looked like they had no clue as to how to deal with the situation.

The stage manager jumped on the stage and began explaining the process of choosing the questions.  I shouted back to him that David Dimbleby had already explained the ‘process’, but I was ignored.

The process goes like this, apparently: all the questions come in (with our names printed on them), and they are sorted into topics.

The most popular four or five topics are then chosen, the editor reads through the questions choosing the punchiest, most provocative ones for the show.

It was purely coincidence that five men were chosen we were told.  I asked if the editor was a man, I was told yes.  One man chooses the questions.  The BBC have never heard of unconscious bias it seems.

Research repeatedly suggests that women are perceived negatively in comparison with men counterparts even when qualifications are exactly the same.  It is not new, or novel.

For the BBC to prove it disapproves of any bias I argue that it must first accept that their current question selection is flawed.  They should either begin to positively discriminate or initiate some form of blind drawing of the questions.

Anyway the stage manager by now was furiously informing us it could be five women next week, ‘it has nothing to do with gender!’  I was so infuriated that I tried to walk out, I asked the rest of the women in the audience to walk out with me.

Tumbleweed rolled by.  I sat back down. Even so I still feel that I was right to stand up.  And I was right to suggest that we should have walked out.

Women in Northern Ireland generally feel that politics is not for them.  How will they ever start believing that it is if they never see people like themselves in these roles?  It is estimated that six out of ten women here don’t intend on voting when elections come around.

It is time the BBC took responsibility for their representation of women. And not just in terms of who gets to sit on the panel of the great and the good, but who gets to ask them questions and about what.

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  • patrick23

    Apart from the author’s experience, are women consistently chosen less often than their proportion of audience members, or questions submitted?

  • Siún Carden

    I was surprised and disappointed this question wasn’t asked during the programme, especially as the extension of a UK law to NI is more relevant to a UK-wide audience than either the intricacies of our devolved administration or tired jokes about Donald Trump. The lack of women was also noticeable and if the BBC don’t see it as a problem they should. There were more questionable moustaches than women’s voices in the audience!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Martina Anderson and Arlene Foster have both been on the show before, in Derry I think there were three women and three men (including Dimbleby) … Abott, Anderson, someone else, vs. Paterson and Dodds; + Dimbleby.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Certainly women responded to the questions like the woman who said she’d vote to stay in the EU if she could. If there is a Brexit I’d imagine her demographic might steer the UK towards an EU-lite association like Norway, and may in 2020 cause a Europhile backlash in Westminster as was seen in the SNP backlash in 2015.

  • Heather Richardson

    I had a similar experience when I was part of the audience for the NI leaders’ debate before last year’s General Election. Of my two pre-submitted questions, the one of abortion wasn’t included. My other question – asking what parties were doing to enable talented women to rise to the top – was used as a warm-up question. Well, sort of… The warm up man said, ‘Now we’ve a question about ladies…’ then asking the pretend panelists, ‘Do you think there should be more women in politics?’ I pointed out that was not the question I’d actually asked, and was told, ‘That’s politics!’

  • Reader

    The problem is that the process of picking the questions was described. Evidently, abortion wasn’t among the top 5 topics submitted by the audience. Maybe you need to beef up attendance of people with that agenda to win a vote along the lines of “First Five Past The Post”.
    There are also clues above that QT deliberately selects women for the audience, discriminating against male applicants in the process. If there were more dodgy moustaches than women in the Northern Ireland audience then vastly more dodgy moustaches must have applied. That isn’t really the fault of QT, or indeed men, is it? Women need to apply for the audience in greater numbers to get any control of the agenda. That might solve the first problem too.
    (On a separate thread the Slugger blogger “Belfast barman” described being able to ask his question on QT. I wonder if his question went on a pile labelled “Litvinenko”, or one labelled “Collusion”?)
    (Cards on the table; I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the QT editors to seek out a punchy question from a woman on at least one of the top five topics)

  • Croiteir

    Why not ask a question on the topic of unreasonable expectations and the sense of entitlement?

  • Dan

    Sure, you women are ably represented to those two foxy little west Belfast hotties on Nolan’s latest tv show.

  • Pete

    I don’t see the issue. I genuinely don’t think the gender of the person who submitted the question should be relevant. 5 men, or 5 women, it doesn’t matter…

  • Pete

    Tell more women to apply for the audience then?

  • Artemis13

    I know at least 6 women submitted a question on the lack of access to abortion in NI. I find it really hard to believe that more people asked a question about Donald Trump than what is a high profile topic at the moment here, especially with the Judicial Review and two women being charged for procuring abortions. Newsnight covered it, the guardian had a week of articles dedicated to the topic, hundreds were at the #dropthecharges protest- but more people wanted to know the panel’s opinion on Trump/Palin? Aye, dead on.

  • Artemis13

    3 women commented in the whole show, outside of the panel. The panel was balanced.

  • Reader

    Artemis13: I find it really hard to believe that more people asked a question about Donald Trump than what is a high profile topic at the moment here,
    Not so sure – over the last couple of weeks: at work, in the pub, working with friends on a project, and over dinner at my parents’ house, I have discussed Trump (not my fault, it just came up…). He gets multiple articles or reports per day even in the Guardian. Probably in other papers too. Now – *that’s* a high profile topic.

  • mickfealty

    You can quibble about an individual’s ‘right’ to have her question chosen. I don’t think the blind choice thing works for TV either.

    But I do get a sense that the priority around gender balancing is not as strong as it seemed (perhaps there are figures that disprove this) 10/12 years ago.

    I feel slightly hypocritical fielding this response to the BBC since we aren’t exactly paragons in the field either. But I do think it’s abidingly odd that a majority of the population are so under represented in the public space.

    If we were to build a composite human being it would be slightly female rather than mostly male..

    Some of that (I’m fairly certain) is that women are more reluctant to speak in public especially if they feel some uncertainty. Some men, well maybe so much… 😉

  • Pete

    Men are overrepresented in prisons, and nobody seems to complain about that being a problem, for example.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The panel had two women and three men, four if you count Dimbleby.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, but as a consequence of their own actions, whereas the public representation of women is an issue controlled by men rather than by women themselves.

    Women are however, overrepresented in the tea and ham sandwich making at public functions, a cultural issue again pretty much determined by their menfolk…………..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The really striking thing is just how many men do not appear to be able to see an issue in any of this.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I think, Kevin, most people in the wee six would fail to notice any absence of balance in that. Most would think it “balanced” if one woman was present in a panel. Still quite a way to go……

  • Reader

    The article above points out that women supply 1 in 6 of the applications to participate in the QT audience. That isn’t the fault of the menfolk.
    Party conference season is past, but Slugger has provided photos of the audiences – notice anything?
    I certainly believe that women face prejudice in public life, but as for the numbers game – well, if they aren’t walking in through the front door in any numbers then they aren’t going to get to the top floor in any numbers.

  • Heather Richardson

    Or they think the problem is uppity woman with a sense of entitlement.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    What are we actually talking about here, Reader. One event or about the long term cultural climate that has produced the statistic you quote for that event?

    If the second, then “That isn’t the fault of the menfolk” is clearly unsustainable. Its not women who have set the rules of the game played across the actual world we function in over the millenia of unquestioned male privilege. For women to walk “in the front door in any numbers” then the glass ceiling (still there, just look!) should not have been lowered across the enterence! The door may look open to you, but anecdotal evidence from many of those women who have attempted to cross the threshold offers stories of hitting the glass face on, or, if they actually succeed in pushing through it, being culturally lacerated in the process. Wake up and perhaps actually listen to some women instead of simply assuming that just because people speak warmly of a culture of equal opportunity in theory, this is a reality for many of the women out there at the sharp end. It’s better than when I was growing up, but this article describes something still evident we should never let ourselves as men get at all smug about.

  • SeaanUiNeill
  • SeaanUiNeill

    From my involvement in the PD in the late 1960s, I seem to remember that all too many “decent liberal people” at taht time seemed to equally believe that “the problem [was] uppity [themuns] with a sense of entitlement”. I keep getting a lot of déjà vu living here in the wee six………

  • Ulick

    Toys out of the pram because you didn’t get to promote your pet project on telly? It’s a special kind of arrogance that presumes to speak for all of ones gender. The reaction of your comrades when you appealed for them to follow your walkout should have told you all you needed to know. A pure Davida Brent moment that was I’m sure.

  • Artemis13

    Gender balance is commonly 40/60 either way, I wouldn’t count the chair as panel member, so I consider the panel balanced. I have no issue with the make up of panel, I do have an issue with all the questions being asked by men. I don’t thing the bloggers point was about the panel.

  • Pete

    If more women want to be in the audience, they are free to apply. If they don’t apply, that is their own actions responsible.

  • Maria McManus

    A few facts: there wasn’t a woman from the north on that panel. Why?
    The issue of abortion in the North is highly controversial: just look at what is happening to our women of childbearing age: especially the one potentially facing life imprisonment. Look at the actions of the AG. Look at the actions of The Minister for Justice. Look at what is happening in relation to Pro-life campaigners and the ongoing situation of women accessing sexual healthcare advice and support. Look at the complexity and the harrowing experiences of women.
    Abortion and its absence of that programme is the elephant in the living room. Bias and avoidance of controversy determined the agenda of that programme. It’s a most contentious issue: the BBC just gave it the body-swerve.
    And another thing….where are our supportive men in all of this? You are there. Can you speak up?

  • Maria McManus

    Might be explained by the over representation of men committing crimes…..just a thought

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Perhaps, Pete, if you were to read my response to Reader below it might explain why that is simply not the way to look at things if you don’t want to be representing the male exclusivist case!

    It’s like saying in the late 1960s “why are our Catholic fellow citizens so very angry, and what’s holding them back……………”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Trying to speak up myself Maria, but I discover that so few of the other men I encounter seem to realise that there is even a problem. Simply because there is a general public airing of the abstract notion of gender equality, most men seem to imagine that the actual freedoms are already fully achieved simply in their being talked about by liberal concerned men. The fact that any woman actually attempting to act on such talk will come up against an ingrained history of centuries of habitual assumption by men of the power position even in this does not seemingly even cross most men’s radar, especially those who talk most about equality, but then talk is always cheap………….

    As you say avoidance of controversy is the essence of how the media presents these things. This is one certain thing that a forty year career out there in the media has taught me.

  • Pete

    That’s precisely my point.

    So the over-representation of men in politics and on Question Time is probably due to more men getting involved, applying, and taking an interest.

    The examples of “more men in politics” and “more men in prison” are analogous, and both can be explained by the choices that men and women make. No discrimination or unfairness involved.

  • Pete

    I read it, I simply don’t buy it. It’s very anecdotal etc. Lacking in concrete statistics.

    As an aside, with your above post about more men in prison being due to their behaviour, that is of course broadly true, but I have also read studies that men receive harsher sentences for committing the same crimes as women.

  • Reader

    SeaanUiNeill: One event or about the long term cultural climate that has produced the statistic you quote for that event?
    In the article it says that 1 in 6 is usual for applications to be in the audience at QT. What are the obstacles.
    SeaanUiNeill: For women to walk “in the front door in any numbers” then the glass ceiling (still there, just look!) should not have been lowered across the enterence!
    Where’s the glass ceiling in the DUP?
    I have said above that there *is* prejudice in public life; but I also think it’s a numbers game. If you want women to lead parties, then women will have to join parties. If you want women to form 50% of the QT audience, it will only happen if they apply in reasonable numbers.

  • Pete

    People just want equality of outcome without equality of effort.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear Reader, one swallow and all that:

    “Where’s the glass ceiling in the DUP?”

    Have you never encountered the concept of tokenism? It’s not particularly important simply to have a person who wears a skirt (I occasionally sport a kilt, as do some of the older DUPers) if they simply think and act like the men they are set among.

    The fact that you have answered in the way you have done clearly shows that you may be one of those who has not understood the issue. It’s not even a numbers game as you appear to believe, its how these numbers are an eloquently representative image of the effects of how men think and act, and express for anyone actually looking just how much purchase any woman will actually be permitted to have in any situation.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s a lot easier if you are coming into any situation as a member of the dominant gender, Pete. Try asking some women what its actually like from where they are starting rather than telling them how they should act…….

  • Maria McManus

    Bias in the system, keeping women’s voices down and out of politics and discussion functions in two ways: firstly, it creates a hostile environment for those who enter the fray and secondly, as a deterrent to those who have something to say but fear and experience ‘ganging’ and being shouted down/ diminished.

    In this respect its not a fair analogy with crime rates and numbers of men in prison…..men do more crimes.
    When it comes to politics and issues affecting women- we have many opinions – we just don’t get heard and our issues are not taken seriously.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hell, Pete, if statistics really proved anything other than statisticians cannot agree we might be able to use the to prove something. When the statistics were wheeled out in production meetings for commercials that I used to attend the act calls filled the room, unless the client was present! Until we actually have statistical analysis that actually means something I’ll stick to the actual experience of the women I talk to, and what I notice of the unconscious dominant behaviour in their public and private lives of most of the men I encounter. Numbers on a page seldom beat what you can actually see, no matter how hard they are pushed.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Could not agree more, Maria, and much better put than my own attempt to air this above. Thank you for stating the important issues so clearly and with some authority.

  • Reader

    SeaanUiNeill: Have you never encountered the concept of tokenism?
    A token party leader?

  • Pete

    Maybe the courts just convict men of more crimes due to bias in the system?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yep, especially in a Banana Republic like the wee six (sorry Banana Monarchy….)……

    I know the term “First Minister” sounds very important, but here? Really? Arlene?

  • Pete

    Dominant gender? In what respect?

    In the medical profession, more women than men are entering the profession, there are grants available to universities that promote women in medicine (eg Athena Swan), and women have a higher postgraduate medical exam pass rate than men.

    Using your logic, I guess men are being discriminated against? 😛

  • Maria McManus

    Well done you. Keep up the good work.

    At the heart of all inequality, and this is an issue of inequality – women being heard about issues of deep concern to women…is the issue of privilege. The underlying problem is one of privilege. Thw most privileged are the most dominant group.
    The most privileged tend to think that they have what they have and have gotten where they are by their own Teflon-coated belief that they’ve done it themselves a delusion. Such people lack awareness that an entire system and culture supports, enables and rewards some groups over others….hence white men in control of most of the earths resources, decision making systems etc.
    I do not know how to resolve it except to say that it’s necessary for people to pay attention to what’s happening at the margins, to be aware of what it is that’s not being said. To continue to ask questions about why it is we are not talking, nor bring heard about these issues AND to keep flagging up that the state is geared in comprehensive ways which act against the voices and opinions of women and the issues that affect us, receiving the same gravity, time attention and resources.
    Aware men, in their positions of influence and with a capacity to act, are as culpable as the next, if they do nothing…..that’s colluding with the status quo.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Maria McManus

    Pete- just shut up. You’re wrong. More men commit crimes end of. PFO

  • Pete

    I agree, men do commit more crimes. Therefore it is fair that men are overrepresented in prison.

    Also, men are more likely to apply to be on Question Time audience and get involved in politics, therefore it is fair that they are overrepresented there too.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I know a few Etonians from my media career, and they provide great learning tools for realising that “the most privileged tend to think that they have what they have and have gotten where they are by their own Teflon-coated belief that they’ve done it themselves”, so I try steady self-criticism on myself, that and a few years of training in Jungian Psychology.

    The only answer I’d feel is empathy, a real belief in practical equality, and I suppose, that tired old word, love of others. The amount of bitterness with which most men strive to justify their “just so” dominance simply appals me.

    Law helps a bit, but only a genuine desire amongst us all for a strong equal self-critical society will ever change anything at root. The most shocking thing I find is that those people I was mixing and talking with back in the old PD/NICRA days of 1968 appear to have been far more aware of these issues than most of the people I seem to meet today. But perhaps that’s just me.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Well they certainly constrain the public expression available to most women, “due to bias in the system”……..

    Try reading what Maria is actually saying above (as a woman note), and as my kids used to shout back at drivers blaring horns from my car’s blindspot because they could not understand the simple rule of “watch the car in front and act accordingly yourself”, “try using your head and not your horn….”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The important thing to actually work out is just why “men are more likely to apply to be on Question Time audience”. Is this perhaps because it is already framed to fit closely the world men have built in their own image? Try thinking Pete, rather than simply reacting.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Just one thing to perhaps think about. How many positions of real power in medicine and academia, in banking and the city, in politics and more importantly, in the real seats of power, the multinationals are actually controlled by women? And how many of the people in the world’s richest list are women? Broad picture, Pete, not a few points of detail……….

    Perhaps try checking the statistics…….(just joking)!

  • Pete

    Read any studies on the subject?

    https://www.law.umich.edu/newsandinfo/features/Pages/starr_gender_disparities.aspx

    But yes, telling someone to “shut up” is certainly more worthwhile than actually engaging with the research literature.

  • Pete

    OK, and following the same logic, why are men more likely to be convicted of a crime?

    Studies have suggested gender disparities in sentencing: https://www.law.umich.edu/newsandinfo/features/Pages/starr_gender_disparities.aspx

    It is very telling that whenever men are disadvantaged in some metric, you simply view it as their own fault (they commit more crimes), whereas when women are disadvantaged, you view it as due to bias outside of their control.

  • Pete

    I fully agree with you there, that men are disproportionately represented at the top in positions of “real power”. I trust that the statistics will agree with you, but I haven’t checked.

    The issue is, that if the men are the ones willing to work the long hours, not take time off for family reasons etc, then I would say that they are “earning” that over-representation. (Statistics from the medical profession show that women are much more likely to work part-time than men, for example. You can’t have your cake and eat it. If you want to work part-time and take time-off, then fine, but don’t expect to be reaching the top of the ladder.)

    If there were instances of discrimination etc blocking women from progressing, then I would be the first to condemn them.

  • babyface finlayson

    We don really have enough evidence to say there is some kind of bias operating here.
    Perhaps the 1/3 of the audience made up of women were more interested in the other topics.
    Maybe QT could provide a tickertape along the screen to tell us for each question what percentage of the audience wanted the particular topic raised.
    But if the argument is that historic discrimination has led to the situation where women cannot even apply to be in the audience I find that hard to believe and I am not sure what the BBC could do about it.

  • Brendan Heading

    You are there. Can you speak up?

    I am on your side of this argument Maria.

    David Ford has spent the past six months trying to legislate for some of these cases. I don’t understand why it is that the only minister in the government who is making an argument for slackening the grip of the law on essential abortion cases is being attacked for it and lumped in with the pro-life crazies. You’ll note how the Alliance Party – the party that Ford leads – is introducing an amendment to the Assembly. This amendment will amount to the first legislative effort to liberalise abortion since 1861.

    Here’s the basic problem, which some of us have been trying unsuccessfully to explain. Out of the 108 MLAs in the assembly, 81 of them were elected on a party manifesto to block all abortion reform. This isn’t David Ford’s fault. It also isn’t the BBC’s fault that there is overwhelming political support for parties who oppose all reform.

    We have this huge problem in Northern Ireland and it seems to happen across the political spectrum and across a range of issues. Instead of identifying those with which we can work together and accomplish some progress, minimal as it would be, instead we attack those of us closest to us for not being ideologically pure and let our true opponents – the people who are actively blocking all progress – off the hook. The people blocking abortion reform in Northern Ireland are the SDLP, DUP, SF and TUV, all of whom have a policy of resisting any reform (although SF backed off on the cases that Ford is trying to deal with). If we continue to give politicians like these a mandate to block abortion reform, then abortion reform will not take place.

    In broad terms I support the extension of the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland. But it won’t happen as long as we keep electing politicians who oppose it. This is a simple, stark fact. If we want progress I suggest we all stop attacking the people who are trying to enact reform and start telling or friends, family, and everyone who will listen that they must vote down any party with a policy of blocking abortion reform.

  • Robin Keogh

    There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Positive discrimination in favour of female participation across a whole range of areas is long overdue. The south brought gender quotas in for the upcoming election which means 30% of all candidates of all parties have to be women. Lets hope the reults deliver more women in government.

  • Maria McManus

    Bias in the system, keeping women’s voices down and out of politics and discussion functions in two ways: firstly, it creates a hostile environment for those who enter the fray and secondly, as a deterrent to those who have something to say but fear and experience ‘ganging’ and being shouted down/ diminished.

    In this respect its not a fair analogy with crime rates and numbers of men in prison…..men do more crimes.

    When it comes to politics and issues affecting women- we have many opinions – we just don’t get heard and our issues are not taken seriously.

    Just thought I’d reiterate that……

  • Pete

    I trust you are in favour of gender quotas in prisons, whereby we should ensure that a certain proportion of prisoners are women?

    Same logic, after all.

  • Robin Keogh

    Really? Gender quotas exist to encourage and support minorities, disadvantaged or previously excluded groups and individuals to access opportunities. Encouraging women to break the law in order to balance prisoner numbers is not really a good idea. Ur disastrous analogy is probably the most obviously deliberate attempt to cover sexism Slugger as seen for a while.

  • Heather Richardson

    The problem with the ‘don’t vote for anti-choice parties’ argument is that most people vote either according to their view on the constitutional issue/tribal identity, or strategically to keep their least favoured candidate out. Liberal, secular unionists and nationalists don’t have anyone to vote for that adequately reflects their world view. I’ve voted SDLP to keep the DUP out, and I certainly don’t share the SDLP’s view on abortion, or much else for that matter, but given the choice between them and the DUP…

  • Brendan Heading

    The problem with the ‘don’t vote for anti-choice parties’ argument is that most people vote either according to their view on the constitutional issue/tribal identity, or strategically to keep their least favoured candidate out.

    The solution is therefore simple. They should stop.

    Liberal, secular unionists and nationalists don’t have anyone to vote for that adequately reflects their world view.

    I’m bemused, I must say, by the implication that the question of what tribe a party represents is a “world view”. It’s a narrow, sectarian mindset and it used to justify blocking political reform of this kind. Those of us who support reform of abortion, marriage equality and all the rest need to explain this to people rather than attacking each other and defending the status quo.

    I’ve voted SDLP to keep the DUP out, and I certainly don’t share the SDLP’s view on abortion, or much else for that matter, but given the choice between them and the DUP…

    If you are voting, voluntarily, for a party that stands with a mandate to block all abortion reform on the spurious pretext that it is necessary to block the DUP, then you have no right to complain about the outcome.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sure, gendjinn, in certain scientific fields the data collected is arguably tight, but in the sort of issues that Pete is demanding a figure count for I’d find it very hard myself to find a credible way of collecting such data.

    And where I’m referring to commercial meetings, I should perhaps qualify this to suggest that opinion data used to generate statistical “proofs” is ususlly simply a marketing device. The thing is that the portmanteau term “statistics” covers a broad range of things from the mathematical analysis of perfectly hard data to the “analysis” of “data” gleaned from some verys ubjective questionares angled to fix answers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah, Pete, I get it! All women really need is medical testosterone supplementation, or even better, a full sex change! Problem solved, including, I imagine, the rates of committal to prisons…….

    It would certainly save on the insuperable stress for most men of trying to intellegently balance their gender relationships!

  • Heather Richardson

    Well, if the only two possible winners in an electoral contest are SDLP (anti-abortion, mixed views on marriage equality) and DUP (anti both) then it’s the lesser of two evils. I’m not attacking any pro-choice person who decides to use their vote in a different way. That’s their right.

    “If you are voting, voluntarily, for a party that stands with a mandate to block all abortion reform on the spurious pretext that it is necessary to block the DUP, then you have no right to complain about the outcome.” – Really? Coming from someone who says we shouldn’t be attacking each other, that does seem a bit… attacky.

  • Brendan Heading

    Heather,

    Abortion is a devolved matter. In PR-STV elections, such as at the assembly, your vote always gets counted. You seem to be talking about Westminster elections. These days almost nothing is decided in Westminster and that includes abortion.

    My other comment was a bit harsh but it is unfortunately a reality. You can’t vote for an anti-abortion party and then complain that they continue to block abortion reform. You could vote for a party which is progressive on both of the issues you have mentioned. Several choices are available.

  • Energy Flash

    I was also at Question Time – and there was in no way 1 in 3 women there. It was definitely closer to 1 in 6. Furthermore – the questions picked were generally insipid and not ‘packing a punch’ – so therefore not chosen for their quality. Rosa is 100% correct in her assessment of the night. BBC yet again .. as in the reporting of Gaza, anti-austerity etc have their operated according to their own narrow and unchallenging agenda and women’s issues are not on it.

  • Energy Flash

    I would have left with her – but the same-sex marriage one was too important enough for me to stay for, Rosa did an admirable thing and should not be compared to David Brent – she challenged and told the story.. which is better than nothing.

  • Pete

    I’m not encouraging women to break the law.

    What I’m saying is, if you are in favour of “rigging the system” in politics, where women are disadvantaged, why not also support it in our prisons, where men are disadvantaged? How about we introduce a quota system for the proportion of inmates that must be female, regardless of crimes committed?

    That’s what people’s logic on this thread would suggest. After all, people are supporting quotas for women in politics, regardless of how many women apply, get involved etc. It’s entirely analogous.

  • the rich get richer

    Maybe women are just not trying hard enough ! ? ! ?………….running and hiding noooowww.

  • Heather Richardson

    I’m aware that abortion is a devolved matter, and yes, I was talking about voting decisions I’ve made in Westminster elections. I wouldn’t dream of voting for an anti-choice party in the Assembly elections. But I don’t accept that by voting for any party one somehow loses the right to criticise aspects of their policy one disagrees with. Party policies change over time, precisely as a result of such debates.

  • Brendan Heading

    Heather,

    Let’s stick to assembly elections to avoid confusion.

    Losing votes is ultimately the only language that parties understand. As I said above, I don’t understand why people are attacking Ford for not doing enough (even though Alliance are introducing amendments to liberalise the law in certain cases) and at the same time demanding the right to vote SDLP and then criticise them for acting in accordance with their mandate.

  • Heather Richardson

    I didn’t attack David Ford. Didn’t even mention him.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Ok so there’s considerable evidence that women are generally disadvantaged in the political sphere. But I just don’t see this as an example of it. Atleast not an example of the BBC doing it.

    You can argue on why it is that only a sixth of applicants to the show are women but the fact that a third of the audience was made up of women either goes to suggest that efforts were made to make the audience more representative or debunks notions of unconscious bias….I’d suggest the former.

    When it comes to who the questioners are, with such a small sample, it’s unreasonable to expect the organisers to seek gender balance in the questions. Open up that box and ud need religious balance and political balance. Maybe a question from a minority speaker. And to achieve that it could well be that the questions suffer. To seek balance in this way, is going crazy.

    On the point about whether abortion is a topic that should be raised….you can should at that it’s a hot topic right now but when isn’t it. It certainly has been to the forefront of the news agenda since the FFA stories started emerging. And the BBC has devoted hours and hours of coverage to this. No one can say it’s not getting attention. But you can’t also demand that it is always asked in these type shows. There are other issues….