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Yorkshire Day, with women
©  2016  Rose George

Posted in Blog — 2nd August 2016

Yesterday Radio 4’s Today programme quite rightly celebrated Yorkshire Day. They did this by having the renowned northern playwright Barrie Rutter – of Northern Broadsides – speak an ode to the great people and places of Yorkshire. So far, so good. Here is the ode:

If you can be bothered listening, he starts by listing Yorkshire’s great cultural figures. Namely:

Ted Hughes
Tony Harrison
Blake Morrison
Philip Larkin
Simon Armitage
Kaiser Chiefs
Jarvis Cocker

Eventually, his ode reaches Whitby, where he mentions the great Yorkshire folk families of Waterson and McCarthy. And I waited, and waited and waited for him to mention one woman. Just one amazing talented woman from Yorkshire.

But he didn’t. No, listing entire folk families that do probably include women doesn’t count. I listened to this and despaired. Because it was exactly the same kind of thoughtless removal of women from public thought that is too bloody common. It’s not mean enough to be outright misogyny, it’s a forgetting about women in the first instance. It’s tragic that I need to tell Barrie Rutter that he should have thought to mention a woman. Or that the producers of the Today programme, when they were perhaps sent Barrie’s script, thought, oh. Maybe there should be a woman in there? I’ve seen this too often. The infuriating thing is that men don’t. I’ve been in editorial meetings finalising issues of magazines where I have had to point out that there 98% of the stories are about or by men. The magazine had gone through weeks and weeks of preparation, and no-one had noticed. Not even the women on staff.

And yesterday, for that ode to be not only broadcast, but then posted on Today’s Facebook page, no-one noticed. It is the casualness of the dismissal of women that helps it endure. The unquestioning of only 2% of sports coverage being about women.

So here’s a short list of excelling cultural figures from Yorkshire who manage to be excelling cultural figures from Yorkshire and female. With thanks to my friend Matthew for starting me off.

Charlotte Bronte
Anne Bronte
Emily Bronte
Barbara Hepworth
Kay Mellor
Helen Fielding
Corinne Bailey Rae
Margaret Drabble
Barbara Taylor Bradford
Winifred Holtby
A.S. Byatt
Judi Dench
Lesley Garrett
Betty Boothroyd

And those are the ones that have come to mind. It’s not hard, you see. As for astonishing sporting women, I could go for hours.

Anyroad, happy Yorkshire Day, belatedly:


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