4 Mar


lUCY wORSLEY photo: 26 Lucy Worsley Image 1 26LucyWorsleyImage1.jpgLucy Worsley

There have been quite a few instances of young women fleeing to fight the silly and exceptionally cruel war in the Middle East because they want to defend the right to the subjugation and enslavement of their own sex. Allegedly. I’ve not been to the rolling hills of ISIS so I don’t know from first hand experience, but by all accounts the girls – and that’s what they are, teenage girls – are in for a pretty upsetting life. Unless they like being treated as the second-rate sex, that is.

But the tales are everywhere. Muslim women follow stringent rules or they get punished. Physically. Or executed. To death.

But, as I said, I’ve no first hand experience to actually quote from – and don’t want any.

Yet it all gets me wondering whether the rich assortment of female expertise that we are constantly being introduced to on our side of the planet is replicated in the Middle East. Do they have intelligent and informative series of television programmes dealing with every facet of knowledge and fronted by exceptionally able women? I don’t know, and in my ignorance I may be barking up the wrong tree here. But I doubt it. If a Saudi Arabian women isn’t allowed to drive I’ll bet she doesn’t become a highly educated professor with a huge trail of letters after her name.

In the UK (and most probably the rest of the west) we live in the finest age of broadcast information that I can remember, and being an increasingly ancient old fart I can remember just about all of it. Ever since they invented television documentaries there have been wondrous attempts at educating the masses, and for much of the time the presenters of such televisual treats were either elderly professorial types with moustaches or off-screen actors reading a script in a voice that had any humour stripped out of it.

But in recent years the winds of change have blown across my 32 inch HD screen. (32 inches is big enough for me: I’ve no intention of bragging).

The faces presenting the intelligent stuff are experts in the fields that they’re talking about. Take Professor Brian Cox, for instance. He knows stuff about space and can communicate his knowledge with clarity and conviction. Like David Attenborough and his natural history. But they’re both blokes but I’m writing about the fair sex.

There are loads of women doing a similar job to the two gents mentioned. Good, knowledgeable expert women. Women who can communicate so well you get to wondering if they’re better than men!

Let’s think of a few.

For starters, there’s Lucy Worsley. Her day job may be to do with caring for treasured national buildings like Hampton Court, but when she’s on television she teaches us so much about those buildings and the people who built and lived in them, and then goes on, in different programmes, to elucidate about murder through the ages, and she does it with relish. And a twinkle in her eye. And a knowing look when things get a little bit saucy like she makes sure they do.

Then there’s Mary Beard, a little older maybe but just as twinkling at the saucy bits. And with splendid knowledge of classical times, the Greeks, the Romans and so on. A real, genuine expert rather than a bored actor reading from a script.

And science hasn’t been left out when it comes to female presenters. Take space studies, for example. Maggie Aderin-Pocock has enough enthusiasm for ten men – and she knows her stuff, particularly when it comes to the moon. There ought to be more black female documentary makers.

But if it’s bones that fascinate you, Professor Alice Roberts (she of the fascinating vowels) is hard to beat. Another face fronting informative stuff on the television and someone who knows her subject, this time archaeology with reference to the brittle remnants of old bones.

I’ve not reached the end of the list and I won’t, but I must mention Amanda Vickery, historian and defender of her own sex. She has traced the absolute guilt of my own gender down the ages, has contributed to the shame I feel at the history of men since time immemorial and their evil treatment of what’s just got to be the fairest sex.

These five women are members of a newish breed of informers and educators and our lives are all the richer for them. And long may they continue to inform and educate on our oversized television screens. Is 32 inches too big?

And are their equals in the sisterhood of brilliance shining just as brightly in the Middle East where, they say (though I haven’t seen personally) that women are still treated like they were here in the faded past? If not they’ve still got the good times to come….

© Peter Rogerson 04.03.15


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