Entertainment TV Discussion about ‘male privilege’ descends into verbal brawl on live TV

Discussion about ‘male privilege’ descends into verbal brawl on live TV

Daisy Cousens and Clementine Ford
Daisy Cousens and Clementine Ford argue the point. Photo: ABC
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It’s ironic that a discussion about a big and potentially fascinating subject like male privilege degenerated into a verbal scrap between two female panelists over online comments.

That’s what happened on Tuesday night’s Hack Live debate on ABC2, which was supposed to consider whether or not male privilege was a real factor in people’s lives.

The most hotly-contested moments had host Tom Tilley watching, apparently powerless, while author Clementine Ford and equally renowned feminist apostate Daisy Cousens argued over the time Ford set her 70,000 followers onto Cousens when she didn’t like something she said.

Cousens reminded Ford she hadn’t been very nice to columnist Miranda Devine either.

“Tom Tilley’s male privilege doesn’t help him get a word in,” #hacklive flashed up on screen. True, but as viewers we are none the wiser about the subject of the show.

Despite the best intentions of the producers, it is perhaps not surprising that a tantalising topic did not get resolved, with the panelists failing to offer a cogent argument about whether men are, or are not, privileged.

But live TV thrives on disagreement and that seems to have been the point of the show. Producers were canny enough to pick opinionated panelists who were guaranteed to bandy about plenty of strongly-held views. They may not have had much to say, but that did not stop them from saying a lot.

Statistics flew around like paper planes. We learned that women not only suffer from glass ceilings, there’s also glass walls and sticky floors. Eight panelists talked over each other and went off on tangents.

We also learned that the pay gap hasn’t changed much in 20 years and, thanks to Lauren, that topless waitresses earn more than double what presumably topless male waiters earned. Go figure.

The main theme of the discussion grew out of what participants like “Adrian” claimed was the growing oppression of men, which has led to the formation of men’s rights groups and, apparently, feminists hate them.

“Adrian” chose not to use his real name because he was worried for his family and friends after being “targeted” by feminists in the past.

Using that as a springboard, the show would have benefited from a discussion about whether men remain privileged or whether or not the extra attention on supporting women to attain equality in recent years has meant they are losing out.

Adrian dismissed the figures offered by panelists and pointed out that men were more likely to be homeless, in jail or commit suicide than women.

Most fascinating was the perspective of transgender activist, Nevo, who was very clear that male privilege exists.

“I’ve experienced life as a woman and as a man. Now I’m a man, I get listened to more. I’m much funnier now. People laugh at my jokes. I get rewarded for being a feminist. When I was a woman, I was called bossy and emotional.”

The largely directionless discussion ended with lots of promises from the eight panelists that they’d all listen to each other more and not be so nasty.

Ultimately, it was a missed opportunity. While the show’s theme was a worthy subject of debate, the debate on offer was not worthy of the subject.

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