If you listen to talk radio in the Boston area, chances are you won't hear a female talk show host. I've long been aware that while most listeners who call in to speak on the air are men, female listeners make up nearly half of the audience. The "sweaty, angry, conservative" world of talk radio is a bastion for male loudmouths like Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh. The first conservative female name that popped into my head was blonde "bimbo pundit" Laura Ingraham, who was courted for a Boston-based radio program. She wasn't interested. A lot of Scaife money made sure she and other conservative women like her were in the forefront of television punditry in the '89s -- but not radio.
So, where are the women? One explanation could be that "women are out of fashion in an industry that puts a premium on constant aggression and throbbing neck veins." Ingraham could hardly be described as "sweaty" and "angry." It sounds unattractive. Richard Mellon Scaife showered "bimbo pundits" with lots of funding for television talk shows in large part due to their comeliness. I wondered if visibility could be one factor that works against angry conservative female talk show hosts. Listeners can't see them. They only hear their voices.
As the article stated, "if a female host bellowed like Michael Savage, she would most likely be burned at the stake in Salem." Talkers magazine publisher Michael Harrison said that "it's more difficult for the female personality to capture an audience because what you need is anger, commentary, and charisma. Females, when they get angry, seem not to have the kind of charisma [of] an angry man."
The last thing a producer wants is for the listeners to feel as if they are being squawked at by a harpy.
The few successful female talk show hosts out there don't bellow. They may lecture, like "Dr." Laura. They may pontificate, like Beverly LaHaye. They may even sound intelligent and worldly, like Diane Rehm.
They don't bellow.
When I moved to Massachusetts four years ago, I was disappointed to learn that my local NPR affiliate did not carry "The Diane Rehm Show." I used to listen to her every day at 10 a. m. "Fresh Aire" hosted by Terry Gross is a good show, but I don't tune in very often. Michelle Norris, Melissa Block, Judy Swallow, Brooke Gladstone, and Diana Nyad are a few of the female hosts on NPR, but they don't have the name recognition of a Don Imus or a Howard Stern. If civilized and intelligent voices like theirs exist on conservative talk radio, they are drowned out by the angry ones.
I posted this with links on my blog.