Radio 4 drama 'The Archers' branded 'sexist' in new study

The Archers (Credit: BBC)
The Archers (Credit: BBC)

Radio 4's long-running rural drama The Archers has been branded 'sexist' in a new study.

The book Gender, Sex and Gossip In Ambridge reveals the inequality at work in the fictional village in which The Archers is set.

According to stats logged by the book's authors, in just one third of episodes studied between February and June last year, women spoke for 30 seconds or longer on a subject other than men – the parameters of the 'Bechdel-Wallace test'.

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128 episodes in all were studied, and in just 43, women on the series successfully passed the test.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Dr Nicola Headlam, a research fellow at Oxford University and the book's co-author, said: “When we listen to The Archers, this kind of stuff just washes over us.

“Yes there are a lot of women in Ambridge but in some ways they are the property of the farm just as much as the livestock.”

However, the BBC has hit back at the claim.

“Unlike the Hollywood films this test was designed for, over 18,000 plus episodes The Archers has charted the whole lives of the men and women of Ambridge, both professional and personal,” it said in a statement.

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“The Archers has a great legacy of strong women. Matriarchs like Peggy Woolley and Jill Archer have always been in charge, and across the generations female characters have positions of responsibility and influence such as publican Jolene, entrepreneur Natasha, and award-winning artisan food producer Helen. In Ambridge cheese making is a serious business.”

Broadcaster and academic Germaine Greer added: “It’s probably true to say that when most women talk to other women they talk about men and their feelings.

“Conversations about family and domestic matters are not necessarily trivial.”