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Broadminded in Conversation with Jenni Murray

As the presenter of Woman’s Hour, Dame Jenni Murray has interviewed and championed extraordinary women for the last three decades. BroadMinded and WICT were thrilled to be in conversation with this broadcasting legend.

Dame Jenni Murray has been at the helm of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour for over twenty years. She spoke to us about the programme’s 64 year history and her most engaging interviewees from Monica Lewinsky to Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson to Margaret Thatcher. She shared reflections on her extraordinary career, on the contemporary feminist debate, and on her many books, including A History of the World in 21 Women and her latest, Fat Cow, Fat Chance.

As always,our 10 key takeaways are below. 

10 key takeaways: 

  1. Jenni feels proud of the conversations opened on previously taboo topics and indeed would receive letters from male listeners thanking her for discussing menopause, breast cancer and other subjects men weren’t usually privy to chats about.

  2. As a teenager she managed to persuade her mother it WAS acceptable for her to get a job, and her father that it was about time he didn’t just ‘help’ at home but rather ‘did his share’. 

  3. Men have to learn to ‘do their share’ particularly as parents. Parental leave should be equally distributed to stop women being automatically undervalued when they return to work. One way to avoid this would for the option of part-time work to be a legal requirement for both sexes. 

  4. On the menopause - know and grasp the fact that all women WILL go through it. It’s going to happen! So be prepared to handle it - do your research: to HRT or not to HRT? Read up on the risks and tackle it with knowledge. Oh, and always choose cotton over nylon for the warmer moments at work. 

  5. Start the conversation at work, let it be known that women will be going through this. It doesn’t need to be commented on but understood that there will be uncomfortable, difficult moments. 

  6. Jenni believes the topic of trans is not a closed subject or beyond debate - it must be spoken about and debated to protect people.

  7. The best advice Jenni can give on sexism in the work place is ‘you have to confront it. Be a troublemaker. Insist’. Where we may have stayed quiet before that simply doesn’t work - so speak up. 

  8. In reference to the title of her book ‘Fat Cow, Fat Chance’, Jenni explained that before gastric surgery people constantly used that language about her. The purpose of the book is for people to understand why and how people become obese but mostly to show readers that it is never acceptable to  fat-shame. It should be considered a hate crime. 

  9. Wangari Maathai was a true inspiration who stayed with Jenni from her Woman’s Hour interviews. She did an enormous amount for forestry and transformed the African environment, overcame dark times in her personal life and fought back at institutionalised sexism in the government she was involved in. She went on to be the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She was sadly lost too young to ovarian cancer but in her career she fought; bounced back repeatedly - a quality rare in people which should be emulated.  

  10. To read: anything by Doris Lessing - a writer who claimed not to be a feminist but you just KNOW she was. Jane Austen understood how men and women behave around and react to each other better than anyone. And if you’re keen to explore the trans conversation further then Jenni recommends Helen Joyce’s ‘Trans’. She also recommends Julie’s Bindel’s ‘Feminism for Women’. It serves as an excellent reminder for young people how much has been fought for, but how much still has to be done. 




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Jenni Murray

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