Carol Vorderman is right to call out sexism and misogyny - Christa Ackroyd

Carol Vorderman is my friend. These days her very name seems to set off some sort of explosive reaction.

Not that she cares two hoots about that. She is fully aware her strong anti-Government views will provoke a response. And she doesn’t care.

As she says, she is a post menopausal woman who has been successful enough and has a big enough profile not to be silenced over subjects or people she doesn’t agree with.

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Carol is the very epitome of a strong woman who believes she has earned the right to express her views, whether you agree with her or not. Her social media comments are deliberately provocative. She will debate the points she makes vehemently with the finest, but last week the reaction went too far resorting to personal barbs about how she looks or at whether at her age her view is relevant.

Carol Vorderman. Picture: Ian West/PA WireCarol Vorderman. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire
Carol Vorderman. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

I am here to tell you every view is relevant no matter your age, and especially no matter your gender. Carol is, in her own words, a tough bird. She can cope with disagreement. Indeed she welcomes it. Only with her and so many women it seems it has to becomes personal. And downright misogynistic.

Carol does not need me to defend her. She does that perfectly adequately herself, more than adequately. This column is not about her political views or indeed the vehemence of her anti-Government stance, it is about the predictable response to her, and indeed any woman, who dares to have strong opinions.

You can disagree with anything she, or I or anyone for that matter has to say. That is your right. It is also her right to say it in the first place. That is what it is to live in a democracy. But why does the response always have to resort to downright misogyny usually centred around a woman’s age or how she looks?

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I first met Carol doing a weekend show on the radio with Peter Levy when I ran Radio Aire. I got to know her better when I joined Yorkshire Television to become the on-screen partner of our late great friend Richard Whiteley. After Richard died Carol, Kathy, his widow and I kept in touch. She was a huge supporter when I had my battles with the BBC, as I was with her when she effectively lost her job on Countdown all those years ago.

But we will always be linked by one phrase, a phrase which in modern day parlance may seem a little out of kilter but one which we wear with pride. Richard once christened Kathy, Carol and myself his Quality Birds. And let us be frank no one has ever called any of us birds and got away with it. But to this day we all still use the nickname he gave us with great pride.

Yes it may seem sexist to some. But not to us. Sexism is when you discriminate or name call someone with a view to denigrating them because of their gender. For Richard it was meant as a compliment, a way of describing what he thought three women in his life on screen and off meant to him. He saw us as quality. And that was good enough for us, so much so that we still refer to each other as QB for short in notes, texts and in conversation. If it is dated so be it.

It was bestowed upon us with love and admiration. And so it will always bind us in his memory. And Carol, whatever you think of her views, is quality. She is a woman who works hard. She is a woman in her sixties who has fought to remain in an industry which chucks out women of a certain age purely because of how many years they have lived or how they look.

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She is an incredible and successful businesswoman. She has remained someone who is asked of her opinions on a whole host of subjects. And gives them freely without fear. And there are not many like her allowed space on our screens. She might not represent your views. She may not represent mine but she is absolutely entitled to express them.

Last week Tory Peer Shaun Bailey also expressed his views about Carol Vorderman. He did not choose to debate some of the issues she raised. He did not take issue with the facts or opinions she was using to make her point. Indeed, he did not try in any way to prove she was wrong.

Instead, he chose to make comments about how she looked, saying that she cannot talk about politics while posting pictures of her ‘bum and her boobs’ on Instagram. Only she can. Carol posts pictures of herself in the gym or preparing to go on TV, radio or present Pride of Britain.

Sometimes she looks sweaty and makeup free. Other times she looks incredibly glamorous. So what? What does how she or any of us look like have to do with what we choose to say?

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Shaun Bailey obviously believes it does. In fact he went on to suggest that ‘she can’t be both’ .. presumably meaning you can’t be a woman not afraid of who she is and how she looks and still have a brain and opinions.

Of course Carol was too quick for him, as she is for many, shooting back describing him as a ‘ rule breaker’ (Covid lockdown party goer) and a ‘rule maker’ (referring to his elevation to the House of Lords by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson). ‘Surely you can’t be both?’ she added. Touché I would say.

Obviously he bumbled a back handed apology of sorts while at the same time saying it was a clumsy remark. Sadly it was far more than that. How weary are we getting about the whole debate that women are judged firstly by how they look not what they do or say? It is so disappointing.

Of course Joey Barton continues to rant on and on saying women have no place in football while documentaries give fuel to fan the flames of the irrelevance that is Andrew Tait. Add it all together and nothing much seems to have changed.

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Only it has. Now we won’t stand for it. We don’t care whether calling out sexism or misogyny leads to even more cat calls. No we do it expecting the response we are so often given and we do it anyway because now we are empowered to fight back and what’s more we know we are taking the vast majority of women and men with us.

Mary Earp is the most talented and now most famous goal keeper in the world because she refused to accept that she wasn’t worthy of a replica shirt. The public told us so when she won BBC sports personality of the year. And that means the men voted too. And women like Carol are choosing to use their platform as they choose, because after all it is they who have built them.

And they are theirs to debate what they want with whoever they want. Of course there are plenty of dinosaurs left, there are plenty of ceilings still to be smashed through, but please in 2024 let is remind each and everyone we as women can do what we like, and how we like because that’s what we have fought for.

And we are not going backwards just because we are told we should.

Carol, keep on being a Quality Bird. You take my breath away with your daring, your intelligence and your sheer energy. Long may you continue to do so

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