An acquaintance of mine is doing some documentary work for the History Channel. One of the channel’s guidelines for their documentaries is that they don’t generally allow the use of female narrators…men only. The History Channel’s audience is mostly men and they want to continue to target only men. No rationale was given, but I would imagine the reason is that history narrated by men seems more authoritative to other men.
Which makes sense (in a screwy sort of way) but is also infuriating because how can women ever be considered authoritative if *the* channel all about history never gives a woman a shot? I remember watching Frontier House and thinking initially that the woman narrator was not such a good choice (probably due to years of conditioning listening to men describe WWII battles), but after about 30 minutes, I forgot all about it and ended up really enjoying her narration.
Update: I talked to another person who’s involved in making documentary films (not specifically for the History Channel) and they said that men are more often used as narrators than women in historical documentaries across the board; it’s not just the History Channel. Authority is part of the issue, but in the narrative context, men are perceived as gender neutral, while women are perceived as female. Since the narrator is supposed to be anonymous and not perceived by the audience as a person, the more general neutral the better. So, not the History Channel’s fault and probably an issue that requires a gender studies degree to even begin to unpack and something I’m not going to touch with 8 or 9 ten-foot poles.