Clare Balding: Being a lesbian may have helped sports presenting career

Stephen Gray July 10, 2012
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BBC TV presenter Clare Balding said she believes being a lesbian can give her an advantage as a female sports commentator when she is not considered to be distracted by physically attractive male athletes.

Although Balding did not say her sexuality itself made her a better TV presenter, answering questions on the website Mumsnet she said she had probably benefited from others thinking she would not be distracted by attraction to men while doing her job.

A reader asked: “Do you feel under pressure to fulfil certain expectations and to meet certain standards as a woman and a lesbian which your male peers – straight or not – simply don’t have to? I think you are – deliberately or not – an excellent role model, but I imagine that could become a tiresome burden at times!”

Balding replied: “I never feel it’s a burden and sometimes I wonder if it helps. I have never been a flirt so it’s not as if I would get giggly in an interview but I guess I benefit from not having anyone think that I’m commenting about a male tennis player or rugby player for any other reason than their talent on the field of play.”

Following misinterpretation of her comments in some news outlets, Balding clarified on Twitter today: “For the record, I do not think “being a lesbian makes me a better sports presenter” any more than “being straight” would.”

While she said on Mumsnet yesterday she still attracted attention at events by virtue of having a female partner, attitudes had improved.

She explained: “I fear there is always a bit more excitement when Alice and I go out than when Hazel Irvine or Sue Barker step out with their husbands but such is life. I genuinely think it’s changed over the last few years as people have just got used to the idea.”

Balding has previously spoken about how female viewers like her because she is not a “threat”.

She told Radio Times last year: “Women are funny the way they watch telly, because they don’t like women who they think might nick their husband.

“Seriously. They watch someone in a little tight leopardskin dress and they think, ‘Oh, I don’t like her’. And the husband is going, ‘She’s fantastic!’ But then I come on and they’re all right with that. And that could be hugely to my advantage. I hope so. I certainly don’t think it’s a disadvantage.”

In 2010, Balding won a case with the Press Complaints Commission about AA Gill’s mocking references to her sexuality in a review he had written of her television programme Britain by Bike.

He referred to her as the “dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation”. The PCC acknowledged the use of the word ‘dyke’ was as a “pejorative synonym relating to the complainant’s sexuality” and said the Sunday Times, in which the review was published, should have apologised to Balding at the first opportunity.

More: Clare Balding, commentary, lesbian, Sport features, Television

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