Emma Barnett

British journalist

Emma Barnett (born 5 February 1985) is a British broadcaster and journalist. In May 2024, she became a presenter of Today on BBC Radio 4.

Emma Barnett in 2016

Barnett worked for BBC Radio 5 Live for six years, beginning in 2014, after three years working for LBC. Between 2016 and 2020, she presented 5 Live's mid-morning weekday programme. Before beginning her broadcasting career she worked for The Daily Telegraph, first as its Digital Media editor and latterly its Women editor. Between August 2016 and 2020, she was a columnist for The Sunday Times and, between 2019 and 2022, Barnett was one of the presenters of the BBC's flagship news and current affairs show Newsnight. She was the main presenter of Radio 4's Woman's Hour from January 2021 to April 2024. Her book on menstruation Period. It's About Bloody Time was published in 2019.

Quotes edit

2014–2015 edit

  • In the secular world, common sense must be the order of the day. It isn't reasonable not to have women occupying the same roles as men and vice versa. But in a religious sphere, where faith is the binding force of a group of people, rationale has less sway or place. If you started applying logic to the beliefs held in most faiths, things would start to fall apart pretty quickly at the seams.
  • Not being able to reconcile my secular views with my religious ones is something I too, find hard to explain. Predominantly I struggle to feel comfortable with female rabbis because the Judaism that feels authentic to me is the Orthodox branch, which does everything it can to conserve and not change.
    And that's what it comes down to: what part of your religion feels authentic to you – which is very hard to alter when it's been presented to you in a certain way since birth.
  • [S]ince the start of the latest conflict between Hamas and Israel, protesters marching in anti-Israel demonstrations have regularly held up anti-Semitic slogans, shouting for Jews to be gassed, invoking the Holocaust's chambers of doom. The situation in Britain hasn't been much better [than in France or Germany]. Last week's major pro-Palestine rally, which stopped London's traffic, was littered with placards comparing Israel's – and Jews' – actions to the Nazis ("Well done Israel – Hitler would be proud", read one such sign, accompanied by a swastika). This casual interchange of "Israel" for "Jews" is not just ignorant but often terrifying, especially when linked to references to past atrocities. Indeed, what other group of people get the worst experience in their – or anyone's – history launched at them like a hand grenade?
  • British Jews aren't scared to talk to each other about the situation in Israel. We're becoming scared to talk at all.
  • [The experience of a 24 year old sister of a friend] Just after finishing her master’s in economics, she started her first job at a City firm, full of ambition. But then she noticed something. There were no female board members – and all the way through the company there were far fewer women overall.
    Rosie invited a large cross section of her female colleagues out to lunch at a local deli and pushed them on the matter. The response? Blank faces all round. None of them had “ever noticed” anything. An awkward silence ensued.
    Rosie, not wanting to go overboard, dropped the issue. But, right at the end of the meal, the most senior woman present suddenly piped up. "I do sometimes wonder why all of the women who work here are so beautiful," she said.
    No one knew how respond to another difficult truth: it seemed that looks had played a part in the men's hiring decisions. Rosie, bruised and bemused by the experience, has just let matters lie. She has rent to pay.

2016–2020 edit

  • Nearly 10 years ago, my father went to prison. I had just turned 23 and was heading home after a long day at work when my then boyfriend, now husband, rang me and delivered the news. I had known my dad was in trouble, but he kept his business life so separate, I didn’t even know he was going to court the day he ended up being imprisoned for living off immoral earnings.
  • Anger at my father and the mess he had got himself into. Anger at the situation and anger that something I had no control over was threatening to control me. When your life implodes, either by your own doing or someone else’s, everything slows down. And I found myself presented at a young age with a stark choice: do I let myself be destroyed by a suffocating shame?
  • Non-Jewish friends, colleagues and Wikipedia contributors alike, have mistakenly thought of me or described me as an Orthodox Jew. It is true I grew up with that, and it was the form of Judaism showcased to me on infrequent synagogue visits, but it does not, and never has, described my liberal and largely secular life.
  • I know how to read Hebrew, but I've still got no idea what it means. I recognise certain tunes, but have no clue as to the order of the service. And while it would be easy to blame my seating arrangement, I'd still have very little idea of what was going on if my gender permitted me a ring side pew.
    So I have flip-flopped my way to a few Reform services. And while hearing more passages read in English and regular page number announcements are a comfort, I find myself feeling similarly isolated there. Reform Judaism's ways feel foreign because they lack the familiar rhythms of the Orthodox Judaism I grew up with.
    However, in Orthodox services I feel increasingly like an illiterate and ill-educated fool, suffering imposter syndrome.
  • The bogus presumptions about menstruating women are tragically not confined to the history books — namely that we are weak, dirty, unhinged, less than and just different. At the heart of this lingering stigma is the idea that we are unequal to our male counterparts. Women then ingest these views and appropriate them as our own, inflicting wounds on ourselves and other women — and girls — around us. And by keeping periods unmentionable, women become unwitting accomplices in perpetuating these myths.
  • My experience of periods is extreme because of my endometriosis. But while most women don't have a specific condition, they still often feel grim at that time of the month, require painkillers, need to access the loo more often and may suffer headaches, backache, sweatier brows and the squits.
  • My grandmother escaped the Nazis from Wiener Neustadt in Austria and found sanctuary as a housemaid in this country. My husband's grandmother survived unspeakable torture in Auschwitz. In Europe. A two-hour flight from here. I've been. He won't. He can't bear to. Our grandmothers, who read us bedtime stories safe in our beds in this country, this happened to them – people I met and loved.
    Only two weeks ago, I opened Twitter on my phone and saw "Jewish privilege" trending. Do you know how that feels? Do you how frightening that is? I have had my fair share of abuse online, much of it sexist or politically charged. But the one form of hate that always stops me in my tracks and makes me feel angry and sad and burned? Antisemitism.

2021–2024 edit

  • Beginning IVF can be like walking into a high-stakes casino. From the moment you first place a bet, submitting those first bloods or semen samples, you are hooked. Excitement, hope, long odds and croupiers in white coats keep you coming back for more. A tweak of meds here, a change of diet there, the rush of the pregnancy test after weeks of needles and pills, and then the massive low of the single blue line. It all leaves you vowing you will never, ever gamble again.
  • But I didn't want to move on. Not for a long while. I had formed a relationship with our baby, daring to map out a little of our future together. But beyond medical forms, conversations with my stunned and deeply saddened husband, my texts to people about our loss and my memories of such a bond, there was nothing else to show the whole episode happened.
    Like millions of women before me, the baby lived within me and died within me. My body and mind were the keeper and witness.
  • [Barnett suffered a herniated disc four months after giving birth] I'd had a c-section and two and a half years of IVF and heavy steroids. I wasn't physically good going into the pregnancy or coming out of it. It was an unholy situation and one day I picked up my daughter and it went. It was agony trying to breastfeed, do the school run with my older son, hold my baby daughter through gritted teeth and put the car seat in. So I've also been doing months of physio, exercise and Pilates.

About Barnett edit

  • I can see why so many politicians are in for a shock when they come on Barnett's show. The cool ease with which she can segue from convivial to confrontational is quite unnerving.
  • During the recent Tory leadership election, one of Boris Johnson’s emissaries struggled to defend his candidate’s erroneous claim about free trade under Gatt 24. After Barnett had conclusively exposed Johnson’s falsehood, he stuttered: "I don't believe he is incorrect." With deadpan scorn, she flashed back: "Because you don't believe facts?" To David Bull, a newly elected Brexit Party MEP who had complained on Twitter about his scandalous discovery that the journey to Strasbourg was quite long, she asked: "Did you not look up how you might get to the European parliament?" "Weirdly," he admitted, "it did not really cross my mind."

External links edit

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