Countryfile’s Anita Rani hits back at Jenni Murray’s ‘reductive’ Bafta dress remarks


Anita Rani has hit back at comments made by former Woman’s Hour stalwart Dame Jenni Murray, who criticised the Countryfile host for “wearing not much more than her underwear” to the Baftas.

The 46-year-old, who has hosted Countryfile since 2015 andWoman’s Hour since 2021, attended the TV awards in May wearing a floor-length dress made out of transparent mesh fabric with a nude-coloured bodysuit underneath, by designer Rebecca Vallance.

Responding to Rani’s outfit, Murray, who hosted the BBC Radio 4 show for 33 years until 2020, dedicated a Daily Mail column to expressing how “shocked and horrified” she was to see Rani “wearing not much more than her underwear – probably a bit of both – but my overriding emotion was one of profound disappointment”.

While Murray, 74, called Rani a “trustworthy” presenter, she criticised the host for “jumping on the bandwagon for wearing as little as possible to show off”.

Murray compared Rani to popstar Rita Ora, who wore a dress of a similar style to the Met Gala in May. Murray, however, claimed that “Anywhere” singer Ora “doesn’t have to worry about her reputation as a thinker”, while Rani “does”.

She went on to tell her successor that Woman’s Hour presenters must hold “to the feminist principle that women must be seen to be valued for their minds”.

Rani has now responded to that criticism, telling The Telegraph that she found Murray’s argument to be reductive and concerning.

Anita Rani has called Jenni Murray’s remarks about her Bafta dress ‘reductive’

Anita Rani has called Jenni Murray’s remarks about her Bafta dress ‘reductive’ (PA)

“What was her argument – that Rita Ora can get away with it because no one expects her to have a brain? I think it’s a very reductive and quite a strange argument,” she said.

Rani said the world has “moved on” from such ideas, adding: “How amazing is it that you can have a brain and wear sexy clothes?”

The presenter, who hosts the radio show alongside Nuala McGovern, said she was “slightly concerned” that Murray would make such criticism, since the broadcaster was at the forefront of Woman’s Hour, a radio show that has long championed women expressing themselves on their own terms.

Dame Jenni Murray, who hosted ‘Woman’s Hour’ for 33 years, said women must be ‘valued for their minds’

Dame Jenni Murray, who hosted ‘Woman’s Hour’ for 33 years, said women must be ‘valued for their minds’ (PA)

She continued: “It’s really weird, because I’m not the first woman to have worn a dress, but for some reason me in that dress seemed really interesting.”

Rani pointed to the negative backlash she received on social media, and asked whether there was something about an “Asian woman doing it that has slightly blown people’s minds?” before concluding: “I don’t know.”

“I wonder if people did even see me,” she said. “It’s not that I’m being noticed – they’re just flippin’ seeing me for the first time. I think: is it something about the fact that it’s my body in that dress? That it’s an Indian woman who has done something totally unexpected?”

Rani has been hosting ‘Woman’s Hour’ since 2021 alongside her role on ‘Countryfile’

Rani has been hosting ‘Woman’s Hour’ since 2021 alongside her role on ‘Countryfile’ (Getty Images)

Her comments follow just weeks after the presenter opened up about her experience of divorce in her mid-40s, stating that it feels as though “she can breathe for the first time” and finally do what she “truly wants to do”.

Writing in The Sunday Times earlier this month, Rani said that becoming single in her mid-forties has allowed her to realise that she is “answerable to no one”.

“Becoming single in my mid-forties has made me re-evaluate everything. It has made me see how much I have been conditioned to be a dutiful woman, rather than a free woman. Until now,” she said.

“Now I feel as if I’m beginning to breathe for the first time, do what I truly want to. And now hitting my mid-forties has given me a sense of urgency.”



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