On March 16 Steve Paikin, host of The Agenda, wrote a blog post discussing the show’s struggles booking female guests.
Paikin writes that the show’s producers try their hardest to get women on the show, but they don’t want to appear. He says they “beg off” because they have kids to take care of, they don’t know enough about the topic and/or “their roots are showing.”
Here’s the part of the blog post that I took real exception to:
But we’ve also discovered there also seems to be something in women’s DNA that makes them harder to book. No man will ever say, “Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, I’m taking care of my kids.” The man will find someone to take care of his kids so he can appear on a TV show. Women use that excuse on us all the time.
No man will say, “Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, my roots are showing.” I’m serious. We get that as an excuse for not coming on. But only from women.
No man will say, “Sorry can’t do your show tonight, I’m not an expert in that particular aspect of the story.” They’ll get up to speed on the issue and come on. Women beg off. And worse, they often recommend a male colleague in their place.
Writing for the Ottawa Citizen, Joanne Chianello encourages her female fellow journalists and experts to “step up” to Paikin’s request and start picking themselves.
As someone on Twitter noted, Paikin’s blog post largely ignores structural and societal factors that make women unwilling to appear on panels. Chianello doesn’t really touch on these either.
Childcare is still primarily a woman’s responsibility. One woman I worked for, a whip-smart editor, would leave work at roughly 3 p.m. every day to pick up her kids after a full day at the office. I’ve known other women like her. It’s not uncommon. This is the arrangement that many families have. My own mother would head into work later to ensure my brother and I got off to school safely with packed lunches.
How is The Agenda recognizing the reality of many working mothers? What deals are you offering to prospective guests to allow them to balance their very important personal commitments with appearing on the show? Is it possible to film a segment earlier? Skype in from home?
And is it really surprising that women will pick their children over a panel where they are “the woman’s voice”? The Agenda’s producers, like many other shows, seem to think of women as a quota they have to fill — they’re 50 per cent of the population, as Paikin notes. Although I think it’s important to think of these numbers, I imagine some women would be turned off by the 50 per cent target, as if they were only asked because the producers couldn’t ask any more men to appear on the panel.
I don’t like that Paikin essentially dedicates the blog post to blaming women for not being like men. Whether it was intentional or not, the post essential reads like a list of annoying things women do that men don’t which make them hard to book as guests.
I appreciate that Paikin seems genuinely committed to solving this problem. I think it’s bold of him to ask. But the problems with the blog post may give a clue as to what The Agenda‘s problem is: Women are a quota that needs to be filled. Women are a problem that needs to be solved. What is the problem with women anyway?!
I look to other examples of public journalism, such as The Current, which is a (radio) show hosted by a woman, with female producers and plenty of female guests. That show can be quite confrontational. Maybe it’s not TV but there are panels and anyone who has listened to it will probably agree that women seem to want to be on it.
I agree that women need to step up. We need to pick ourselves. I totally believe it is hard to get women on TV. But this blog post highlights some of the problematic thinking that surrounds getting women onto panels and on TV.
Why should women want to appear on your show, Steve Paikin?
P.S. I love being on panels.
The City of Ottawa has proposed rerouting 2,500 buses to Albert Street from the Transitway when it closes in 2016 to accommodate LRT construction. People who live near Albert Street are not happy. I put together a short radio voicer on the story.
I love making New Year’s resolutions.
People have told me they don’t see a point in making New Year’s resolutions if they’re not going to achieve them.
I don’t get that attitude. If you really believe that, why bother trying to do anything?
Here are some of the things I’m working on this year:
Related: I’d like to relaunch this website by September 1, 2014 with a new theme that I have customized myself.
2. Read 52 books. I have this theory that if you can’t find 15 minutes in your day to read for pleasure, you probably need to organize your time better. Down time is essential. I love to read but I definitely don’t read 52 books a year. It’ll be a challenge. I’ll be tracking my reading on Goodreads; my username is amcneely if you’re on there and want to be friends!
Related: I hope to read one French novel per month. In grad school I’m finding my French skills are so very valuable but so very rusty.
3. Complete a 30-day yoga challenge. I’ve had a casual relationship with yoga for a few years now. I’d like to see if I can stick to it for 30 days. I suspect I won’t be able to, but I’m still going to try it because why the hell not?
Related: Run 2-3 half-marathons this year. I am already registered for one, at the end of January, and I’d like to run one in the summer or early fall as well.
I saw this quote on Instagram yesterday, posted by JackieJohnstone. I’m adopting it as my 2014 personal vibe.