Women! Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em, and can’t book ‘em as guests on your public-television talk show, at least if you’re Steve Paikin and the show in question is TVO’s The Agenda.
Paikin published a blog post earlier this week in which he laments this situation. He writes, among other things, that The Agenda tries, but frequently fails, to achieve gender parity on every one of its discussion panels, and that among the excuses he’s heard from would-be female guests is, “Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, my roots are showing.” Mostly, he says, they just don’t think they’ll be good enough.
The gist of the piece—although Paikin might summarize it differently—is that getting more expert women on the show would be difficult under almost any circumstances, because so many of the world’s top pundits are men, but that the situation is made even worse by womankind’s collective refusal to man-up to the task of going on TV. His diagnosis is that women, as a whole, are too timid.
Women, why are you so afraid of Steve Paikin? Is it the rakish arch of his left eyebrow in his official headshot? Are you perhaps confusing him with his son Zach?
To be fair, Paikin is not the first one to say things like this. Other Toronto media outlets also have trouble maintaining a respectable gender balance, and Canadian newspaper columns are notoriously male-dominated. (Although, for whatever reason, many of the best-known columnists working in Toronto are women. Just look at the headshots on the Star’s opinion page.)
Still, Paikin’s post—particularly the bit about women’s roots showing—didn’t play well on Twitter, where users perceived a certain amount of tone deafness in his apparently sincere cry for help. Here’s Women in TO Politics founder Steph Guthrie:
I believe the elder Paikin means well. But that piece read to me as "men will do what it takes to be on the program, women wimp out"
— Steph Guthrie (@amirightfolks) March 17, 2014
Regardless of whether we believe that Paikin and his producers are honestly hearing hair-dye-related excuses from women all the time, we’re fairly certain that men have their own ways of begging off. Self-consciousness about media appearances isn’t exclusively a female thing, and so it seems fair to question that part of Pakin’s thesis, at least.
In any case, women of Toronto, this is your chance to air your opinions: The Agenda practically has to book you now.