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The Agenda’s Steve Paikin to women: Call me

Steve Paikin. (Image: Courtesy of TVO)

Steve Paikin. (Image: Courtesy of TVO)

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:

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.

  • kashicat

    I believe Mr. Paikin was riffing off Armine Yalnizyan’s comments when she appeared on an Agenda program last autumn (perhaps last spring?) as part of a panel where they addressed exactly this question: why were so many women experts reluctant to come on the show? It was Ms. Yalnizyan who commented about women’s hair and how women’s opinions were frequently ignored while their hair colour (or whether their roots were showing) was concentrated on. She remarked that she had, in essence, finally decided “to hell with it” (my words) and had stopped colouring her hair just to try to appear “presentable,” when men were not judged that way.

    She and the other women guests gave exactly that reason, and others that Mr. Paikin has mentioned, for why so many women guests were reluctant to come on-air. And then the only man on that panel took over and started telling the women “how things really were,” and they unwittingly fell into the trap of all trying to answer to him and his opinions. And that was when I stopped watching that damned panel, thinking, “That man who expects to tell five female panelists ‘how they really feel’ (ignoring their own descriptions of their feelings) illustrates EXACTLY why women don’t want to be on these panels.”

  • lifeonqueen

    Funny, the one person I know whose organization was approached by The Agenda told me they asked for her male colleague over her. I guess The Agenda’s idea of “trying for gender parity” is different than mine.

  • joames

    If women are backing out of the program – don’t blame Paikin for telling us this is happening.

    Carpet Munching feminists back to your holes.

    If you want to be on TV create a show people want to watch.

    Create businesses people want to buy from.

    Make music people want to listen to.

    Make films people want to see.

    Nobody is in your way.

    When you stop ‘blaming men’ maybe you will find actual liberation.

  • joames

    Your individual experience is not representative of what the show does.

    TV Ontario is stacked full of NDP voting lefties.

    IF they can’t get gender parity … then maybe you should consider that there is a bigger problem at hand.