Call off the protests, stop writing those think pieces, and empty out your bookmark folder of exasperated reaction gifs—we got gender gap in media all wrong. Apparently, the real reason that there's a huge lack in female talking heads on political talk shows is not because of gender bias. It's because women don't want to go on television with their roots showing.
In her piece entitled 'How women are losing the pundit war,' Globe & Mail's Margaret Wente argues that the lack of female pundits on television has more to do with women not wanting to go on camera looking anything less than fabulous than it is finding women to go on camera at all. As she puts it:
This isn't vanity, my friends. Nobody remembers what you say on TV. What they remember is how you looked. Men can get away with dirty hair and baggy eyes. Women can't.
Um, alright. Something tells me the overbearing societal pressure for women to always be presentable precludes women truly having a say in the matter anyway. Wente goes on to discuss the general difference between men and women and their relationship to screen time in a true early 90s standup comic 'men are like this, women are like tHiS' bit:
Women often say they're not the best person to be on a show. Men don't say that. Women feel they can't present themselves as experts unless they have total mastery of the subject. Men just assume they have mastery, even when they don't. Men have more confidence and are more willing to take risks. They don't worry that they might look like idiots. Women obsess about that. We go home afterward, pull the covers over our heads and hope no one was watching.
In other words, men adore doing TV. Women would rather have a root canal.
For Wente, the lack of women on TV boils down to a "hard-wired," fundamental difference between men and women: men like winning and aren't afraid to look like idiots in national television doing it. TV producers are calling out for women pundits, frustrated that women will turn down an appearance because of something like ohhh, say, having to take care of their kids, whereas men would get someone to take care of the kids so that they could be on television. Don't you know what sacrifice is, women!? In order to get more ladies on TV, I guess we really need to pull up our bootstraps and get our collective shit together:
I want her to see and read more brilliant women opining everywhere. The media producers have to keep on trying. And the women have to start leaning in. Get your stupid hair washed, and just do it.
But what are women supposed to be leaning into? The idea that women must always look perfect for the camera? The type of talk show debate that is so polarized that 'discussion' becomes who can talk loudest and more condescendingly? I also want to see more women on TV, but blaming them for their own underrepresentation is probably not the best way to start.
Image via Getty.