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Duly Quoted: TV Host Steve Paikin, on How Hard It Is to Get Female Guests

Host of TVO's The Agenda ignites social-media firestorm.

“please help us. we are desperate for good female guests. where are they?

—TVO host Steve Paikin, in a tweet he sent out yesterday linking to a post he’d written about how difficult it is for The Agenda to find female guests: “We’ve had far too many programs where male guests outnumber female guests three to one or four to one. We’ve even had a few programs where there have been no female guests at all.” Or maybe it’s not the finding of qualified women that appears to be the problem—while he says that “if we’re doing a debate on economics, 90% of economists are men,” he suggests it’s the booking of female guests that’s the really difficult part: “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.”

In an extremely unsurprising turn of events, this article has ignited a social-media firestorm. It’s possible Paikin was himself, though, surprised by the fact that he ignited such a firestorm. “I’m making an effort here. Why so much snark?” he asks in one tweet—and “I’m making a genuine effort at something here and so much of the feedback is such typical noise,” he complains in another.


  • yeahthatbear

    He has completely ignored all useful feedback on his request – which is pouring in on Twitter – ranging from questions about bookers, show topics, childcare, timeliness, and the tone of the conversation – because none if it fits his hypothesis, which is that women are less interested in being on television. Any suggestion that his/their methods are part of the problem has been dismissed entirely.

  • 4ChanApologist

    I loaded this page expecting it to be a bunch of overly-sensitive feminist types blowing a harmless quote out of proportion but HOLY HELL even as a white guy I found this to be pretty sexist.

    If it was hard to get female guests before I can imagine calling them a bunch of vain, unreliable house-wives isn’t going to help the situation.

    • Aporia27

      It would help if you didn’t say “overly-sensitive feminist types”. Feminists are the ones who have pushed issues of sexism and discrimination for generations. Suggesting the typically they are “over-sensitive” is just a means of discrediting their point of view.

      • OgtheDim

        The word “types” is still yet to be considered all inclusive of any adjectives applied to its use. This may change.

        i.e. It is possible that 4CA believes some people are feminists but not overly sensitive.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          That’s how I read it.

        • Aporia27

          Yes, I know that that’s how it could be read, but why is your first reaction one of imagined exasperation at such overly sensitive types, if they are indeed only one group among others? This is tacitly dismissive of feminists.

          • OgtheDim

            Um, I’m not 4Chan.

            AND, what the heck does there being more then one group have to do with the ability to be exasperated with that one group?

            Ur assuming something here that is not necessarily true.

          • TheSotSays

            I’m Ogthedim, I’m Ogthedim
            Whole numbers don’t come near me
            I’m Ogthedim, I’m Ogthedim
            A simple fraction, clearly

          • Aporia27

            Let’s substitute race for class: “I came on this forum expecting to see comments from a bunch of overly sensitive black people concerned about racism”. How does that sound? A bit whiny and condescending, a bit like one does not take racism seriously.

  • Matt Patterson

    Right, Steve. It MUST be women’s “DNA” that’s the problem.

    • Matt Patterson

      I recall that John Tory made a similar comment during his infamous “pay gap” radio show (the one where he suggested that women learn how to play golf). He said something like “why aren’t women asking for raises as much as men? Is it just something in their DNA?”

  • Aporia27

    It is insulting that Paikin’s first thought is that it is “something in women’s DNA” that makes them harder to book. It is due to systemic *social* problems. Among these is the fact that women are often the default parent to take care of children (not to mention caring for elderly relatives) and so need extra time to make appropriate arrangments. Next comes the fact that women are expected to be self-effacing and not blow their own horns and so may be reluctant to claim enough expertise to come on shows, whereas men with the equivalent knowledge will readily claim expertise. Next comes the fact that women are expected to “look pretty” and are judged on their looks, and so may be reluctant to appear on camera when they think they don’t look “good enough”. If only Paikin could listen and learn, rather than exacerbating the problem by calling responses “noise”.

    • FordSockPuppet

      Paikin’s commentary was mostly nonsense however it’s a lot more than socialization that makes women the default caregiver

      • Aporia27

        Well, it would be good to elaborate on that. Economics also plays a role: men often have better prospects for advancement, or a better wage to begin with, so it makes more sense for them to stay at work. This imbalance too, however, is still part of systemic problems of sexism.

        • Chris2812

          “men often have better prospects for advancement, or a better wage to begin with…”
          Can’t imagine the outrage that would be directed at a company that was proven to engage in such nefarious activities.

  • cynthiagould

    it’s true – overall, men are more outgoing than women. but he is really coming across as a knob on some points.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Don’t be so quick to dismiss his DNA hypothesis. There’s clearly a common gene that causes people to click “maybe” on Facebook invites when they mean “no”, so why can’t there be a gene that makes one resistant to being booked on a TV panel show?

  • OgtheDim


    Seriously Steve?!?!

    You don’t think that maybe, just maybe, your staff are a little too focused on making people look good and have been making subtle suggestions to just the women about certain things while ignoring the schlubish men as just being guys?

    Nah……never. Its all the fault of the women, not the medium as practiced.

  • vampchick21

    Good luck getting female guests now.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      I’m sure there’ll be a few who would be happy to go on his show merely to rip Steve a new one.

      • JN


  • Paul Kishimoto

    Just think: the federal Liberals could have had this gentleman’s son as a candidate. What a lost opportunity!

    • OgtheDim

      The sins of the father should not be placed upon the son. The son is in support of bully tactics and can mess up enough on his own.

  • dsmithhfx

    I expect Steve will soon be “promoted” to newstalk 1010…

  • VictorianShuter

    Why don’t they make that a topic for the Agenda. It’ll be so meta!

  • picard102

    He should just stop caring then. If they can’t book women, then he doesn’t have women. The idea that somehow the conversations he would have are void without a woman panelist is sexist, and at worst caving to some perceived social justice warrior pressure.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Some people forget that specific/specialized industries don’t represent the demographics of the entire population. If 9 in 10 economists are male and all economists will turn down an appearance 50% of the time, don’t expect to see a female economist very frequently. The problem isn’t The Agenda, it’s the number of women going to school for economics and joining the work force as economists.

      • TheSotSays

        Since economics is a sort of “Witchcraft” doesn’t that sort of muck up your little boy/little girl theory

        I think it does, so I flagged your remark for “pointy-hatted stupidity.

      • nevilleross

        Something that’s also to be taken into consideration when wondering way there aren’t a lot of women scriptwriters, directors, etc.

    • Aporia27

      No, it’s not sexist. “Sexism” doesn’t refer to any instance of taking gender into account: it refers to systems of privilege that favour men. Not all people talk with equal insight into the same things. I wouldn’t, for instance, expect a white person to be equally good at talking about racism. And the unique experiences of women likewise affect their takes on a variety of issues. If the only people’s voices we hear are those of straight white males (or of any other group to the exclusion of others: but for us the group with privilege is this one), the conversation is impoverished.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        You have a point about impoverishing the conversation, but sexism is not specific to situations that benefit men only, and still applies when both parties are female. The very first appearance of the word in print (1968) defined sexism as “judging people by their sex when sex doesn’t matter”. (Similarly, white people can be victims of racism, but more to the point it’s still racism when it occurs between a black person and an Asian, a Japanese person and a Korean, or any other combination that doesn’t include a Caucasian.)

      • picard102

        Trying to define sexism as only affecting one gender is sexist, and idiotic.

        • Aporia27

          In our culture – and in most cultures throughout the world and throughout history – men have had various kinds of power over women, and so women have been the victims of sexism. That doesn’t mean that sexism by definition only affects women – that was badly put on my part – but it means that not any instance of making a discrimination based on gender is sexist, because sexism is associated with privilege and oppression. So for instance, the concern to have female guests on the show is not in and of itself sexist even if it makes a discrimination between guests based on gender.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            If it’s discrimination based on sex, it’s sexism. That’s literally the definition of the word. Without it, “sexism” is a meaningless mouth noise.

            There are sexist people in positions of privilege and authority, but if you define sexism in those terms then you invalidate sexism perpetrated by people not in positions of privilege or authority.

            It’s also sexist to invalidate the victim of discrimination because he’s the wrong sex to be the victim.

          • Aporia27

            No, I don’t agree that discrimination based on sex is sexism. That’s my point: I don’t think that that’s “literally the definition of the word”. When it comes to complicated ideas like sexism, you can’t just insist on a definition – you have to make an argument for the best understanding of the concept. I have argued that sexism is related to power and privilege.

            We make discriminations between people all the time: to “discriminate” just means to tell apart or distinguish in some way. For example, when it comes to men and women, we discriminate between them at the Olympics and separate them into men’s and women’s competitions. Is this sexist? I don’t think so, because it need not be based on the premise that women are worse than men – it just separates people based on differences in typical size, so as to assure a level playing field. Women can be just as disciplined, daring, fluid in their movements, fast, etc.

            Sexism is something over and above discrimination, and involves structures of power and domination. When I say that I don’t mean that only people who have a lot of money or power can be sexist. I mean that relations between men and women are such as to give men various kinds of privilege (whether or not individual men have a lot of money or influence). For example, men are not judged on their appearance as much as women. Men are also often seen as more rational, whereas women are seen as subject to irrational mood swings based on their hormones. Men are seen as better, more natural authority figures. Studies show that sex discrimination in hiring thus still occurs. Women are seen as more natural caregivers, and shamed if they don’t want to take care of children, meaning that they find it hard to pursue careers in ways that men don’t. So these are all ways that sexism involves a system of domination that privileges one gender over another.

            So, to reiterate my point about the show, having a concern to have women represented among guests, and so discriminating between guests based on gender, need not be sexist unless it involves the belief that women or men are not as good as guests. It involves neither — it is just a concern about diversity, and anyone interested in diversity will have to make discriminations to ensure they actually get a diverse outcome!

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            It should have been clear from context, but discrimination here means prejudicial treatment, not merely telling two things apart by their physical traits or putting people into benign categories based on skill level. “You have breasts” isn’t discrimination; “you have breasts, so you must not be smart” is.

          • Aporia27

            Well, if you want to use the word that way, my point is that making an effort to find women to be guests, and considering it important – thinking that otherwise, one would, in picard102′s terms, have “a void”, is not an instance of “prejudicial treatment”. It should also have been clear from context what I meant, as I wrote “making a discrimination based on gender” rather than the more common “discriminating based on gender”: the later but not the former carries more of the connotation of your usage.

  • Joe Clark

    Paikin, his producers, and The Agenda addressed this issue at length and in many forms in November 2012. His statements now bespeak a frustration that nothing has changed.

    Disqus, a failed platform, refuses to let me use the A element.

    • Testu

      That’s odd, it used to allow it. I’ve embedded links before.

      • dsmithhfx

        Disqus doesn’t allow JC to tickle its code anymore since he badmouthed it.

  • xRTGx

    I wonder how many of you experts even bothered to watch the episode of The Agenda which Steve Paikin is referencing for some context (with a guest panel including 3 women I might add), or for that matter, even bothered to read his entire blog post before ripping him a new one. Most of what he’s saying is discussed at length in the episode. He’s not just pulling the “roots are showing” excuse out of his ass.

    If you attack a person who’s job it is to ask these questions, then people are just going to stop asking all together. We’ll be stuck with guest panels that aren’t reflective of the female population forever.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    People and the things they do to each other are not confined to – or define entirely by – broad demographic trends in a select few countries the speaker is familiar with. By all means go ahead and tell living survivors of Japan’s occupation of Korea, and enslavement of Koreans in Japan, and centuries of ethnic conflict prior, it wasn’t racism because the Japanese aren’t white, or neither are North American… just don’t be surprised when they don’t appreciate your utter disregard and invalidation of their experience.

    Nobody is a ‘system’; sexism and racism exist only in the actions, words, and works of individuals. It can manifest within a system (of individuals in positions of authority or advantage) and shape it, but if you deny its existence at the person-to-person level then “women belong in the kitchen, not the office” isn’t sexist when uttered by anyone but the person in charge of hiring office staff, and “blacks are violent and lazy” isn’t racist when the poor son of a Mexican immigrant to California says it.

  • Chris2812

    When I hear that kind of talk I just think of social activists jumping through hoops to make sure white males are still the only bad guys.