Women Need to Believe in Their Own Brains, Say Yes to TV Producers

Agenda convo re female guests 23 May 2013

Ever since TVO fired Paula Todd, I haven’t watched Studio 2’s replacement, The Agenda, that much. When I did calm down from her firing, several years later, and began to watch again, I was appalled to see how few female guests there were. I finally tweeted my displeasure.

I was heard, but nothing much changed. I’d drop in every now and then, see the same old, same old, and drop out. On May 23rd, I was moved once again to tweet my disappointment in the choice of guests on TVO’s The Agenda (a broadcaster funded by the Ontario government by the way). Apparently, I’m not the only one upset. The Agenda sent me a link to a story they did on this issue. I watched the video of the show and read the relevant blog posts, including “Do We Need ‘Binders Full of Women’?”. Interesting.

I do not have the same problem as other women talk about, namely not having enough time. My problem is energy, which amounts to the same effect. However, I wonder if time/energy is really the reason, and if they would be less relevant if the bigger problem – insecurity – was not an issue. I find it eye-opening that women don’t feel they are the right person to be a guest on The Agenda, to be the ones to opine on the topic, yet men have no such problem. In an age when young women believe they’ve achieved equality with men, decades after the suffragettes and the women’s movement, women still believe in their own heads that they’re not qualified enough to sit next to men on a panel and opine to the public – even when they have buckets of degrees and experience.

I thought about how I had faced this very issue a few days earlier when The Huffington Post had asked me to be a guest on a HuffPost Live panel about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. They specifically wanted to talk about: “Gawker is seeking to raise 200k through crowd funding to purchase a video tape that reportedly shows Toronto mayor, Rob Ford smoking crack. Does the public care that much to take down a politician? Is this what crowd funding should be for?” My very first thought was: I don’t think I can answer that, what do I know about crowd funding or what the public thinks? Oy!

Luckily, I had had two women bosses early in my career who expected me to go from zero to knowing something really well in the space of hours or days. That training stuck with me, even through the loss of self-confidence engendered by my brain injury. And also, because of having lost so many, many years to that injury, I had long since decided that I would not pass up on an opportunity (as long as it was a good one). And so I fretted in my usual indecisive way for other reasons (not sure I like being on camera, will my brain think in real time, will my energy levels be okay, etc. to nauseating etc.), then told myself I’d figure out something to say, after all I usually do in writing anyway, and to go ahead and say yes. I did. In the end, it didn’t happen, but I was happy that I at least hadn’t said no, that I’d risen to the challenge.

A week later, The Huffington Post Canada asked me if I’d “blog on Hockey Canada's decision to ban body-checking at the peewee level.” This was after I had read Mary Taws’s blog post; her comment about the main reason women turn down being a guest on The Agenda was stuck in my mind. I went from thinking, “I hadn’t read about the ban, don’t know much about Hockey Canada,” to instantly, “well, I’m not going to be like other women and put down my own abilities and knowledge.” I know about concussion, I know about how they happen, I know about how useless helmets are against concussion, I can read the article and watch Don Cherry, and I’ve talked to my certified athletic therapists who are immersed in the hockey world about this topic many a time. Why can’t I write on it? So I did. And copied it on my website too. After all, The Huffington Post doesn’t pay me, so I might as well get a two-fer.

When I went back to The Agenda’s post on this issue to write this blog post, I saw that I’d missed the hour-long panel discussion on “Are ‘Binders Full of Women’ Needed?”

I’ll have to go watch it. But regardless, it’s too bad this topic is discussed only on The Agenda and its website, for this is a big problem that should be discussed in the mainstream. Women need to be cognizant of their own self-put-downs; they obviously are unaware of what they’re doing. And because they’re unaware, they cannot consciously reject that line of thinking, challenge it, and say yes. It’s time women stepped up to the plate and said to themselves and to producers, “yes, I am the right person, thank you for asking me, I’ll be there.”