Sunday, July 05, 2009

Washington Week: Gwen must be belle of the ball

PBS' Washington Week boasts it "is the longest-running primetime news & public affairs program on television. The show first aired locally on WETA on February 23, 1967 as Washington Week In Review. A few months later it began broadcasting over Eastern Educational Network, a group of 14 stations located between Washington, D.C. and Maine. In January 1969, it became the first local program to air on the new Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). "

Gwen Ifill is the current host and she took over in 1999, in the process becoming the first woman to do so. (Women had 'guest' hosted before -- including Gwen. Gwen was the first regular female host.) Though Washington Week is available for airing on Friday nights, some PBS stations have chosen to hold it until Sunday mornings or else re-air it then. This underscores that Gwen is the only female host of a chat & chew. Face The Nation? Man. This Week? Man. Meet The Press? Man.

You might think Gwen's status as the only female host of a political chat & chew featuring guests of both genders (worded that way because Bonnie Erbe sits down with women each week to discuss the week's news on To The Contrary) would mean she felt a special obligation to book an equal number of male guests and female guests.

You would be wrong.


A Queen Bee works her way into a 'man's world' and then feels she's devalued if other women enter the sphere. And Gwen's a Queen Bee. She's not a Quota Queen. A Quota Queen's qualifications are questionable and she exists so that an organization or outlet can keep other women out. A Queen Bee, by contrast, determines all by herself that other women will not be on equal footing.

And that is why the first six months of this year found Gwen sitting around the table with twice as many men as women.

Exactly twice as many.

From January 2nd through the June 26th broadcast, Gwen had 66 male guests and only 33 female ones.

Why did it take so long for Washington Week to get a female host?

The show started in 1967 and didn't get a female host until 1999 -- thirty-two years later.

It took that long because women weren't seen as equal and they weren't valued.

You could see that week after week in who got booked and who didn't.

Queen Bee Gwen may have climbed over the fence but instead of tearing it down, she decided the fence needed to be a little higher.

How is it that public televsion manages to get away with these appalling figures on diversity?
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