Avenger Gina Asks Morning Joe (Again): Where Are the Women?

GenderAvenger’s mission is to ensure that women are always part of the public dialog. In 2016, the public dialog will be dominated by presidential politics.

Undoubtedly, that accounts for my seeming obsession with Morning Joe. Obsession is a strong term. I would prefer to be known as really, really annoyed. My annoyance started with a few chance viewings of Morning Joe where I spotted a notable lack of women commentators. Was this a pattern or just a few one-offs?

To be sure that my annoyance was justified, I watched 30 (!) hours of the show before writing this blog. I started by watching 12 hours the week of November 30th when the show went to New Hampshire. Over the course of four episodes that week, Morning Joe had just TWO women at the table discussing the election, which inspired GenderAvenger’s original Morning Joe petition.

Starting Friday, January 15th when the show originated from Iowa, I watched another 18 hours. How many women were part of the week’s discussion? 15 out of 64, or 23%!

Here are the rules I created for my assessment of gender balance on Morning Joe:

  • I do not count Joe and Mika.
  • Only individuals who discussed presidential politics are included. So, when Ambassador Wendy Sherman described the Iran deal without any mention of presidential politics, she was not included in the count, nor was Washington Post reporter David Ignatius when he did the same.
  • Campaign “embeds,” reporters assigned to specific campaigns, are not included because they are not the choice of the show’s producers but rather the choice of the network.
  • Political reporters such as Chris Jansing, Casey Hunt, and Halle Jackson are included, because they roam from campaign to campaign and are called upon for analysis.
  • Andrea Mitchell, who hosts her own MSNBC show, is also included when she appears for the purpose of political commentary.

I did not count the minutes women spoke vs. the minutes men spoke. I can say with some confidence that comparisons of time spent speaking would show an even more dramatic difference between male and female voices.

The pattern is clear: very few women make it into the discussion of presidential politics.

In December, Morning Joe went to New Hampshire and didn’t have one woman commenting on presidential politics — that in a state where 57% of the primary voters were women in 2008! Recently, the show originated from Iowa where they did a bit better: three women, of whom one was the Des Moines Register pollster and another was the paper’s national political reporter. Unfortunately, back in the studio two days later (1/19), once again nary a woman commentator appeared when the presidential candidates, their statements, and their chances of winning their parties’ nominations dominated the conversation.

This week, continuing the trend the day after the CNN Democratic Candidates Forum, nine men and one woman were on the show to talk about the state of the race.

The GenderAvenger team decided it was time to amplify my annoyance. So, we put our petition on Change.org to reach more people with the information. The reaction has been swift and strong with 4,715 people signing the petition so far. With your help we can get to 5,000, a nice number to send on to Joe and Mika. Please encourage as many folks as possible to sign on.

SURPRISE! The day after we launched our Change.org petition, here were the first words out of commentator Nicole Wallace’s mouth in the first hour of Morning Joe: “Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly remind me of you Joe and the way you defend your female colleagues.” And for the first time since I started tallying Morning Joe, the first panel featured 3 men and 3 women! Unfortunately, the second hour was more of the same with 8 men and 2 women.

The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University to partner with GenderAvenger!

It is one thing for GenderAvenger’s Founder — me, that is — to stare at the TV and count. It is quite another for a renowned center which focuses on women and politics at a major university to collect data on the same issue. That is why we are excited that Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) will ensure academic rigor and expand the count beyond Morning Joe to the highest rated morning and evening cable shows.

CAWP will not only count the number of men and women, they will look more deeply at representation and analyze their findings. The “Who’s Talking” project will launch in February and run throughout the election season. We will share the data with you, and all of us will use our social media powers to reveal it and, undoubtedly, provoke change.

Get ready. You are key to the success of this campaign. We are counting on you to spread the word that will put women into the public dialog this extraordinary election year.


Originally published at www.genderavenger.com on January 29, 2016.

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