Our editors explain why women aren’t getting more prominent on TV

No one’s really had to watch “the Bach Show,” and for reasons that defy explanation, they haven’t paid much attention to Meredith Vieira or Meredith Phillips. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to talk about them.

On Tuesday, CNN anchor Jake Tapper singled out the daytime chat show co-hosts to launch a discussion about why women aren’t getting more prominent on television. “There are girls at [the] great centers who are taking over the room,” he said, referring to media moguls like Oprah Winfrey and Tina Brown. “I just can’t wrap my mind around why we’re still waiting for women to get enough opportunity.”

The next day, editors at Today.com pondered what it is about white guys hosting “The View” that appeals to women. Among their picks, “in addition to being able to gel well with pop culture as host, these folks on The View, in particular, deserve credit for using social media to try to change how the broadcast media depicts women.”

Part of the reason women aren’t resonating on prime-time shows (as Gizmodo’s Alexander Burns points out) is that, “executives tend to come up with one of two ideas for female characters. Either they’re played for laughs as either beautiful (with endless voiceovers) or stupid (with endless voiceovers).”

“These women had played some of those roles,” he added, “but on The View they decided they wanted to be anything but stupid.”

For a variety of reasons — lack of opportunity, foul-mouthed hosts, being trite and shortsighted — white guys often find themselves out of the running when it comes to managing the media. But thanks to the rise of online content and the social media tools to spread it, there are more women who are directly and virtually sharing ideas. From Natalie Angier’s food blog, which she recently stopped doing in order to focus on her career, to Frank O’Hara’s experimental podcasts like “Mixbook,” which aims to feature “non-traditional, independent, musicologist/lecturer/artist/etc.” radio hosts, we’re getting more women on media property that we all like to hate.

The women we’re getting on our favorite platforms may not be the type to talk too much about what have become the fashionista magazines of the “Real Housewives” era, but they do thrive in serendipitous conversations about things that matter.

Here’s to the future of people who give a shit about media, and about them.

Yours in media,

For the rest of us,

Ruth Marcus

Natalie Angier

This article appears in the Oct. 28, 2015, print edition of Washingtonian.

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