EXTENDED UNTIL OCT 22, 2011
I listen to or watch you regularly, in most cases for years running. Let’s just get this out of the way: I admire you. I admire you for finding a wide variety of intelligent, interesting guests, and for having entertaining and illuminating conversations with them. You radio hosts have made it possible for me to work for hours and days in the studio without going bonkers. And to be completely honest, I have also made artwork while watching all of your TV shows too.
You interview people who are not necessarily household names and seem to make a point of discussing issues and ideas that are not commonly discussed elsewhere (except in the New Yorker, which you all crib for ideas, obviously). Just as important, you help me and others like me to feel less alone in the larger sea of fear-, humiliation- and tragedy-based media. I am grateful to you.
But when I looked closely at whom you interview—the people you collectively decide are the most important of the moment—I was very surprised. I should explain that a lot of my artwork starts with a bee in my bonnet, a question of, “Is it just me, or are things really the way they seem?” I had started to feel, after years of experience with all of your shows, that I just wasn’t seeing or hearing all that many women guests. So I went to your website archives and started counting, and what I found was this:
In 2010, the most lopsided show among you featured only 17.5% female guests. The most balanced among you still only featured 34% female guests. The rest of you are in between, but mostly huddled around the more lopsided end of that spectrum.
If I may be so bold, WTF?
I would like to get to the bottom of this lopsidedness. I would like to understand why men are still perceived as more brilliant, more fascinating and more important than women. I have some theories, and I respectfully request a meeting. I know you are the interviewers by trade, but I would like to interview you or one of your producers to discuss the reasons behind this imbalance: is it an internalized bias or a business decision? What is there to be done about it?
I assume you like to see yourselves as critical thinkers. Might it be possible to get a bit more critical about the internal and external forces that encourage all of us to think that men produce the best ideas and cultural products out there? I think it might.
As I hope this letter makes clear, I have a sincere desire to understand your perspective on a problem we all share. But at times I also wonder if it’s edifying for me to be exposed to so much bias, and Winona Ryder’s character in the 1988 movie Heathers springs to mind. At the end of the movie she finally realizes that she is better off without her smart, hot and psychotic boyfriend (played by Christian Slater). She tells him, striking a blow for all of us who feel oppressed by those they have admired, “Do you know what I need? Cool guys like you out of my life.”
In any case, my response to your shows has inspired me. I have incorporated my explorations of the demographics of your guests into large scale artworks I’m presenting at my next solo exhibition.
I look forward to your response.