#WhoTalks For Women of Color?

A majority of the shows Who Talks? tracks have not even come close to gender parity.

Over the past six months, GenderAvenger’s Who Talks? project, in partnership with Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) and the Women’s Media Center, has collected and monitored the gender balance of expert analysts commenting on the presidential election appearing on six top-rated morning and primetime shows on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. The data has shown, in most cases, and unsurprisingly, a stark underrepresentation of women experts called on to comment on the election. A majority of the shows have not even come close to gender parity — four of the six shows have not cracked 35% — and the worst offender, The Kelly File, averaged just 15% women analysts over a six-month period.

Women of color account for a frighteningly low 4% of analysts.

As the research assistant for CAWP collecting the data and the Director of Communications for GenderAvenger, we are intimately familiar with the numbers at their best and worst. The most recent data from the Who Talks? project paints a bleaker picture than we ever anticipated, though. In an arena where women are already underrepresented — women make up only 28% of the political analysts featured on all six evening and primetime cable news shows — women of color account for a frighteningly low 4% of analysts.

While we have lauded individual shows when they’ve achieved gender balance, once you take race into account even the most consistently high-ranking show, Anderson Cooper 360, comes in at a disturbing 13% for its inclusion of analysts who are women of color. Morning Joe, the show with the worst stats, achieved the truly unbelievably low stat of 1%.

Women of color are not given an equal platform to speak and be heard.

For the past six months, we have done the unthinkable, watching eight hours of cable news coverage every day. Across Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, we have borne witness to every gaffe, every poll, and every controversy. It’s all been shocking, but expected. How can feminism not be seen as a scary word, and how can black men and women stop being criminalized in the national imagination when women, and more specifically women of color, are not given an equal platform to speak and be heard?

These numbers serve as a reminder that the fight to ensure that marginalized voices are heard must continue.

These numbers serve as a reminder that the fight to ensure that marginalized voices are heard must continue. As long as judges are accused of not being able to do their jobs because of their ethnicity, as long as male virility is equated with stamina and a sign of leadership, we cannot continue with naive optimism. Conversations that shape how this presidential election is understood by the public are happening on cable news programs every day, and, sadly, these conversations are happening almost entirely without women of color present. Silence is a form of oppression, and its presence is visible throughout this data.

We need to call out those that are impeding equality.

As two millennial women, we feel a responsibility to speak up for the kind of world we want to cultivate and live in, and we need to call out those that are impeding equality, whether intentionally or not. We cannot accept that, of the hundreds of voices that provide the analysis and context on cable news programs during this year’s historic election, only 4% of the political analysts are women of color.

The central question behind the Who Talks? project is just that: who gets to speak? I think we all know exactly who talks and, more importantly, who doesn’t.

Soraya Membreno

Soraya Membreño: Writer. Poet. Nica. A pre-Lebron Miami native and graduate of Williams College, Soraya is a former physics geek turned cultural/literary theory junkie. Her writing has appeared in Post No Ills and The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. She has worked in development for various literary nonprofits in New York City, including Poets & Writers, Cave Canem, and LouderARTS. She is an editor at Union Station Magazine.

Chelsea Hill

Chelsea Hill: After completing her master's practicum at CAWP in 2015, she explores the significance of gender and representation in the political arena. Hill is a project research assistant at the Center for American Women and Politics, working on #WhoTalks, a project that monitors the gender disparity of cable television experts commenting on the 2016 presidential election. She also works with CAWP's information services program.