ANOTHER day, another feminist activist with a little power using it to disadvantage men and favour women, and getting away with it.
Saskia Schuster, head of comedy for ITV, has announced she will no longer commission shows with all-male writing teams. Shockingly, if predictably, she justified her new policy with a crude generalisation about men: ‘Too often the writing room is not sensitively run. It can be aggressive and slightly bullying.’ Really? Does that include teams of two and teams of one?
Men, with their toxic masculinity, are aggressive, insensitive bullies who need to be discriminated against to neutralise this failing of their sex. Imagine the outcry if this kind of thing was suggested the other way around.
Ms Schuster claims she was receiving only one script from women for every five from men. So she determined: ‘I won’t commission anything with an all-male writing team.’
How can this be anything other than a clear admission of intent to discriminate on the basis of sex? It should leave ITV wide open to litigation under equality legislation. I sincerely hope this policy is tested in a court of law by some of the men who lose out under Ms Schuster’s barefaced misandry, and that ITV is forced to defend the policy before a judge so we can all see how legitimate it really is.
But this is only the start of Ms Schuster’s ambitions. Perceiving that women don’t appear to thrive as the only female in a writers’ room (whatever that is) her aim, she says, is 50-50.
Wary of tokenism, Ms Schuster has launched a scheme called Comedy 50:50 to encourage more women comedy writers. Despite admitting that women submit only a fifth of the scripts that men do, she claims that women can’t find producers who ‘get’ their voice and can develop their script to its full potential.
So you see, it’s not that women are simply absent, or that their scripts aren’t good enough. It’s that the producers (men, presumably) cannot see the gleaming talent before them and aren’t willing to give them the extra help they need. It must be all those years of experience blinding them to the misunderstood genius before their eyes.
So men must be forced to engage with and hire more women. Ms Schuster explains that she runs events where she ‘forces’ producers to have ten-minute conversations with female writers. She has set up a database of female writers, established ‘confidence workshops’, is about to launch a ‘mentoring network’, and has assigned young female writers to shadow male writing teams.
She has also changed ITV’s contracts so all new or recommissioned shows ‘must aim towards 50:50 gender representation’, and female writers have been hired for programmes such as the ITV2 panel show Celebability. She says she hopes to extend the diversity target to crew and director positions – so that’s even more discrimination that men at ITV can look forward to.
What happened to the liberal principle of appointing the best person for the job, regardless of sex? That never seems to form any part of the modern feminist agenda. And again, how is this legal? What we need is a series of high-profile court cases brought against diversity-obsessed employers that send a clear signal that anti-male policy and hiring practices are against the law and will not be tolerated.
We also need more men to stand up for themselves against the bossy feminists and not take the role of the browbeaten husband acquiescing for a quiet life. To state what should be obvious, discrimination against men and special treatment for women is not fair on talented men, and is not fair on audiences who expect to be entertained by the best, regardless of sex. As Kate Andrews says, TV producers should not be ‘playing quota games with the creative process’.
It is also not fair on women, who will be tarred with the brush of tokenism and suspected of not achieving their position on merit.
Ms Schuster seems aware of this last point, observing that ‘the dominant perception is that the female is there purely so the production can hit quotas’. Indeed, and you’re not exactly helping matters here, are you, Ms Schuster?
What’s perverse about this is that female scriptwriters have never been more successful. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is storming it on talent alone – Fleabag and the first series of Killing Eve being just the latest of her TV output. She’s not alone either. Like them or loathe them the Radio Times recently ran through no fewer than 24 TV hit shows to look forward to written by women, some of which have already become big hits.
Some might be tempted to think that some male positive discrimination was overdue.