Jezebel’s Woman Problem

“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.” -Oprah Winfrey

Jezebel has fucking called out The Daily Show. They say that

“it’s … a boys’ club where women’s contributions are often ignored and dismissed.”

The female staffers of The Daily Show have responded, humorously of course. They thank the male writers for writing their letter for them in the post-script.

First, the Jezebel piece dismisses, out of hand, anything that Samatha Bee has to say, passing over her Daily Show cred with a simple “with notable exception of…” This isn’t journalism. It’s what Fox News does. Jezebel has picked a position (that The Daily Show is sexist) and attempts to frame their piece in a manner which defends that positions.

They only include quotes from former Daily Show employees, a group of people who likely going to have reasons to be critical of the show, merely linking to a piece which discusses Bee’s defense of the show . Jezebel devotes less than 200 words in a 1500 word piece to the female supporters of The Daily Show. Jezebel claims that the story about how Jon Stewart threw “either a script or a newspaper” at (former show producer and co-creator) Madeleine Smithberg is “oft told among Daily Show veterans.” If anyone would be embittered enough to accuse someone of sexism, you’d think it would be the person who has a newspaper tossed at them. However, Jezebel quotes Smithberg as saying that “I don’t think Jon is sexist.”

In another part, Jezebel has an anonymous “female comedian” who has “auditioned multiple times for the show” quoted as saying

“Looking back, it was ridiculous of me to even prepare! Should I have gone to the gym more? Done Playboy? It’s such a joke.”

I mean, it’s not like The Daily Show has a history of only hiring smoking hot women to be on-air. I don’t think any of the female correspondents are ugly (I wouldn’t kick them out of bed for eating crackers) but these women aren’t professional models. Samatha Bee? Kristen Schaal? Nancy Walls ? Laura Kightlinger ? Beth Littleford? Miriam Tolan? Mary Birdsong? Susie Essman? Rachel Harris?

If anything, Jezebel should be accusing The Daily Show of reinforcing the idea that a woman can either be pretty or funny.

More importantly, why is Jezebel dismissing Munn’s credentials because she did Playboy? From the piece,

“has led some to criticize The Daily Show for hiring someone better known for suggestively putting things in her mouth on a video game show (seen here) and being on the covers of Playboyand Maxim than for her comedic chops.”

Jezebel cites the super reliable “some” as their reference for suggesting that Munn was hired because of her looks, rather than her comedic prowess. Aren’t we supposed to be empowering women? Why would Jezebel suggest that because a woman is smoking hot, she can’t also be funny?

In Emily Gould’s piece in Slate on the debate, she contends that sites like Jezebel manufacture outrage to maintain site hits. I tend to agree.  According to the Wikipedia page, The Daily Show has 6 regular correspondents, including Munn. Bee has been there the longest (since 2003.) That makes 33.3% of the on-air correspondents female. Prior to Munn’s arrival, it was 20%. The Daily Show has increased the female portion of their on-air presence by 13.3%. The Jezebel piece also points out that The Daily Show has added two female writers to it’s staff this year.

So Jezebel waits until The Daily Show adds a female correspondent and adds female writers to accuse it of having a sexism problem? Wouldn’t the time for those accusations be BEFORE The Daily Show hired a bunch of women?

The Sexist, in WaPo Washington City Paper, also jumps in on the issue. Their piece concludes that

“I’m sure that the women employees of The Daily Show aren’t lying when they describe Stewart as “the word that means the opposite of sexist.” But it’s not enough for him to be Jon Stewart, Really Swell Guy anymore—he’s the head of a comedy institution, one with the power to either contribute to or counteract the overwhelming sexism of the field. In order to challenge structural inequalities and actually recruit the best people for the job, the men who run comedy—men like Stewart—will have to do more than just not be overtly discriminatory.”

No. I disagree. I don’t want The Daily Show to hire on-air personalities because they are women. I want them to hire on-air personalities because they are funny. Having a mediocre female correspondent only reinforces the negative perception of women in comedy. It proves to people that women aren’t funny because the head of a comedy institution is holding up this person with a vagina as someone who is funny, when they aren’t.

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