Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
256

Someone Got 'The Daily Show' in My Jezebel and Together They Taste A Little Weird

THAT ONE WOMAN BEHIND THE MAN, ETC.Perhaps you've heard that there's been some… disagreements between certain feminist blogs and The Daily Show recently. If not, let me recap! A couple of weeks ago, Jezebel's Irin Carmon (a hand-to-God Real Journalist, with non-blog bylines!) wrote a piece examining what she termed The Daily Show's "Woman Problem." She largely defined the show as being a hostile environment for women as evidenced by the perennially low number of female correspondents and the testimony of some named and unnamed sources. The piece didn't really go too far, other than apparently being widely linked on Facebook. Olivia Munn, the Daily Show's but-one-month-old lady correspondent may or may not have heard about it, and, uh, commented. But that was about it; I never thought you'd hear another peep. I mean, this is The Daily Show, surely they won't condescend to deal with some blogs, right?

But then last week, in the middle of a long list of the travails of running a world-famous, critically-adored, massively-profitable talk show, Jon said, "Jezebel thinks I'm a sexist pig!" And I thought: they've got something planned. Sure enough, they did. Yesterday, an open letter from various women staffers at the Daily Show hit the Internet, in which they say, among other things, that their boss is great guy! (He pays their salaries!) They are "integral" to the development of the show!

Then Emily Gould came in at Slate with that classic ladyfight ender: "Y'all Are Just Jealous." Her thesis is that blogs like Jezebel and Broadsheet and XX Factor drum up pageviews by exploiting women's envy of other women's positions: "Instead of mimicking the old directly anxiety-making model-for example, by posting weight-loss tips and photos of impossibly thin models like a traditional women's magazine-Jezebel and the Slate and Salon 'lady-blogs' post a critique of a rail-thin model's physique, explaining how her attractiveness hurts women. The end result is the same as the old formula-women's insecurities sell ads."

Gould's giving a pretty vague gloss on what it is that those blogs do, in my experience-Jezebel's anti-"bodysnarking" rule is Internet-famous, and just yesterday they had a post explaining why Crystal Renn oughtn't to be criticized for losing weight. Also, in general I think it's important to be skeptical of grand theses based on sampling of Internet comments. Internet commenters (and I've been one! Still am!) are assholes; on this I think we can all agree.

But that doesn't mean that the only thing that can be going on behind these arguments is a feeding of the id. I don't know that I can get on board with saying that the dominant dynamic among women on the Internet (or anywhere else!) is purely jealousy. In any event, I don't really think jealousy or envy is at the root of what's going on in the critique of sexism at the Daily Show particularly.

As a ladyparts-haver and even, gasp, a self-identified feminist of some years now, when I initially read Carmon's article, I also wasn't shocked or appalled by the allegations. This was hardlythe first time the issue of a Daily Show sausage-fest has been raised. In fact, and maybe your friends are different than mine, but every year, when they win an Emmy, everyone I know makes the standard joke about all those suits up on stage. (In fact, Jon made a version of it himself once! Though he was remarking on the prevalence of Ivy-educated Jews.) And while no one, not even Carmon, denied that Samantha Bee, Kirsten Schaal and now Munn, work there, the latter two are trotted out only occasionally-Schaal last appeared on the show, per IMDB, on July 1, 2009.

WOMEN AT WORKNow, to make that observation is to make an observation about The Daily Show's image as a TV program. But The Daily Show staffers' letter skirts the issue of image entirely, it seems to me, because it's so hard to dispute. It's the gigantic, entirely visible elephant that blots out their affirmations that their boss helped them through 9/11 (Really? 9/11's coming into this?) and is reportedly "charming." This even though, it seems to me, Carmon's original article (with perhaps the exception of its initial diagnosis of "boys' club") was about the image of The Daily Show. Carmon's piece thus dealt almost exclusively with writers and on-air talent, not the production staff. I'm not saying Carmon couldn't have been more precise about what it was she was commenting on about the show's makeup, but on the other hand it's not like she actually claimed no women worked there, and so, therefore, it's not like this letter is some grand corrective to the already objectively provable fact that women do work at The Daily Show.

Because here's the thing that we all know: just because you employ a ton of women (40%, they say!) on your staff doesn't negate the possibility that the content of your show, and its public image-as in, who actually writes and says the words, who, in a word, are presented as the show's "authors"-is male-skewed. No matter how porous the boundaries between the creative and production staffs, no matter how integral they are to the-day-to-day work of putting on the show, that's got to be obvious to you. If your male writers are, as The Daily Show's are, dominating your women writers at a rough 15:1 ratio, if it is men that you take onstage with you at the Emmys, then let's be honest about what that means.

The entire excuse of having a ton of female production staffers (in a mishmash of roles that includes two writers, a writer's assistant and a co-executive producer, as well as a TelePrompter operator, a hair and make-up artist and a wardrobe stylist) reminds me more than not of the time I was in a corporate diversity seminar where someone was reduced to trotting out the high levels of people of color they employed in the mailroom as evidence of the company's successes on that score. Women may be getting coffee, they may be building sets, they may even be giving comments on scripts, but the fact that they are almost entirely not in positions of creative control does, in fact, matter.

And in any event, I assume The Daily Show-like every other entity up to and including New York City's government-doesn't really want to talk numbers when it comes to diversity. The Daily Show can't possibly be claiming that its staff is actually representative of the American population writ large. Because if we're going to play that game, I'll point out that I don't see a lot of women of color in that picture they issued. (Not that you can tell just by looking, but still.) And when I went through the LinkedIn profiles of these women, trying to gather what it was they did precisely-and, absolutely, some of these women, like Kahane Cooperman, the co-executive producer, are involved at creative levels of the show-it was hard not to notice that many came from NYU, the University of Chicago, UVA, Yale. Their backgrounds are, indeed, uniform in a way, and probably uniform in a way that affects the way they view their audience and the comedy that they are prepared to do.

The thing about these discussions about diversity that's so frustrating is that there is, of course, an essential truth to the proposition that meeting some kind of quota-6 women, 10 men, 3 people with disabilities and one with a freckle on the left side of his nose, on and on-won't solve your diversity problem, necessarily. First of all, if you spend any time on any of the lady websites Gould mentions, it's impossible to avoid notice of the fact that ladies, even ladies of some similar political affiliations, sympathies and even backgrounds don't necessarily agree with each other on individual issues. (This makes her accusation that they are some kind of hive mind waiting on the Internet to pounce on successful women more difficult to defend, but I digress.)

Second of all, this is the entire reason the whole "My best friend is black" shtick can be so hysterically funny-it's that just because you happen to know some people of x characteristic who you can live with, employ, have a beer with, even marry, it doesn't mean you're immune to discriminating against them in small ways. That's because we live in a world, like it or not, that defines men as more qualified and reliable than women, whites as more qualified and important than people of color, etc. There are always different standards, and it was Gould who said-aptly!-that, "If a woman writes about herself, she's a narcissist. If a man does the same, he's describing the human condition."

But if you raise these issues, as Carmon did, the reaction is always ferociously defensive and immediate. For example, the words "Jon Stewart is a sexist prick" do not appear in the piece. Certain of her sources did make comments on Stewart's behaviour, but the only money shot (heh) is aimed at former Daily Show host Craig Kilborn. (And who remembers That Guy?) But the moment Stewart used that phrase, this became about his hurt feelings, about his character, about whether or not you like the damn show.

And I can tell you, as someone who found the criticism somewhat trenchant: I do like the damn show! That's exactly why it irks when it makes stupid jokes about sex workers, calling them "used vagina salesmen," (which, uh, right?) because fundamentally I think it's beneath them. That's why it'd be nice if it didn't feel like a show that was written for people other than me. That's why it annoys me that they are plainly uncomfortable and out of step whenever they have to make jokes about gender. I have no desire to be a Daily Show writer, you see-I'm not Just Jealous-but it sure would be nice to feel as if the funny was meant for me too.

And now, I'm off to make myself a sandwich.



Michelle Dean has written for Bitch and The American Prospect. She blogs at The Pursuit of Harpyness.

256 Comments / Post A Comment

NinetyNine (#98)

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE AWL'S WOMEN PROBLEM?

Matt (#26)

Mr. Kilborn actually has a new show airing in test markets! "It's time for 5 Questions!"

petejayhawk (#1,249)

That's not a Women Problem. Craig Kilborn actually getting another show is an Everybody Problem.

HiredGoons (#603)

Ugh, I accidentally watched two minutes of it and had to scour my eyeballs with steel wool and hydrogen peroxide*.

*peroxide content still less than that of Craig Kilborn's hair.

Were four of the five questions about fat women? Because fat women jokes are the only jokes Kilborn knows how to make. Usually the same one over and over again.

Kilby is just an unbelievable asshole. I just read an interview with him where the interviewer's desire to punch him in the face was absolutely leaping off the page. I'm not sure I would've been able to restrain myself.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

No link, Mantooth?

I KNOW! I'm wracking my brain here trying to figure out where it was! Please hold.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Wow… I thought you were talking about a prose article. It's amazing the writer could pack that much disdain into the Q&A format!

katiechasm (#163)

Jezebel makes women look bad.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

It's the lighting.

Mount_Prion (#290)

It's really not a feminist blog. Just a place to oversensitize.

ShanghaiLil (#260)

C'mon! Computer-aged women need somewhere to go to complain about their brassieres and fashion magazines and how hard it is to get good help nowadays.

katiechasm (#163)

@Mount Prion, yes. A niche blog for the easily offended.

I got Jezebelled once. I'm still running.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Yeah, and while we're at it, why can't Chelsea Lately skew more towards me? And why can't Lifetime make some movies that appeal to me? And why does Univision have to broadcast in Spanish, which I don't speak? I demand equality, dammit.

Regina Small (#2,468)

Exactly. When will these feminists learn that women already have their niche programming? Ladies and their ideas!

Tyler Coates (#451)

I forgot that the Daily Show is on Spike.

michelledean (#5,900)

Too right. If only there was an entire world that men largely governed, in which they ruled basically all major corporations and pretty much the whole media… We could send them all there!

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Comedy Central, though? You're going to argue that Comedy Central isn't a dude channel?

cherrispryte (#444)

I …… does anyone else want to take a crack at this for me? It's too damn hot for me to take proper offense at your priveledge (assuming you're sincere) but damn, that's an old, tired argument you're trotting out.

Tyler Coates (#451)

But they have the Sarah Silverman Program! Oh, wait. Nevermind.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

But it does bother you when the Daily Show makes jokes you don't like, despite their stated mission to make fun of EVERYTHING, and you wish it would be funnier to YOU. Which is pretty selfish, unless you're purporting to speak for all womankind, which is worse.

You completely blow off the Daily Show's pretty thorough response to being called sexist because it doesn't fit your and Jezebel's little narrative.

HiredGoons (#603)

LOGO HATES STRAIGHT PEOPLE!!!

petejayhawk (#1,249)

And no, I'm not being entirely serious. I realize that Chelsea Lately isn't funny to anyone.

michelledean (#5,900)

I didn't find the response particularly substantive, and as I point out above, I didn't feel, personally, that it actually attacked the point being made. Just 'cause there are vaginas present doesn't mean you can't be sexist; just because they feel valued in their jobs themselves doesn't negate your overall image problem.

I don't tend to like making blunt assertions like, "that show is sexist," because all it buys me is tiresome conversations with guys like you, who are very afraid of that word for some reason or other! Sexist =/= get burned at the stake! That's your equation, not mine.

And to be clear, this all depends on what you're calling "everything." The lives of women are hilarious, the space in which they exist and the way society treats us? Totally funny. Rarely addressed by the Daily Show. Must I link you all to Moe's tampon post? Or to Sarah Haskins' Target Women? First rate hilarity.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

"Guys like me?" Really? Please, tell me what kind of guy I am.

cherrispryte (#444)

As Michelle explains above, The Daily Show's response wasn't thorough. They didn't address why the vast majority of their guests are male (are women not doing things they deem interesting?) and why almost all of the writers and correspondents are male. Their response, which was mostly "but we have women in lower and non-creative positions behind the scenes" only digs them in deeper. I mean, finding out that they don't view Stewart as a sexist is encouraging, but it doesn't address what you see and hear every night.

michelledean (#5,900)

Oh, you know, the kind who spends their day making internet comments denying that sexism exists!

Regina Small (#2,468)

"Little narrative"? You are responding to a feminist argument that involves condescending to women by…condescending to a woman?

The original Jezebel article noted that for a liberal-minded show, TDS has surprisingly little in the way of female representation, onscreen and on the writing staff. The female correspondent they've recently hired is Hot and possibly funny but mostly Hot.

TDS responded by taking a photo of their female production staffers and writing a smug dismissive open letter about how these feminist ladies are about as funny as their Nanas (so: not funny) and so those humorless bitches will be ignored. It didn't address the argument about the writing staff.

Women are not a niche. People of color are not a niche. Gays are not a niche. Like white men (who make up what percentage of TDS' writing staff?), all of these people are just people. People who would like to watch quality comedy that is isn't solely informed by a unified perspective of white male-dom. So that's the argument, and it's an argument that TDS completely ignored (oh the irony!) in their response.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

I see that point, but I think it is unfair to dismiss the "other" people at the Daily Show in order to maintain the earlier Jez assertion that the show is fundamentally sexist. If Jon Stewart is not a horrible sexist pig of a boss, and the contributions of women are in fact valued at the Daily Show, and women are not in fact treated as second-class employees, that is worth acknowledging more than just in passing and does change the underlying validity of the original criticism. Not to say that other aspects shouldn't be improved upon, as cherrispryte and Michelle have pointed out here, but neither should the women's response be blown off.

Tyler Coates (#451)

Has anyone asked Lizz Winstead if she's on Team Jezebel?

keanesian (#1,116)

This is just like the time everyone realized that The Daily Show only cares about liberal viewers and everyone stopped watching because of its blatant bias against Republicans. Oh wait…

Regina Small (#2,468)

Sadly, no: http://twitter.com/lizzwinstead/status/17922845396

Our heroines, sometimes they disappoint.

@petejayhawk: So much of your argument here assumes that, just because maybe The Daily Show isn't for the ladies, it should immune from criticism on that count. Sure, they can ignore women. But that means that we can critique them for it.

Here's an argument along your same lines: Don't like this blog post? Don't read it! That's not a very useful perspective, either.

Slackferno (#197)

Hasn't the Daily actually made progress in the (on-screen, at least) diversity department? They have every shade of brown in the crayon box now, and I can remember when the most ethnic correspondent they had was the kinda-Latino Mo Rocca.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Doesn't matter. Not enough women.

riese (#4,541)

actually Logo does hate women/lesbians, but i suppose we could talk about that next week or whenever it is okay for everybody here

Mar (#2,357)

@petejayhawk: Tell us more about these "women." Have you ever seen one up close? Do they like to eat a fruit?

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Ask Michelle. She already knows everything about me based on a couple rabble-rousing internet comments, so I'm sure she knows what a women is.

michelledean (#5,900)

Touchy, touchy. Why, that's almost some oversensitivity you're showing there!

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

yeah, I also want to know this, seeing as Lizz is credited as a creator on the show.

Lizz created the show (with another lady, even, I believe!), but left after Kilby said in an interview that she would totally give him a blowjob.

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

Still waiting for Michelle to explain petejayhawk to me.

Where does he get his ideas?

Mar (#2,357)

"Lie down on a grass softly and hold back your shout. No need to upset every mans.

Count to three and push-push-push. Count to three and push-push-push. Do this thing. At a time a babie choose to fall out. If a babie does not fall out ring a bell. Sound will bring the red worm. He know what to do for a babie then."

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

That is a totally good reason to quit! I am also really happy that there is concrete proof that Kilborn is a dick and my superficial assumptions of him can be justified. sometimes a bro just is an unrepentant sexist bro in the old-school sense of the term, rather than the harmless bros of icing fame we blog about today.

A Snood Mood (#1,737)

Aw shit, Comedy Central is for guys? I never got the lady-memo. What channel do I get to watch DS and Colbert Report then?

Speaking of Old School, pretty sure he was just playing himself there.

Du (#5,918)

I wouldn't want TDS to purposely book female guests any more than I would want them to purposely avoid booking female guests.

By the way, did you see Julianne Moore on The Daily Show last night? She was so funny. I just love her.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Babs, that's exactly my point. TDS and Colbert are way more accessible to female viewers than anything else on their network. The show overcomes its environment already. To bash them for not being outstanding enough is a bit churlish.

BadUncle (#153)

Does this article make me look fat?

HiredGoons (#603)

No, but your ass does.

But that's OK.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@BadU: I'm failing to see the rape/abortion/period angles of this article. And nary a mention of Posh Spice. Apparently Michelle Dean doesn't write for guh-irls.

Watch the thread-jacking.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Dude you're fat in the BONES. #ENDOSKELEFATTYTON

Dear Michelle Dean,
You are about to get 1000 fan emails, so you might want to work that into your schedule. Ps: I love you.

Tyler Coates (#451)

I'll save her one and tell her that this was great in comment form.

jolie (#16)

Was gonna say! (Ooh, or should we catfight for her?!)

Also: Being thoughtful on the subject of feminist issues but also polite and not condescending are lovely traits in a blogger.

Dave Bry (#422)

I agree. Here's to thoughtful and polite and not condescending.

tigolbitties (#2,150)

i would like to bake m.dean some cookies i enjoyed this article that much!

p.s. dave bry, i would like to co-sign everything you write – is that wrong?

jolie (#16)

Here is a recipe you should try! (I should be scolded for that.)

I want Mr. Bry to be meaner or he's going to run out of those apologies columns!

Female written; didn't read.

^lie, btw.

cherrispryte (#444)

Of course you were lying – you're a man.

shostakobitch (#1,692)

i used to feel the same way about benny hill.

NinetyNine (#98)

Also: In June 2005, Irin graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude with highest honors in Literature.

For Camron, then, it really is just gender.

Also, I failed to catch where this author went to school, but there were am awful lot of words up there. (Disclosure: I went to a public university)

michelledean (#5,900)

McGill! I'm a socialist.

Eh… could be worse, you could be Canadian.

itskristina (#1,779)

real socialists go to UQAM! (or Concordia)

City_Dater (#2,500)

Well, bless you Michelle Dean, for a nuanced, intelligent, sensible perspective on this women-in-comedy, what-happens-when-we-talk-about-gender-issues-on- the-internet thing.
But nuanced, intelligent and sensible won't generate weepy debate and defensive comments! I'll click on this a few hundred times and forward it around so it looks like you started a shitstorm, if you want.

Grant G Brown (#3,366)

I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU HATE THE DAILY SHOW!!!

City_Dater (#2,500)

And look, Grant is helping! Together we will make you seem unbalanced and rude (rather than fabulous, fair and Canadian?), possibly because of your nasty feminine hormones!

I will happily offer Wyatt Cenac's Daily Show job to any female comedian you choose as a good-faith gesture in the name of opening a dialogue between the sexes.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he's never met a punchline that he didn't allow to die from neglect.

Seriously, he's terrible. Please replace him.

Bunx05 (#1,625)

Then you'll piss off us Blacks. We take what we can get from the Daily Show… Larry Wilmore is hilarious, though. I'd Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts is a great book.

I have that book! When I read it, I imagined it in Larry Wilmore's voice, which easily doubled how funny it was. He's just great.

karion (#11)

Although I disagree with a few points, this is exceptionally awesome writing.

NinetyNine (#98)

This kind of jealousy is ruining comment culture.

libmas (#231)

"But The Daily Show staffers' letter skirts the issue of image entirely, it seems to me, because it's so hard to dispute."

This is the trouble with reading The Awl. I don't know whether "skirts the issue" is supposed to be a joke or not.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

All puns aside, I had the same reaction when I read the Daily Show letter. Because I'm a big fan of the show, I really wanted the Jezebel piece to be overblown and I really wanted the Daily Show's response to be a strong refutation. Instead I left thinking "Yeah, ok, but there SHOULD be women working in positions behind the scenes. What about up front?" Weak sauce on their part. I feel queasy.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

In retrospect, I didn't mean to be so dismissive of puns there. I <3 them.

HiredGoons (#603)

So you're saying the real problem is Jews?

libmas (#231)

It's either that or Sugartits.

I think they need more blond haired blue eyed strapping musceley 6 foot tall or over writers and/or on-air talent on their staff.

HiredGoons (#603)

I'm sure there is a solution. One that will address the problem once and for all.

TDS guys will start working out and bleaching their hair?

HiredGoons (#603)

They're gay!?

You know Goons TDS doesn't have any openly gay on-air talent either. I wonder when The Advocate is gonna speak up.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Watch some old "Even Stephvens" segments and then try to tell me that the gays have been underserved by TDS. The air CRACKLES with HoYay.

(Seriously? I CANNOT believe that there aren't any comments about Drunk Steve!!)

I have very little to say on this topic. But I did want to bring up this:

JEZEBEL

Looks like our entry into the top 25 was that silly cat video. What I will say about that: It never hurts to pick up a viral video a day or two after it's come out; you can't assume your readers have already seen it. Give it the right headline, and send virals to facebook automatically. Always helps. http://jezebel.com/5564433/

Sarah Palin's breast implants was our next highest story. This worked for a couple of reasons: We were the first big-big site to grab it off of a smaller site (Wonkette), which helped us claim it. We also wisely (given that Jez isn't really about analyzing someone's boobs) distanced ourselves from the piece by chuckling about what the other idiots were saying. But we still inserted our own takeaway (probs not fake). Took all of 20 minutes to write it, photo time included. http://jezebel.com/5558324/

The Lohan porn-star script: Why'd it work? A straight-up scoop. Scored a document that, while ostensibly "just a script," has a tabloidian interest factor (ie, it's Lohan's next movie). http://jezebel.com/5571979/

And while it's not in the top 100, I'd give Irin's Daily Show item a mention: It still did very well, and it earned us the kind of publicity — Jon! Namechecked! Us! — we can't buy. Moreover, it was widely circulated within the media, spawned several more discussions, and affirmed our status as both an influencer and a muckraker. http://jezebel.com/5570545

Nick Denton

KarenUhOh (#19)

That's an honest appraisal. Also, it's a shower in a cesspool.

zidaane (#373)

It's my experience the ladies love an overlord.

jolie (#16)

@zidaane: This is true, actually.

HiredGoons (#603)

@zidaane: and shopping, don't forget shopping.

zidanne just so long as that overlord pays the bills I am bought and paid for.

cherrispryte (#444)

I have thought for a while that Nick Denton is the biggest problem with Jezebel.

saythatscool (#101)

Yes it's all Nick's fault. Not a bunch of under-experienced girls who need to go get a real job and wise up to the ways of the world.

It's all Denton and his nefarious ways….

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Nick's women 1 : Jon's women 0. Jon needs to hire more (and better) chicks and show Nick that he has the horses for this race too. Women, this means: drama!

conklin (#364)

The problem with the Jez article wasn't that it was wrong per se, but that it felt entirely disconnected from the greater context of television comedy. If one were to write an article about, whatever, the MIT chemical engineering department's "Women Problem" (I don't know that they have one and I'm not going to bother looking it up) without spending time on the state of science education from elementary school on up, the experience of female graduate students in chemistry, the make-up of the applicant pool, the composition of comparable departments at comparable institutions, etc., it would feel to me lazy and gratuitous. It would be firing at the biggest target, simply because it's the biggest target and gotta fire shots at something.

Having this discussion about the Daily Show and not about comedy in general was never going to do anything but turn into a back and forth. But that's all the better for Jezebel, right? You get mainstream coverage, inbound links, the opportunity to post follow-ups! A nuanced, technical discussion of the experience of women in comedy, something that might actually affect how people think in clubs and theaters and even dinky college troupes that serve as incubators for these kinds of shows, probably wouldn't have attracted Jon Stewart's attention. So we don't get to have that (much more important and probably more helpful) conversation because we're too busy talking about a particular workplace and who does or doesn't work there. And about the blog that ran the story, of course. Always about the blog that ran the story.

Eureka Street (#1,349)

Zoom. Coasted.

Exactly. Females are just generally scarce in comedy, and if anything, the Daily Show was targeted because of how unusually enlightened and egalitarian it is (expected to be).

carig (#4,986)

You made my point. But better.

michelledean (#5,900)

Yeah, I'm not going to deny that, but my general view on arguments like yours is this: if it's focusing on the Daily Show that's going to get people to understand that women are at a structural disadvantage in comedy, I'm okay with targeting it first. I won't deny it's a larger problem, but this is what gets tweeted around and discussed, so…

I mean, I do have some thoughts after writing about this about why people might view the Daily Show as a sort of public commodity to be debated in this way, because clearly it's not exactly like debating diversity in city government. I think it has something to do with always feeling, as someone who cares about equality, like the place you most care about breaking into is the one that is both the most closed to you, and the most potentially powerful. Comedy can be very politically powerful, as is the Daily Show generally, which is why I think you see it targeted here.

blily (#1,411)

Well, right– the whole crux of the thing for Jezebel, I think, was their implicit assumption that The Daily Show, by virtue of its liberal leanings, would rise above its comedy world roots. They wanted it to be more "liberal" than "comedy." And it's not. Presumably one could do a similar post on, I don't know, the newsrooms of PBS or NPR, or upper management at the Peace Corps.

Hmm. I agree with almost everything Conklin said, but I'm an (unfunny) white male and so, maybe I'm being sexist without realizing it (because I also can't see anything wrong with Michelle's points, even if some of them don't make sense to me). As a chemical engineer (which has the highest proportion of women of the major engineering branches, btw), I was privy to a disproportionate gender divide similar to comedy, but I'm not sure what it means. Like trying a career in comedy, there was a very high drop-out rate. Unlike comedy, judging skill in engineering is a lot more objective than in writing and performing, so perhaps it is closer to a meritocracy (would that be the objective?). I have no idea if this adds anything to the discussion. Sorry.

NinetyNine (#98)

OR THE MASTHEAD OF ONE OF THE TOP 25 BLOGS! WHEN OH WHEN ARE WE GONNA TALK ABOUT THE AWL'S WOMEN PROBLEM?

carig (#4,986)

Actually, NPR's president is a woman. And they have female anchors/hosts on their main news shows – and have always had them. As well as female reporters and producers. Public radio across the board is pretty evenly divided across genders – if there aren't more women than man. (Now race, class, etc, is a different story.)

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Michelle, I'll be honest here: I don't think feeding Jon Stewart to the Internet Hysteria Machine advances the cause of women in comedy at all. This might just be where our opinions diverge.

michelledean (#5,900)

By all means, don't lie to anyone, least of all yourself! But if anyone's feeding it to the Internet Hysteria Machine, it isn't me. I'm having a grown-up conversation about what might be wrong here.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Oh, sorry! I muddled my statement; I didn't mean to accuse you of doing that. I think the gender imbalance in comedy is a worthy issue, and TDS can certainly be used as an example in an examination of broader structural problems, as you seem to be doing. My issue is with the original Jez article, which singles the show out for punishment it doesn't deserve and doesn't examine the context at all. Inasmuch as I'm arguing with you, I think you're giving the Jez writers (or perhaps their editors?) too much credit.

Anne Smith (#5,999)

It's not a general "comedy thing." TDS had more female correspondents ten years ago than it does now. It's gotten increasingly dude-centric. So has Comedy Central, actually. I used to watch Comedy Central all the time before, for some inexplicable reason, it decided 18-34yo hetero males were the only viewers worth appealing to.

Abe Sauer (#148)

If you want to hear Samantha Bee say that this controversy is largely being drummed up listen to her interview this morning on the Kathleen Dunn show. A called asks her about it and she basically says it's being manufactured. It's excellent.
http://www.wpr.org/webcasting/audioarchives_display.cfm?Code=dun

Also, a technical thing: in a piece about discrimination, maybe this is not the best line: "a real journalistic with non-blog bylines."

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@Abe, do you have a minute mark for that? I promise I'll listen to the whole thing later!

michelledean (#5,900)

I could have been clearer that I was simply trying to say this whole, "well it's a bunch of hateful bloggers stirring up shit" narrative that was being developed, particularly by Olivia Munn, was dumb. The medium may have been the internet, but it was what the Old Media folk consider a "Real Journalist" doing the piece. Should have put it "entre guimets," as we say in the old country.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@boy: It starts in the second hour. Not sure of the mark for the call but the whole interview is great. Bee's life is CRAZY!

Yeah, I got the shorthand–it didn't even make me blink–but some people definitely did not. But you know what, even speaking of someone who's professionally been a 'victim' of 'blogism,' if their takeaway is that "blogism is worse than sexism," um, not sure… I… haha… uh… WELL, I'll be charitable, and assume that maybe they are being slightly ironic too, as you were!

Anthony De Rosa (#4,202)

It was meant to be hyperbolic, but I think some of the outrage here towards The Daily Show is equally hyperbolic.

Their cast is virtually a United Nations of ethnic backgrounds, not by design, but because they are some of the funniest people in comedy right now.

Can anyone point to a woman who was denied the opportunity to be a cast member who had the comedy chops to be on the show, regardless of gender?

The women who had short tenure on the show were not very good, regardless of gender. Samantha Bee is maybe the funniest person on the show, outside of Stewart himself. That's why she's there, not because she is or is not a woman.

YES. Diversity of opinion, talent, perspective, etc., should prevail.

Alex Pareene (#278)

I have to say I did cringe when i saw Emily's essay (which I didn't completely disagree with!) trot out both "you're just jealous" AND comment cherry-picking to prove a point. It did seem like everyone involved (including, yes, those Jezebel commenters, boo hiss etc.) didn't actually understand Irin Carmon's actual point (which it is fair to argue was overstated) and then it became about "those feminists think Jon Stewart is a sexist" and the entirely different phenomenon of people hating/being unfair to Olivia Munn for various reasons.

But, more important than all of this: KILBY'S BACK.

Tonight: "Hot in Cleveland" star Wendie Malick joins Craig.

Alex Pareene (#278)

We're focused on what really matters. Sadly, here in the New York market, KILBY is on before the syndicated Office repeat on Fox 5 so I'm not sure how often I'll get home in time to catch his monologue.

Matt (#26)

People tell me this is what the DVR is for, but I haven't really kept up with Television since KILBY left the air.

hman (#53)

Senior Daily Show Correspondent.

katiechasm (#163)

Senior 'Being Offended' Correspondent

KenWheaton (#401)

Didn't Christopher Hitchens prove that women weren't funny? So why are we still arguing about this?

I think the problem at issue here is that attractive women can't be funny.

jolie (#16)

@kitten: Also that men don't want to date funny women.

Steve (#1,777)

Possibly relevant point that isn't getting enough attention in this debate: Olivia Munn is not funny.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

4 daze.

Steve (#1,777)

Or Mary H.K. Choi. She is hillarious, smart, and addresses what Michelle above refers to as "the lives of women" and "the space in which they exist and the way society treats us". See, e.g., http://www.theawl.com/2009/10/skank-boot-evokes-rage

Shh, we can't recommend anyone specific or they'll be targeted along with Nana-sketch-suggestions at the end of the next Daily Show open letter.

cherrispryte (#444)

She's really not. The Russian spy bit? She stumbled, was awkward, and generally made me cringe. Give me John Oliver telling soccer fans to fuck off any day of the week.

Also, MHKC is about a million times more attractive than Munn. FACT.

Steve (#1,777)

@Mantooth I would have also accepted: "O AN SHE SEXY!"

atlasfugged (#4,481)

@Dorothy: It pains me to say this, because Mary HK Choi is delightful (and it's obligatory to worship her around here), but are you fucking serious? If she asked kindly, I'd attach wheels to my hands and feet and let Olivia Munn use my face as her personal meat Aeron for the entire week.

@atlas: Deadly serious, m'dear. Munn is Character Actress Hot.

Astigmatism (#1,950)

Well, okay, except that the piece does imply, pretty directly, in paragraphs 6-7, that the show's sexism starts with Stewart ("they have a very hard time finding and keeping women"; "This mentality arguably goes straight the top: The host and executive producer….") and that he is a prick ("Jon Stewart … runs The Daily Show with joyless rage"; "Stewart refused to allow [Madeleine Smithberg] onstage to accept the show's Emmy, even though her work contributed to the win"). It's hard to reconcile the sentence "This mentality arguably goes straight the top" with the idea that the piece isn't somehow about "his character."

So there's that.

Lucas Jensen (#5,786)

Yeah, am I missing something or didn't the original Jezebel piece pretty much cast aspersions Stewart's way. If I were him or the Daily Show staff, that would be the thing I responded to as well. How is there letter so off target–as some have claimed–given the statements noted above?

Anne Smith (#5,999)

Are the statements provably untrue? The "joyless rage" one might be subjective, but the rest aren't.

carig (#4,986)

The issue should be not about the Daily Show, per se, but the overall lack of women in writer's rooms in general. But then again, all of this mess makes it seem like women really don't have senses of humor.

Meghan Keane (#5,046)

Clearly the female problem with The Daily Show is the lack of a closing credits dance party. Has Jon Stewart learned NOTHING from Amy Poehler? http://www.smartgirlsattheparty.com/

keanesian (#1,116)

Dammit, Facebook. Get out of my Awl.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Nailhead, meet hammer: I'm still an asshole!

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

The thing that bums me out the most about this is that while several male alumni have left the show to have very lucrative careers, I cant remember seeing any of its fabulous former female talent in anything after they've left.

For a nuanced and funny, if outdated account of what its like for a woman getting onto The Daily Show, read this: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=401624

A good point, but it must also be noted many male alumni have absolutely disappeared after the show. I know focusing on one woman doesn't address the problems of all women, but one of my favorite writers left the Daily Show to be head writer on the Colbert Report through the period where, in my opinion, it outclassed TDS. For whatever that's worth.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I thought of that too. And though I don't know that much about the entirety of this situation, I have to say that to me it's telling that the Jez piece had no "other side" of the argument, something one would figure a "hand-to-god real journalist" would seek out. Clearly, as I noted above with the Bee interview on NPR today, it's there. And what about Schaal? I think Daily Show audiences love her but she is the one that is leaving them. Would love to know what she thinks but there seems to be no journalistic interest in that side of the story.

I think Munn will be a problem. One of the key elements of the DS is a lack of conventional sexiness. Riggle? Cordry? Schaal? Bee? Carell? Hodgeman? While all of them may be sexy due to their personalities, none of them are what anyone would call "TV handsome." On fact, they're often goofy looking, and that's part of the disarming humor.

Bunx05 (#1,625)

I've seen quite a bit of Schaal, actually. She's a recurring character on The Flight of the Conchords show on HBO and she pops up generally in other areas of media as well. All things considered, she's doing very well in the industry for an intelligent, unconventional looking, funny woman (who, full disclosure, I find myself strangely attracted to; I can't be the only one right?).

I agree with Abe (although I think Munn is a problem because she isn't funny, not because she's conventionally sexy). Part of the reason Munn's gotten such a publicity bump lately is that after auditioning for a part on 30 Rock, Tina Fey started saying really good things about how funny she was to all her industry peeps. Of course, we all know Tina Fey is a raging sexist pig who only appreciates T & A from her female counterparts.

mickeyitaliano (#2,202)

Beth Littleford was great on TDS and now she is relegated to paying the bills with "Laughing Cow Cheese"commercials.

Ahhh, I miss Beth Littleford. She was great!

But this makes me wonder: was there a to-do like this when Nancy Walls was (briefly) on TDS? Aside from the obvious nepotism, she was widely derided as being terrible on SNL, so…

Abe Sauer (#148)

The Litleford thing always confused me b/c she looks just like DS' Nancy Walls (who married Steve Carrell, no)?

Also, isn't the Munn thing a rehashed argument of the Lara Logan 60 Min. thing? It's not the Munn isn't funny (she can be) it's that there are funnier (less attractive) people, no?

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

The thing with Munn actually strikes me as TDS actively seeking more women for the show, and casting the net wider than they do for men because there are so few ladies in standup. The field itself is ludicrously male-dominated, if my impression is correct.

Yeah, Walls & Carrell have been married for ages (hence my crack about nepotism), and I guess I can see a resemblance to BL (though BL is much funnier, I think).

Now that I'm thinking about this, you know who they should've gotten? Maria Bamford! She's hilarious, and shares the same level of not-trying-to-be-all-in-your-face-about-it attractiveness as BL & NW.

Oooh oooh! And she could be, like, Senior Midwest Correspondent! They don't have one of those, right?

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Dorothy: Well, she's be better than Sarah Silverman, whose name I have seen thrown out in other threads re: this debate which, to me, kinda' demonstrates that some of the outraged are outraged because they are outraged and not because they even watch the show.

Sarah Silverman is awful and she would be absolute DEATH on TDS.

Maria Bamford is wonderful, she really should get way more exposure

Why does the person need to be in standup. Is Munn in standup. Just curious, because I watch the Daily Show but standup not so much. It seems like they should be clever and have good timing though…

Anne Smith (#5,999)

Beth funny-as-fuck Littleford did a Triscuits commercial :(

KILBORN FOREVER!

LolCait (#460)

Women be shoppin?

katiechasm (#163)

You have 700 new angry replies.

cherrispryte (#444)

We be buyin' shoes n shit.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Comedy isn't pretty?

iantenna (#5,160)

all of this could be easily solved by hiring lisa lampanelli as a daily show correspondent.

cherrispryte (#444)

OH GOD PLEASE NO.

HiredGoons (#603)

*goes for the eys

iantenna (#5,160)

mine, yours, or lisa's?

Bunx05 (#1,625)

All eyes. Some to save them. Some to destroy them.

kfon (#3,209)

I am a lady, and a comedian, and someone who thinks that gender equality in comedy is NOT THERE YET AT ALL, and a lover of the Daily Show who also sometimes dislikes a joke here and there because of its seeming lack of female perspective (ditto Colbert; actually, Colbert does it far MORE in my nightly view).

Given all this information, which I include just for the sake of disclosure, I have a question for @michelledean. This question is not a snarky one–oh, toneless internet–I'm asking because I really don't know the answer:

Why should the Daily Show's image be one of gender parity?

And questions/inferences from that in initial one, that I'm grasping towards: Must every show–in particular, every comedy show–reflect the gender universe? The best comedy has a point of view, and maybe the Daily Show's point of view is not exactly yours, or mine, or any woman's but it is a very specific one (highly linked to Jon's, I suspect, which is super smart, lefty liberalish, full–at times–of intelligent rage, sometimes a bit politically incorrect).

I think the Daily Show "wins" or "matters" or what have you on a nightly basis because of this specificity of point of view, which Jon likely cultivates and rewards (as the letter from the female staffers implies). It would make sense to me that he/the bosses would seek POV that mirrors his own, since he has to speak it with conviction, and that's why the jokes are male-oriented. It's also whey they're lefty-oriented, white person-oriented, shit–even American-oriented.

I infer that image in this case is two fold: ladies represented (seeming to be involved), and ladies misrepresented (shitty jokes about women).

The times DS has slipped and done something I consider sexist on air are more or less equal to the number of times I feel there have been jokes with ignorance of other cultures (yes, even my, which is to say, Canadian, culture). I consider this a hazard of a nightly comedy show with a specific POV than a definite sexist problem.

My larger question remains: Why does the Daily Show have to show and promote an image of gender equality more than it does now? I am all for women gaining a greater foothold in comedy–I fight for it daily–but why this battlefield? I'm not sure it's the right one.

SNL…now THAT'S a lady comedy battlefield we SHOULD be fighting on.

djfreshie (#875)

So agree kfon. And to this I add something as well: A lot of the plaints come from people who largely admit that they love the show. There are a few who like yourself who admit there could be improvements based on having more female perspective. Fine. But if you all like the show, why is it that you also feel it needs something else? It's entertainment for chrissakes, and it's Jon's show. It's Jewy and male because he is Jewy and male. The tone is the tone. Should he hire Wanda Sykes or Margaret Cho because they are visible minority females? If it's an image issue, the show's image is exactly what it sells itself as! Why should the female staff of the show have to refute the jezebel article better? What do they owe you? They make you laugh FOR FREE. (At least in Canada…CTV airs it, you can get it with bunny ears. And the internet.)

Moff (#28)

@kfon: Yeah, this is really the interesting question to me. On the one hand: Half the people in the world are women, so presumably, in an ideal world, half the people in most occupations (including Daily Show correspondent) would be women.

On the other hand: Is The Daily Show's audience half women? And if not, doesn't the show, as a business, have an interest in employing folks for the most part with a perspective that corresponds to the audience's?

But then back on the first hand: Would employing more women benefit the show by offering a comedic perspective that drew more women in as viewers? And anyway, should purely financial interests completely drive everything our businesses do? Especially in the case of a major political television program with, as has been noted, a liberal slant?

And then on yet another hand: If The Daily Show"s team of writers and correspondents were half men and half women, would the difference from the show at present be all that apparent? Or would it turn out that people of both sexes find many of the same things funny, such that the change was more cosmetic than visceral?

These are the questions that have kept me from getting anything done for half an hour now.

djfreshie (#875)

"A few of you like yourself?" Man that is one badly voiced comment. I mean kfon admits there could be more female perspective, but doesn't ask it to change, yet there seems also to be a large proponent who both love the show and wish it had more equality.

djfreshie (#875)

@Moff:

'Is The Daily Show's audience half women? And if not, doesn't the show, as a business, have an interest in employing folks for the most part with a perspective that corresponds to the audience's?'

Absolutely it is in the show's interest to both correspond to that audience. But also, given the nature of the show, it might also be in their interest to grow the audience by widening their perspective by a certain margin – enough not to push the current audience away, but just enough to draw in members of different segments and cohorts.

If that were possible.

bennimaddi (#314)

You're absolutely right that the Daily Show has a point of view and succeeds because of it and that there's no reason to change that formula purely for reasons of representation. The problem is the bigger picture– when fifty percent of the workforce at all of these shows comes from a straight white boys' club like the Harvard Lampoon (sorry Lampooners, I love you!) you know that women, and gay people, and people of color, and people who didn't go to Harvard are all at an automatic disadvantage. Which basically means we're in for a lot of jokes about robots, which, ha ha the first fifty times.

Moff (#28)

@dj: I KNOW. That's why I asked that question next.

djfreshie (#875)

Perhaps I'm wrong here, but in terms of the on-air talent, does the Daily Show not employ all of zero straight American Non-Jews (Jason Jones is a canuck, thus I propose he does not count.)

Moff (#28)

@dj: WHY DO YOU LOVE THE HOLOCAUST?

djfreshie (#875)

*straight American Men

@moff: I was stuck thinking about the first question.

Looking at the last one though, I think it is also a question of how that 50/50 split came to be. Are they hiring the funniest people regardless of race, gender or disability, or are they hiring 50% women, and the funniest 50% of women available, at that. And are the two one in the same? And if not, why?

djfreshie (#875)

@moff:

I don't love the holocaust. I just think Jewish males are underrepresented on the View.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

Thanks, kfon. This is a very interesting perspective and line of questioning.

The Daily Show is one of the funniest, most intelligent shows on television, certainly on a daily schedule. I personally, however, feel uneasy that its staff is not more diverse, in a number of ways.

Yet, the Beatles were four white guys, and there is little mainstream complaint that their genius suffered for it. (Cf. Two Virgins, Ram.)

I'm too old to be idealistic, but I wish the world worked better and we didn't have to consider the either/or. I'm also optimistic enough to think that someday we won't.

Gender Equality in Comedy? Really? Assuming that there is inequality, how will equality work, I mean, other than women comedians becoming funnier? I

michelledean (#5,900)

Replying to kfon, but really @all: My view is this. No one is obligated to respond to any perspective, but on the other hand, if you're equating "super smart, lefty liberalism, etc" with something other than gender parity, well, really? Is it commensurate with smart lefty liberalism not to be into gender parity?

djfreshie, I actually think the show spends a lot of its time selling itself as caring about diversity, albeit in a self-deprecating way: Senior Black Correspondent, etc. This is sort of just holding it up to the standard.

And the female staff don't, really. But since they chose to refute the article, it's fair to say, in my view, they didn't quite make it.

@Moff, I have no idea of the demographics. Again, I'm only responding to what's being said here, and I'm not sure that ladies even offer a "female comedic perspective," whatever that is. Male-dominated is as male-dominated does, as Marilla Cuthbert would say.

also hey! I am also Canadian. Thus the Green Gables reference.

djfreshie (#875)

"I actually think the show spends a lot of its time selling itself as caring about diversity, albeit in a self-deprecating way: Senior Black Correspondent, etc. This is sort of just holding it up to the standard."

Right, but Samantha Bee is the senior female correspondent. So there's that. Gender parity and ethnic diversity would simply have to include such self-deprecating titles as "Senior black-female" "Senior hispanic-female" et cetera. At least to maintain both gender and ethnic standards.

And from my reading, the letter was not refuting Jezebel's accusations, as much as defending the notion that it was a difficult work environment for women. I could be wrong, but this has already been a long lunch and I can't go back an re-read it so I'll take your word I'm wrong?

More Littlest Hobo references in the future please. That dog can solve anything.

karion (#11)

I found myself nodding along with your comment, kfon, until I got to the line about SNL being the preferred battleground for gender equality.

I just…why does ANY comedy show need to reflect gender parity among the creators and performers of said comedy? Is material somehow more legitimately funny if the ratio of male to female participants (in its creation/performance) more closely mirrors that of men and women generally?

I guess if the story were more about the bias and obstacles women in comedy face in developing a career and an audience, it would be much more compelling to me. Just pointing to a roster and saying there aren't enough women or not enough women in the right jobs at this particular show, especially since the women actually working at the show are thriving and satisfied with their environment? I can't explain it, but that whole line of argument bothers the shit out of me.

NinetyNine (#98)

Mmmmmm. Looks like we've mixed some Kosher meat into this Gumbo. Did we win NEW YORK MEDIA CLUSTERFUCK BINGO yet? I am afread of the gastrointestinal emanations that will result.

djfreshie (#875)

@karion: also, why would a comedian of any gender want to be on SNL? Wouldn't they want to be on a funny sketch comedy show instead?

saythatscool (#101)

@kfon: Damn, you're a laugh riot.

@karion Because I am a Horrible Moderate-Leaning Goddamn Freedom Defender, I'd point your comment toward larger issues surrounding equal representation and its debateable applicability to the private sector.

I'm going to club a baby seal now.

roboloki (#1,724)

there's an app for that

kfon (#3,209)

Totally karion. I kind of tossed that off at the end there without explanation, so I deserve your comment.

I meant the SNL comment in terms of the misrepresentation part of the debate, not the representation part. There are plenty of women in the cast of SNL currently, but at last glance there were ZERO female writers. Not that there has to be, it's just glaringly obvious that there isn't when you watch the show be very dude-centric, with women only used as wives/girlfriends/sexy chicks in the background. (The exception to this is Kristen Wiig, whose oddball talent sets her apart like a Poehler or a Radner.) And you know the audience is hungry for good female comedy, because the Betty White episode, with all the great ladies of past, present and future used often and well proved that.

And when Tina was head writer, there was a more well-rounded nature to the comedy on the show, and the entire cast (male, female, all races) was used better. I'd argue, actually, that this era of SNL is the most male-centric era ever. The jokes are often vaguely misogynistic, the writing panders to dudes, and the talented women are not given a chance to shine. In SNL's culture, cast members are often at the whims of writers to make sure they get on the show, so if you don't have a writer that gets you and wants to write for you, you're not getting on. And the gender issue is a problem not because SNL has to be gender-equal, it's a problem because it HAS BEEN gender equal or at least better balanced in the past and isn't now. Which to me represents a devolution in the show's comedy, which needs to be resolved. FIN.

bennimaddi (#314)

The issue of sexism in TV comedy (which is a real thing!) is very separate from the issue that EG is talking about in her Slate piece, which is the way the narrative on supposedly feminist blogs like Jezebel turns so quickly to something gross and anti-woman. In the case of the Daily Show dustup, it took about two seconds to stop being about TV comedy sexism and more about why Olivia Munn is a dumb slut.

This happens a lot! For example, wasn't the whole reason they posted the item defending Crystal Renn's weight loss because the Jezzies were sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches? (Going down a dress size is of course a silent and insidious form of bodysnarking.)

Another recent Jezebel post thoughtfully posed the question of whether that Biggest Loser trainer lady should be censured for adopting instead of having a baby the uterus way. (Not wanting to be pregnant is another silent form of bodysnarking.)

While it's true that the real grossness tends to happen in the comments, it's also true that most of the GM sites but particularly Jezebel have become glorified message boards where the actual editorial content is mostly superfluous– the real story happens in the comments. Is this the editors' fault? Not really, but I think it's hard to argue that they throw the commenters red meat in the way Emily's addressing in her Slate piece.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I tend to agree with this, as well.

Any chance there's two trains on different, but occasionally intersecting tracks here? And can a little prudent signal use prevent the trains from colliding?

Moff (#28)

Well, who is driving the trains? Women? Because women drivers are terrible about using their signals.

Moff the patriarchy has driven our signals underground so that only other women understand them.

Mount_Prion (#290)

Wait, you can steer a train?

michelledean (#5,900)

Again, I think in fact there are a lot of different things going on in the Jez comments section on any given day, and I could cherry pick out some comments that would say that all of the women abhor bodysnarking. That wouldn't be any more plausible to you, I imagine, but again, my issue with Emily and with everyone who makes these blanket statements is that they're selecting evidence. Sure, some bitchery is going on, but it's not the only thing that's going on.

HiredGoons (#603)

Irin Carmon just needs to get fucked.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

*by a real man.

missdelite (#625)

See?
This is what happens when Boss Man brings his mistress to work. Not only that, but he has the audacity to give her a prominent position for which she lacks the appropriate qualifications. Might as well throw her in front of the crosshairs during hunting season while he's at it.

Want comedy?
The real funny shit is going down (heh heh) behind-the-scenes right now.

If Munn lasts a year (without getting a buzz cut and butching it up), I'll eat my La Perlas.

djfreshie (#875)

If true, well done, Stewbeef.

El Matardillo (#586)

You don't see the women in the HR department at Microsoft worrying their pretty little heads about why there are almost no women in the Core Operating Systems Division, do you?

Well, then.

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

Whoa! 12:10 I posted a comment on "The Feminist 'Daily Show' Wars Just Got Serious And I'm Scared" that basically says a lot of what this post does and this post came up at 12:50. Not exactly "jinx" category, but hey. "My best friend is black" is the best summary of this ever. Bravo!

KarenUhOh (#19)

Isn't it high time that Playboy does its "Women of the Daily Show" pictorial?

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Honestly, it's weird that this is the way we ended up arguing about gender disparity in the media. And also that minorities aren't being addressed. And also that this legitimate critique is getting confused with this weird "arguing about taste as if it were politics" point about Olivia Munn being or not being funny. It's all kinda weird!

HiredGoons (#603)

Jews are a minority.

Oh, right… we're talking about the media.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Don't make me post links to NAACP studies! It'll be like Crown Heights all over again in here!

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

Say what you will about Olivia Munn but she felates a hot dog on a string like no other.

NefariousNewt (#5,909)

The point, which gets missed in all the Jezebel-hate, Olivia Munn squawking, and crosstalk, is that the whole incident, from inception to its current state, never had to happen. Irin went with what she had, and what she had told her that Jon Stewart and The Daily Show were not a bastion of feminism, because the visible talent and the writing staff are not filled with women, and chalked it up to any number of possible reasons, including the tired trope "women aren't funny."

What I had hoped for, was a letter back from The Daily Show, saying, "Hey listen, fair points, but I think you were misinformed, here's how it works out," and that would have ended it. Instead, someone thought to insert Jezebel into a planned piece, taking as a quote something which was not written in the article, and following it up with a letter on their web site which, while showing that there are women working in there in larger numbers than is generally known, but in a snarky and self-deprecating way. Civility would have worked better, to my mind, than comedic counterpoint.

djfreshie (#875)

Well, I still fail to understand why there's all this hope and need for the Daily Show – a comedic television fake news program – to respond seriously and publicly to a misinformed article that does actually accuse the face of the show of making a workplace environment not-very-nice for women. Must we all going around apologizing for actions we may not even be able to explain ourselves or justifying ourselves all the time?

NefariousNewt (#5,909)

It's not just a comedic news program though — polls show that people actually get news content from the show, which means it has the capacity to shape opinions. I'm not saying they have to apologize; what I am saying, is that, rather than pull a Fox News lambasting Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart could have shown Fox News a thing or two by not simply turning around and lashing back at his critics.

What it boils down to is that it was an article, one critical of the show, and that it does no good to simply put down the argument with a flippant remark.

Vulpes (#946)

The "sexist prick" might not have been a quote, but the article really does rather imply that image of Stewart.

tigolbitties (#2,150)

@dj: i'm fascinated by why you keep wanting to excuse TDS from any discussion because it's a comedic tv show. Is it not on tv? are people not watching it? Just because it makes jokes doesn't mean it's exempt from criticism. Furthermore, you act as though this fake news program doesn't talk about real shit (hint, it does).
I think Newtie's point was a great one, there was certainly a much better way for TDS to respond to the Jezebel article – like, "hey we're trying to find more funny people who aren't so white or male (or often times both) so maybe when we write/say jokes for the show, they can be funny funny instead of offensively funny. Which if we're being honest, is sometimes our plan B move. Maybe with a little more diversity (hey state schooled folks, we're looking at you too!) we might have more jokes to send out every night."

djfreshie (#875)

@Nefarious: totally agree that people do get their news from TDS. This is a terrible idea though, and is also not the intention of the show. In fact if my memory serves, Jon has said many times that TDS serves as entertainment and at the very most, an accompaniment of actual news. If I can back this up someday if I ever have time I will. But I'm certain Jon has gone on record many times stating himself that TDS should not be consumed as actual news. Which is why I don't feel they owe anyone an apology or a justification of any kind. The flippant response, to me, was totally appropriate given the situation.

@tigolbitties – See above. Yeah, it's on tv and people watch it. So what? Criticism does not, and really should not ever have to be responded to. I never said it was exempt. I stand by my belief that it owes absolutely nothing to Jezebel's 'journalist,' or anyone who suddenly feels like they owe them justification…for what exactly?

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@dj: Stewart has indeed said this many times. Check his 2004 Fresh Air interview, or just about any speech or interview he gave in the months after the Crossfire blowup.

djfreshie (#875)

@pjh Thanks! I knew it were somewhere. The argument that anything that is made packaged and sold as entertainment BUT is perceived as more than that so they have to explain things the right way upon reception of every criticism any group has…it's absurd and totally impossible.

Vulpes (#946)

The original question of Carmon's, "Why are there so few women on TDS?" is a good one. I mean, I know I've certainly wondered about it before. Unfortunately, she went straight for "frat house" and "John Stewart is a sexist prick" (and while, yes, those words didn't actually appear in the article, it really was quite forcefully implied). This made The Daily Show, understandably, defensive. Their letter, therefore, answered to that instead of the original, fair, question. And then we started fighting about Denton and commenters and Olivia Munn and bodysnark and mansplainations and it all disappeared up the asshole of the Internet, as this sort of thing does.

The true answer to the actual question is, IMHO, too complicated and rather mundanely structural to make for good pageviews. First, men still dominate comedy. Women in comedy is a whole fraught topic that goes far, far beyond TDS that has to do with socialization and gender expectations, as well as the comedy scene's culture. Political comedy even more than regular comedy is male-dominated. As for the guest skew, I think that's another structural problem that has to do with the kinds of guests Jon likes. He likes wonky political writers and historians and politicians, which are other male-dominated professions.

Fanboy I may be, but I really don't think Jon Stewart is a sexist pig running a consciously sexist show. I do take Samantha Bee's word, and more importantly her example, over a group of sources in the Jezebel post that seem to have axes to grind. (Did anyone else notice, for instance, that a lot of them seem to have worked or tired out at The Daily Show five or seven years ago? How would they know what it's like now?) Bee's been pregnant, a time when workplace sexism is very apt to peek out, almost non-stop for two or three years, yet she hasn't been fired and they seem to work around her schedule pretty well. Kristen Schaal isn't being little-used because she's a lady, but because she keeps landing better jobs elsewhere in entertainment. And the views Stewart espouses on the show have never seemed anything other than supportive to feminism and women in general.

Could TDS use more women creatives? Of course. Could they use some LGBT representation? Abso-fucking-lutely. Are they a bunch of sexist, homophobic frat boys filled with "joyless rage"? I really rather doubt it.

I've reread all the comments (phew!) and have come to the conclusion that TDS, or another comedy show, or even a regular TV show should better represent people from left coast public ivies… Please?

roboloki (#1,724)

(two hundred and) first!

Gah! I just watched that Olivia Likes to Eat video. The problem is not that Munn is good looking or men find her attractive and she seeks to capitalize on that. Dismissing critics of this choice as simply envious seems to willfully misrepresent the issue at hand rather dramatically and one has to wonder why. But that is a bit of a digression.

The problem with Munn is that she gives fake head to hotdogs, and eats enormous spoonfuls of mayonnaise / faux jizz, etc, as her 'humour.' This 'funny' is offensive on many levels, though mostly to the intellect. This 'sex' she is selling and these sexual overtones in general are horribly juvenile and to my mind, humiliating to the performer AND the viewer in ways that don't really bring anyone any place good. Real porn is another matter, which i don't have a problem with — it's the stunted mental development of it all that grates.

Anyhow! For me the real issue is that i find It a bit too convenient that TDS wants to tap into a fanbase that likes this sort of material, the same fanbase that apparently gets their news from TDS. So this is just opportunism coming from a show that touts itself as thinking and critical of similar behaviour on the part of those it lampoons. Basically, while i think Munn works hard and is good enough on TV, they aren't stretching themselves or their audience with this hire.

So!

KarenUhOh (#19)

In essence, isn't The Daily Show actually The Man Show for people who wouldn't get The Monthly Show if you rubbed their faces in it?

Du (#5,918)

I think what everyone (especially Michelle Dean and Jezebel)is forgetting in their criticism of The Daily Show and its diversity level is that shows like TDS rely upon crops of unpaid interns to find people to hire on as full time staffers. And who has the time and means to live in New York City with a full time job but no income? The answer, of course, is people of means. And sadly, people of means in this country are still more often white and male. Any criticism of TDS's staff makeup should be directed to the larger culture, and not just TDS.

And frankly, 40% female is pretty impressive, especially compared to everywhere I've worked (well, except Red Lobster).

michelledean (#5,900)

Du, I don't think anyone's saying that this is the Most Pressing Diversity Issue Of Our Time. I'm not, anyway.

No one is saying that the rest of the world is a level playing field, either. I don't speak for the Jezebel editors or for Irin Carmon, but I doubt they think that either. I think that sometimes, if what you want is equality,

michelledean (#5,900)

you claw at the people who are closest to you. Which I'd agree isn't great politics.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Way too long comments and post.

Give me the cliff notes version to:

What time will dinner be ready?

HiredGoons (#603)

Something something PMSing.

Here's a reunion, eh Michelle?

Curiously enough, I was a Gawker commenter back when Jez was created and was a Jez commenter for years before the whole project turned viciously sour for me. For me, Jezebel started off noble, but went in exactly the way that Emily Gould put down in that Slate article, in a way that you completely failed to address in this lengthy post.

In fact, I know it's a humorous summary but I'd go so far as to say that your summary of Gould's article as "y'all are just jealous" is facile to the point of being misleading. Ironically though, it serves as a perfect metaphor for exactly the kind of manipulative junk that makes the whole Jezebel cardboard cutout so distasteful, as Jez then went beyond the pale with a post that accused Gould of impugning their "reporting". No such thing actually occurred though, as (to cage a term from old timey philosophy) Gould didn't point a finger at the form of their argument but rather at the substance that it was made of. There wasn't an accusation of poor reporting but just an accusation of a sort of emotional purpose behind that reporting. Just as at no point did Gould accuse the Jezebel writers of being jealous and catty, she said that they were encouraging those feelings in the online community, that they were unconsciously pointing people in that direction. A statement which seems to be unavoidably true. Reading Camron's article, it's impossible not to pick out that she's clearly indicating that Munn was selected precisely because she lives up to the sex doll fantasies of the men who run the show, and a clip of Munn posing suggestively in various scenarios plays out all the best things to someone who wants to think the worst.

But this kind of thing has been going on forever at Jezebel. Marx used to say that money was simply fetishized power – that it was a talisman that represented something, and for the Jez community that fetishized currency actually is outrage and righteousness. Their goal, which they reaffirmed in a sort of manifesto polemic today is to be "intelligent, fun and against the bullshit institutions and norms that in myriad ways keep women "in their place". Jezebel proposes itself as a safe space for women, a place where women can get refuge from the big bad world, a place where women can be safe from "society" (and let's not kid ourselves, "society" means "men"). It is the only space in which women can actually have a voice. But Jezebel doesn't actually police that voice, or educate women, or pretend to debate any sort of truths which encompass any world that involves the 49% of the rest of us that apparently make up the female-mashing machine that is human existence. Here's the point: Jezebel exists as a community of people in which, BY DEFINITION, everything that is said must be feminist. Do you see how messed up that is? How can everything that everyone who writes for Jezebel says be feminist even if its contradictory? Good question. Is there an answer? The answer is: by asking this question, you hate feminism. Olivia Munn is attractive and uses her attractiveness like every single person on the face of the planet does. This should be fine and dandy from a website where a major writer/editor made her debut as "Slut Machine", writing strongly funny articles precisely about sex and sexiness. But instead, Munn herself is tossed into the wood chipper as nothing more than a tarted up floozy who's not worth the time it takes to brush on her whorey mascara. Gould is right when she says that Jezebel declared Munn not 'their kind' of woman. They did. It's all right there in the text.

Gould is wrong when she says that the authors use these methods to further their careers – it's nothing that mercenary. I think they genuinely believe that what they're doing is furthering the feminist cause. They've been taught this because the structure of the written product tells them that that's what they're doing. In reality, what Jezebel and the other "feminist blogs" mentioned do is create a whole economy in which this fetishized rage is passed around in the flawed intellectual platform that they've created. It's a whole market system of righteousness where the people don't matter, the truth of the situation doesn't matter, and the whole is reduced to the operational clanking of a machine. How do you debate a topic? By engaging with all possible sides of the argument, by encouraging voices, by comparing and contrasting logics. But Jezebel is never interested in that because that is as boring as Jesus Christ's Mormon-style underpants. Like so many other blogs out there, what they're selling you is 'rightness', pure and simple. That's the currency you're accepting. the insidious thing is that it feels so good to be right so much that nobody ever criticizes when rightness goes sour.

Comments like "men start wars, if women ran the world, there would be no wars" taken with brutal seriousness. Articles about a terrible guy calling a woman 'ugly' would be met with endless comment criticism about how ugly he himself was (even the idea of the double-standard was shucked early). Gould is labelled "anti-feminist" dozens and dozens of times because she dares to disagree. Disagreement is at the heart of feminism, just as it is at the core of every fundamental truth. And that's something Jezebel never really had. Anyhow, that's enough writing from me. I'm out.

katiechasm (#163)

I think I love you.

Abe Sauer (#148)

You need a column.

michelledean (#5,900)

In brief, I don't really disagree with most of this. However, what I was writing about here was not whether Jezebel is the platonic ideal of a feminist website. What I was writing about was why I

I mean, most of what you say can be safely said of Gawker, and even, Choire don't hurt me, maybe the Awl. I think the major maneuver I disagree with here is saying that drumming up so-called "feminine outrage" is any worse than what's going on generally in the media re pageviews. The major (though I'm not saying only) reason people seem to care more in this instance is the sort of quasi-feminist status Jezebel claims?

Also, hiiiii. (Too insidery, but I went to high school with this guy.)

michelledean (#5,900)

I'm in a rush, so happy with trigger finger, to finish second sentence: "why I still think some of the criticism of the Daily Show holds water and isn't Just Jealousy being stoke for pageviews or whatever."

I won't hurt you. Attention is an economy, and outrage is the big bills.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Now that I've been kindly directed here–hell, even I'm capable of giving up on a comment thread out of weariness–I'd concede the overall truth of the point, but,

What blog out there operates without an agenda dictated by an anticipated or sought audience? You're right–Jezebel was obvious from the start. It ANNOUNCED what it was up to. And while its individual writers likely include a large cohort of the earnest and sincere, to call the enterprise anything less than "mercenary" falls pitty-pat splat in the ocean, as the boat merrily leaves the dock.

There. I've done trains and boats in this thread. I doubt I'm capable of wings.

Yeah nice to see you too. I always knew you'd pop up somewhere interesting. I figured you'd end up a lawyer for the UN or some such incredibly demanding intellectual work. You always had quite the brain and it's really refreshing to read what you write!

Oh and your criticism of the Daily Show absolutely holds water. It's a public show that trades in public image and so simply having staff be female is not quite enough. The on screen presence definitely needs more women.

carpetblogger (#306)

Can I plz be last? Plz?

Scum (#1,847)

Jezebel needs to stop nagging at society. Blah blah blah women women women. Whatever, hoes!

saythatscool (#101)

Apologize to carpetblogger right now.

Wait! Look what you made me do!

Mariana Garces (#5,932)

Reading this article just left a strange taste in my mouth. This may be the first time I tell Jezebel to back off. I love Jezebel but have been a Daily Show die hard fan for much longer–since back when Colbert and Carrel were on it as correspondents. As a 19 year old girl, I have absolutely no qualms about the content or presentation of the Daily Show and really respect the women on that show for holding their own in what's called the "boy's club".

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

Olivia Munn has no kicked it up a notch in Salon: "…haters just need a good fuck."
http://www.salon.com/books/int/2010/07/07/olivia_munn_interview

You see, this is what happens when a thoughtful comedy news show hires an opinionated self-centered spokesperson whose major "comedy" talent prior to this was dressing up in cosplay for video game shows and fellating hot dogs on a string.

I am too tired to read through the whole comment section, though I did make it through a fair amount. I just wanted to ask: has anybody considered the possibility that the Daily Show, as evidenced by their 40% female staff, is not sexist, and the only reason more men are in creative roles is that women were given an equal opportunity and the men hired were just better at their jobs? Sure this might point to sexism elsewhere (education system, social expectations…), but the Daily Show can hardly be blamed if some potential female writers don't live up to what I'm sure are tough standards for comedy writing.

It can, but the same thing is said of every underrepresented group ever.

NinetyNine (#98)

COULD SOMEONE GET ME A FEMALE ASSISTANT TO DO SOME COVERAGE?

Also, two things indicative of larger problems: the repeated comments (jokingly, half-serious, and serious) that women are just not funny and the comments that suggest that their humor is mostly based on their ability to laugh at other people's jokes or inequality or some shit. But maybe I am just jealous of other ladies ability to fake laugh. I never really mastered that.

John Rodiño (#5,992)

Can everyone stop whining and just enjoy a funny show?

Carnage Hall (#5,633)

Sounds good!! What channel is Futurama on?

davidwatts (#72)

Re: "Gould's giving a pretty vague gloss on what it is that those blogs do"

I would just like to add that it is Emily Gould's job to give hazily-thought out contrarian critiques of things. Also to talk about herself!

moufbreatha (#6,007)

Exactly. And if I remember correctly, is this not the same Gould who was obsessed with hating Julia Allison for being the Olivia Munn of the media world?

mmccool (#6,059)

I really enjoyed reading this post. I'm a bit sick of all the back and forth about the jezebel's original article. But this post really reflects my own reaction to everything that's come out the jezebel's piece. thanks for affirming my feelings.

Rachel Nishimura (#6,947)

Late reply, but I just had to say this article is really well done. Thank you for seeing through all the logical fallacies.

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