It is interesting to have one's reporting impugned by someone who has seen fit to do none of it herself, in this instance or otherwise. But let's get to the point here. What's our freaking problem? Good question.
To get everyone up to speed: Women who currently work on the The Daily Show replied in an open letter to a Jezebel piece that explored the show's lack of female writers and on-air talent, drawing on the experiences of people who worked there — as many as would speak to us (The Daily Show, however, officially declined to do so).
As we've said, we stand by the piece and the thorough reporting that went it to it. Anything we have to add has been expertly discussed in analyses by Amanda Hess, Amanda Marcotte, Tracy Clark-Flory, Sady Doyle, and Michelle Dean.
Some have chosen to read that critique as a personal attack on the women who work on the show, behind the scenes or elsewhere, or stemming out of jealousy of one woman's public sex appeal — that of recent correspondent hire Olivia Munn. That interpretation comes from outlets and Munn herself: She has sharply and repeatedly responded to our critiques of The Daily Show and, separately and elsewhere, discussions of her career choices. And yet judging by her own words, Munn seems unresolved, to put it mildly, about the same issues we've been raising. She writes in her book about the difficulty of maintaining her personal boundaries on a Playboy shoot — about which we syndicated a piece — and then, in a Vanity Fair interview, she discussed a similar experience at the shoot for her book cover:
I was at the photo shoot for the cover, and I've never done this before, but I just shut it down. I was crying. I knew what the publishers wanted. I'm not stupid. But I wanted to compromise. I told them I'd bring the Wonder Woman outfit to the shoot, but I do not want to be on the cover dressed like Wonder Woman. So I'm at a studio in LA, and the photographer keeps calling the publishers in New York, and she's telling me what they want. "O.K., less tie. Open the shirt a little more. They want more cleavage." Finally I was like "No!" I know they've done book stuff for a long time, and they know what they're doing. But I was like, "What do you guys think is going to happen? Are you literally going to gang-bang me, throw me down, dress me in the Wonder Woman outfit and be like, ‘Now smile, Olivia. Smile!'" It was just too much. I wish I had pushed harder against it.
Can you blame us for wanting to live in a world where it matters more that you're funny or a lyrical writer or a good reporter than whether or not your cleavage is prominent enough? To personalize criticism of the institutions that keep it that way, to respond with accusations of jealousy or insecurity or by calling someone a bitch, is evidence of how badly that critique is needed.
Jezebel, at its heart, is the alternative to current cultural offerings — pop or otherwise — and we aim to be intelligent, fun and against the bullshit institutions and norms that in myriad ways keep women "in their place." In doing so, we sometimes write about the artifice, manipulation, disorder, and even coercion behind some of the images that are sold to women - which, contrary to some analyses, is not the same as "explaining how attractiveness hurts women." Nor is in any way indicative "petty jealousy, cleverly marketed as feminism." Such a reasoning perpetuates the idea that women are catfighting mean girls, for whom all criticism is personal, and ignores the broader societal critique at work.
Yes, we are a business — this is common sense. But we feel very lucky that the nature of our particular business allows us to explore a wide range of topics, from domestic workers' rights to debunking doctored images to watching Twilight (and, naturally, our content extends to all the celebrity, sex, and fashion that falls in between). We also have the freedom to explore the institutional sexism that, depending on certain experiences, may exist at a liberal-leaning, comedy-centric organization that is widely watched and respected. To claim this work is backhanded and baiting, to reduce it as an attempt to goad insecurities is, at its core, an insult and underestimation of everyone involved.
Outrage World [Slate]
Daily Show Women Say The Staff Isn't Sexist [NYT]
Hiring Inequality Through The Daily Show [The Sexist]
Hey, Why Aren't There Any Broads In This Joint? [Pandagon]
The Daily Show's Women: No Sexism Here! [Salon]
Someone Got The Daily Show In My Jezebel And Together They Taste A Little Weird [Awl]
And Now, A Word From The Daily Show [Tiger Beatdown]
Olivia Munn on The Daily Show, Her Beef With Technology, and Why She's Not a Feminist [NYM]
Olivia Munn Is Not Wearing A Wonder Woman Costume For You Pervs Anymore [VF]
The Women Of "The Daily Show" Say It's Not A Boys' Club, Jon Stewart Is Not A Sexist Jerk [Frisky]
Image via Sherdog.com.