For the past few years, the comedy world has been suddenly very welcoming to women. Not just for women who work in comedy—for women who enjoy it, too. To be really honest, until 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and Bridesmaids hit the mainstream, I didn’t realize just how starved for the female viewpoint I’d been. It’s been really nice to see myself in characters but it’s also been nice to hear men make jokes about their own vulnerabilities that don’t involve somehow disparaging women (“Look how funny it is to see a man cry like a little bitch!” – comedy throughout the ’90s).
When I go back and watch old episodes of SNL now, I’m often struck by the homophobia and misogyny ingrained in many of the sketches. It’d be tedious to count how many times calling Hilary Clinton a “bitch” was enough to bring the house down during “Weekend Update” or seeing a man dressed as a woman was the entirety of a punchline. The humor got so lazy at times, more female roles went to men than to actual women. I’m not saying the show wasn’t funny overall, I’m just saying much of the population had to let a lot of things slide in order to keep watching. Including me, an impressionable teenage girl at the time.
This habit women have of letting things slide is not confined to watching TV. “Good women” are expected to let so many things slide in our lives, we might as well start a water park. For example, having babies is a miracle but if a woman admits it’s also exhausting, she might as well kiss promotions goodbye. Rap music is fun but slightly unwelcoming every time we’re ordered to bend over. Men are cool but pretty territorial when we, say, want to voice our opinions at work. Forgetting to be “bubbly” in conversation can make men feel threatened. Hell, so much as walking down the street without a smile on our face makes some of them so angry they yell at us!
Our water park would actually be pretty lame, now that I think about it.
There was a time not so long ago when minstrel shows were considered comedy. There used to be a show on prime-time television on which the biggest, most consistent punch line was that a husband wanted to punch his wife across the face (to the moon, 1950s). We’ve moved past these things. We’ve moved on as a society and, for the most part, comedy deserves credit for dragging us there kicking and screaming.
So I’m sorry… but it did get. my. goat. that a dude, who in the past 5 years has thought it was funny to tweet about fat chicks—years that have been relatively enlightened for the rest of comedy—is now going to be hosting the one comedy show that has dragged us forward the most aggressively. I just expect more from The Daily Show. That show has been very cathartic for me over the years and I need it to remain that way. I’m not going to hold it against Trevor Noah or anything—I still plan to watch and I’m skilled at letting things slide. But I will say this: I’m scared. He’s got me on edge. When I saw Trevor Noah’s old tweets, the hint that comedy might be leaving women high and dry scared me for a second. I’m not trolling. It genuinely worried me. And I don’t need some comedian mansplaining to me why I should get over it. Don’t sit there with a straight face and tell me “nothing is off limits,” comedy community! You KNOW you’re responsible for executing it properly! Get out of here with that! I’m allowed to talk shit about these lame tweets on Gchat all I want and it doesn’t make me a prude.
I’m not sorry that the idea of an enlightened half hour of comedy each day means something to me and that I, for a second, felt afraid The Daily Show was about to be left in the hands of another exhausting, misogynist comedian. Trevor Noah doesn’t have to apologize or explain himself—that’d probably make it worse. I think maybe he should just dig a little deeper for the Feminist inside him… and let her clean up his Twitter feed because, damn, Trevor, you’re in the big leagues now! Get it together!
image via buzzfeed