Friends: I am fond of jokes. I am fond, very specifically, of ladies who make jokes. It’s not easy out there, for those ladies! Professional comedy is, as lots of folks will tell you, a fairly male-dominated industry; and, if you’ve ever been to a comedy show, or flipped past one on Comedy Central late at night when you were just super-bored, you can verify for yourself that a lot of men’s “professional comedy,” which they apparently get paid for, is just straight-up misogynist stereotyping, maybe served up with a funny voice, or puppet, or whatever. So it is always a relief to find a lady doing the professional comedy thing well; and, if she seems even marginally more aware of gender issues, or more attuned to actual lady experiences, than the dudes who tell all the “women be shopping” or “my wife is such a nag that also I don’t want to have sex with her at all: Seriously, she nags me” jokes, then the relief is even greater.
One such lady is Tina Fey. She is funny as hell, that Tina Fey! And she has built an entire comedic persona out of being smart, opinionated, and slightly angry, which is great! And I could watch Mean Girls on a loop until the day I died without getting tired of it. But, seriously, we need to stop acclaiming her as The Face of Feminist Comedy In Our Times. As Jessica Grose points out, at DoubleX, on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, Fey devoted nearly every sketch to making fun of single women in some way. I will go a step further, and point out that a lot of the “fun” is… well, just straight-up misogynist stereotyping. Maybe with some funny props, or a costume, or whatever.
Now: Some will say that getting ahead as a woman in comedy is hard and requires concessions, and comedy often relies on shock value, and furthermore that even a feminist comic just can’t convey a sophisticated, non-sexist politics in her work, if she wants to remain funny. A form of expression that is centered on jokes can’t also reflect a feminist way of viewing the world; it’s too hard, it’s not shocking or broad enough, and humor can’t convey complex or difficult concepts with any accuracy. So, if a woman wants to make her audience laugh, she has to set her politics aside while she’s writing or performing.
In related news, if you say that in the comment section, you will get deleted! Because, come on. “How can a feminist… have a sense of humor?!?? In order for a woman to be funny, surely she can’t be a feminist!” That is what you just said. Or thought. Or attempted to post in a blog comment section, whereupon you were deleted.
Because now we are about to talk about Tina Fey and feminism. Namely, that you really can’t ascribe feminism to Tina Fey’s work. If you talk about Tina Fey and feminism, well, you’ve got to talk about Tina Fey’s Feminism. Which is its own animal! And that animal might just turn around and bite you in the face. Witness this segment on “Women’s News,” from last weekend’s SNL!
So: Tina Fey starts out by talking about things ladies have accomplished. There are some pretty funny jokes about lady astronauts! Which I liked! And then, Tina Fey wheels it around and starts talking about the famed “Oscar curse,” which is that if you are a lady and win an Oscar your husband will cheat on you. That is ridiculous! Says Tina Fey! And I agree with her. But then:
“The curse is that there are women like Bombshell McGee walking around.” Bombshell McGee being, apparently, Jesse James’ special lady friend. Her picture is put up on screen; unkind things are said about it, focusing pretty much specifically on her body. And thus, Tina Fey’s Women’s News Segment, on lady accomplishments and lady issues and lady things, presented by Tina Fey, acclaimed feminist/lady comic of our times, turns into a segment about bashing… ladies.
Okay then, Tina Fey’s Feminism!
According to Fey, the plague of male cheating is caused by hot sluts who let your man have consensual sex with them. They are very bad people, these hot sluts! With their tattoos, and their large breasts that Tina Fey spends seriously about thirty seconds describing in the most hateful, detailed way possible, and so on and so forth! Also: The sex they had with your man was consensual? Unless they have special voodoo powers, or employed other means of coercion — in which case, the problem would not be that they had sex with your man, but that they were rapists — the cheating was very likely caused by the fact that your man consciously and willfully decided to insert certain of his body parts into a person who was not you. A man could literally be knee-deep in enthusiastic-consent-giving sexy ladies and not cheat on you, if he didn’t want to cheat on you. And, if he does want to cheat on you, nothing short of chaining him to the radiator is going to stop him. (ADVICE: Don’t chain your man to a radiator.) The same turns out to be true for ladies, in fact! If we don’t want to cheat, we don’t cheat, and if we do, then we do. It’s the cheater’s fault, pretty much always. But why hold Jesse James, or men, accountable for their own actions, when it’s so much easier to blame a girl? That’s what Tina Fey’s Feminism is going to do, anyway!
Also mentioned: The fact that the lady Jesse James cheated with is “into Nazi stuff.” This is cause for Tina Fey to tell Bombshell McGee that even Hitler would be on Sandra Bullock’s side, because she is so “likable,” which, yeah, is pretty funny. But check out who is missing from the joke, and is also apparently into Nazi stuff: Jesse James. He doesn’t get called out. I guess, maybe, because he’s not a terrible bad female whoreslut with large breasts?
But, whatever. Racism is way less important than cheating! At least, you would think so, from watching the sketch! And cheating, says Tina Fey’s Feminism, stems from the fact that “the world has always been full of whores.” By this point, we’re not even talking about Jesse James’s Nazi-sympathizing lady friend any more. (Who I have little interest in defending, simply because Let’s Defend The Racist is really not a game of which I ever intend to purchase the home version.) We’re just talking about sluts, sluts in general, and how they are all out to steal your man. It’s unclear whether these sluts have all actually slept with your man, in order to qualify for the title, or whether Tina Fey’s Feminism just thinks they’re subhuman because they work at Hooters and have unconventionally spelled names. “Wives,” Tina Fey’s Feminism says earnestly into the camera after it’s gotten some hoots and applause for the “whore” jokes, “you are not the losers in this scenario.” Who is the loser? Whores, duh! And she concludes, “the world is hard enough for women.”
Right. For example, Tina Fey’s Feminism might devote an entire segment of a popular live television show to yelling misogynist slurs at you and insulting your tits!
But, whatever. Being a lady who has lots of non-marital, non-monogamous sex is bad, we all know that! Especially if you work at an establishment that frequently objectifies its visible female employees, and profits off of sexism! An establishment like, say, NBC… uh, Hooters! I mean Hooters! However, there is another option for you, ladies: Not having extramarital sex, and being single. And as we all know, Tina Fey’s Feminism will never make fun of you for… oh.
Oh, right. “Sad lonely single lady who fills her barren body with fudge, for no man has taken her in wedlock nor yet given her his seed” is, in fact, even more common than slut-bashing in the comedic stylings of Tina Fey’s Feminism. And, granted, the sad unfuckable ladies get a lot more sympathy than the wicked fuckable ladies, in said comedic stylings: Liz Lemon (spinster!) is the protagonist of 30 Rock, whereas Jenna and Cerie (skanks!) are side characters. (And Cerie seems to migrate further and further off to the side every season.) But, like, let’s look at the equation. Not having sex (with your husband): Bad. Having too much sex (but not with your husband): Bad. Is there any class of lady who is allowed to have sex and escape stereotypically sexist criticism, in the work of Tina Fey’s Feminism?
Oh, right: Ladies with husbands. “Wives,” like the ones that Fey reaches out to in solidarity and consolation during that first sketch, before blithely conflating them with “women” in general. Wives like, for example, Tina Fey! Who has been married since 2001, and started dating the man to whom she is now married seven years prior to that. It seems kind of weird, actually, that someone with so many thoughts on All the Single Ladies (“If you were likable, he would have put a ring on it” — Tina Fey’s Feminism) hasn’t apparently been single since the Clinton administration. But, then again, it’s really not. The women Tina Fey defends tend to have something in common with her. The women she makes fun of tend to have obvious differences. Which is the whole point: Feminism is for women, but Tina Fey’s Feminism seems like it’s for… Tina Fey.