All right, for those not keeping score at home, follow me here: A couple of weeks ago, populist feminist site, Jezebel (which I really like, by the by) did a profile on “The Daily Show’s” so-called “lady problem,” ahead of the anchor tryout of Olivia Munn, who is only the second female correspondent on the show in seven years (she is awful, by the way. which has less to do with the fact that she’s a woman and more to do with the fact that she’s awful.). The author of the post, Irin Carmon, does what so many journalist do, especially online: She cherry-picked quotes from a couple of former female employees of “The Daily Show” and essentially suggested that Jon Stewart and the entire show had something of a problem with female employees, going so far as to throw around the term, “boys’ club.” She started with a hypothesis and made damn sure her findings backed that hypothesis. Of course, later on in the article,, she also had several quotes from current and former employees who said that sexism doesn’t exist on the show and everything is fine and dandy. Those quotes, naturally, we’re pushed down toward the bottom of the piece, so that certain readers would have already developed a blinding rage over the piece before they got to the more balanced section.
Of course, this is what websites do. They express faux outrage in order to capture a reader’s attention and generate page views. We do it sometimes, too, though I like to think we’re fairly transparent about it (and many of the commenters here are nice enough to play along with their own faux outrage). In fact, that’s exactly what former Gawker employee Emily Gould suggested of these types of pieces in her article on Slate today:
They’re ignited by writers who are pushing readers to feel what the writers claim is righteously indignant rage but which is actually just petty jealousy, cleverly marketed as feminism. These firestorms are great for page-view-pimping bloggy business … . Page views are generated by commenters who are moved to speak out, then revisit the comment thread endlessly to see how people have responded to their ideas. Ergo, more provocative posts tend to generate far more page views, and the easiest way for Jezebel writers to be provocative is to stoke readers’ insecurities—just in a different way.
Gould’s piece, in which she expressed faux outrage at Jezebel’s faux outrage, has generated 47 comments so far, which is fairly exceptional over on Slate, where typical posts don’t do much better than five or ten comments. Unfortunately, what neither Jezebel nor Gould realize is that certain headline readers, who don’t bother to read the entire story (much less comment on it), often form opinions based on a small taste of that faux outrage, and unfortunately, “The Daily Show,” — the King of Late Night Faux Outrage and God Bless them for it — felt the faux outrage rebuke. Jon Stewart even expressed faux outrage at Jezebel on the show last week.
Today, finally, someone stepped up and express some actual sincerity.That someone was the women who currently work on “The Daily Show,” who had to (mostly) cut through all the faux outrage bullshit and say something meaningful.
And so, while it may cause a big stir to seize on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignore what current staff say about working at The Daily Show, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to Jon, it’s not fair to our wonderful male colleagues, and it’s especially not fair to the young women who want to have a career in comedy but are scared they may get swallowed up in what people label as a “boy’s club.”
You can read the entire, wonderful open letter here.
So, what did we learn from all this? I think the take-home lesson here is to express faux outrage at the appropriate targets, like actual sexists assholes. Pick your battles; don’t cherry pick them. Because when “The Daily Show” tells you to take your pro-feminist faux outrage attitude and go fuck yourself, then the real victim here is feminism. And feminist sure as hell don’t need to give the world another excuse to piss down their hairy legs.
Now, please express the appropriate faux outrage at the hairy legs comment so that we, too, can generate comments and page views, which will represent yet another victory for feminists (and by that, I mean, the few extra shekels I will earn from your faux indignation. And by shekels, I mean farthings.). But I’d also hope that you wouldn’t throw out the unshaved armpits with the bathwater because Jezebel is a great site, Irin Carmon is just one author among many, and — even if Nick Denton’s end goal is to generate page views and revenue — that site does highlight a lot of real women’s issues in between the celebrity captions.
In the meantime, take your mind off of all this faux outrage and, instead, taste the rainbow, fatherfuckers!