I just set out to make a comment over at the awesome colbertnewshub, but it turned into more of an essay than a comment so I thought I’d spare them the spam and stick it here instead. So. Here are my one-month-later thoughts about Stephen Colbert’s “and one woman. Sorry for that, for some reason” Emmy comment:
The women in comedy / women in everything / feminism issue is a complicated one. When Stephen said that there was one woman on his writing staff “for some reason”, I thought it that got misinterpreted on the internet. What I heard, in that crazy-elated-because-my-favorite-thing-ever-got-recognized-as-other-people’s-favorite-thing-too moment when the Report won, was that Stephen honestly had no idea why his writing staff ended up with only one woman on it. That it was an accident. I believe him, because apparently they read the submissions blindly at first (without knowing who wrote them), and I assume they bring whoever was funniest in for an interview.
I understand and agree with feminists who say that men and women should be equally represented in comedy (and in general). And I know that women are just as funny as men - today’s Report guest Mindy Kaling is one of my very favorite comedians, and look at the successes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Amy Sedaris, Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Jessica Williams, Samantha Bee … the list goes on and on. I hear the argument that even if submissions are being made blindly, the group of white men reading them might be biased toward the sense of humor of other white men and it becomes a vicious cycle.
I get all of those things. And yet. The Colbert Report writers, as male and as white as they may be, make me laugh more consistently than anybody else has ever done. I like the idea that submissions are judged based only on how funny they are. Those judgments have been correct, too - the show is FUNNY. I’d like to think that when a woman, like Meredith Scardino or Ariel Dumas, submits a packet that makes the group laugh, she has just as good a chance of being hired as the guys do. Why are there less of them? I don’t know, and I think that at the Emmys Stephen tried to say that he doesn’t, either.
Sometimes this is just how things work out - I work at a relatively small company in science/engineering and I am the only woman in our office, and one of only a few at trade events and meetings. And there is no reason, as far as I can tell - that’s just the way it is. Is there some bigger, societal reason? Maybe. I am not qualified to answer that, only to speak from personal experience (I ended up here because I liked legos and building things as a kid, and nobody ever tried to stop me). I’ve been on a few hiring teams at work and we always hire the person who’s the most qualified and personable. They’ve so far happened to be men, for some reason. I don’t know the reason, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be a feminist.