20 Aug Emily Toth, “Female Wits,” from The Massachusetts Review, 1981.
It’s been such a tense summer for “Women’s Comedy.” We were silent about most of the Tosh fiasco not because we weren’t present, but because reading thousands of comedy plebes tweeting about how They Know God Invented Comedy To Push The Rape Envelope is, uh, a recipe for suicidal ideation. Normally I would mention that I haven’t met a rape-apologist in the peanut gallery who knows half as much as I do about comedy, but this time there were professionals in the aisles. It was, honestly, really hard on us. After a while we dissociated.
In June, if y’all recall, Adam Corolla blamed his inability to hold down a job on the Iron Fist of Socialized Comedy’s Affirmative Action, saying, “they make you hire a certain number of chicks, and they’re always the least funny on the writing staff. The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks.” (I see yer get back in the kitchen and I raise you get back in the Loveline.) Recently (as we posted about), contrary to Corolla’s assertion, Bunheads' Amy-Sherman Palladino reminded everyone that it is tough for women in television and comedy. According to her, though, it was mostly because mean WOC just won't leave them alone!!
We’ve also been pretty silent on the whole “Lena Dunham Keeps Digging Herself Deeper Into A Hole Of Being The Worst Person On The Planet” ordeal. Maybe this is because the FF camp doesn’t quite agree on how much The Worst Lena Dunham is, maybe it’s because we didn’t want to feed the universe’s ungodly insatiable hunger for dumb white liberal feminists yammering about dumb white liberal feminists on their dumb white liberal feminist blogs, or maybe because I know that reblogging and commenting on every piece of shit Lena Dunham drops on our floor would be so tiring. Still, in case you missed it: Lena Dunham continues to be a disgusting racist asshat, some people still like calling her fat, calling a white rich lady fat is still the Cardinal Sin of white liberal feminism, and Feministing thinks it’s not a big deal.
This might not seem to concern the “Women’s Comedy War” per se, but pay attention to the way that Dunham and her defenders employ classic comedian arguments to uphold (power/whiteness/bad jokes). Likely the same white feminists who were (rightly) eyerolling Tosh’s camp for the “there’s no boundaries in comedy!” line were dropping the “there are no boundaries of humor" line. @BhatiBeads said "Humor is pushing boundaries — you can’t please everyone." (Defining and policing categories of "everyone," "people," "women," etc. is a classic feminist tactic for upholding white supremacy, cissexism, and colonialism. The unpleasable, in @Bhatibeads’s statement, are mostly "not white people." Incidentally, Bhati Beads is a lady’s p. racist accessory company.) @heyabbi said “there are no boundaries of humor. @kathygriffin could teach you that,” cleverly appealing to a white feminist comedian hegemony. (Ugh, like, listen: I think Kathy Griffin is kind of funny but, like, really??? Is she really the most no-boundaries you could manage? Was Sarah Silverman not white enough?? Was Sarah Silverman’s racism not casual enough?? What are you even doing????)
I thought this was the most interesting part—the Feministing piece said “[Dunham]’s essentially a comedy writer and comedians say racially offensive things all the time.” Of course this is the same argument that Tosh fans spewed. While these kinds of equivalencies are flawed, I can’t help but remark that Feministing would never publish something like “comedians say sexist things all the time [so it’s not that big of a deal]”—revealing, among other things, that the non-white women Dunham was attacking don’t count in their feminism. It also seems kind of weird to me to suddenly call Dunham some kind of Comedian Insider, because I don’t think that’s what she is.
*Using “non-white” in kind of a cavalier way here, because of course I understand that veiling (especially Muslim women’s veiling that she was trying to allude to) is not exclusively a non-white practice, and there are Muslim women of every race (of course!). Still, I think it’s pretty clear that she was making a racialized reference, and race-notwithstanding the whole thing was Islamophobic as hell. (And Islamophobia and racism are inseparable!) **The author of that post is not necessarily white, and I don’t want readers attacking her or making assumptions about her. Still, readers are free to call Feministing a site which upholds white supremacy, ‘cause it is.
Maybe I’m straying too far from the point. Today it was announced that Phyllis Diller has died at the age of 95. Today I am thinking about the decades of the “Women’s Comedy” debate. Today I am thinking about how the stakes have changed and the arguments are never revised. Today I am thinking about what she wrought and what she inherited. Today, “Women’s Comedy” is a delineated category in and around which we are forced to operate, with which we are forced to negotiate. But so much of this was forged by women who manipulated difference in order to manipulate canon (and survive). It’s worth considering how that’s historically situated.

Emily Toth, “Female Wits,” from The Massachusetts Review, 1981.

It’s been such a tense summer for “Women’s Comedy.” We were silent about most of the Tosh fiasco not because we weren’t present, but because reading thousands of comedy plebes tweeting about how They Know God Invented Comedy To Push The Rape Envelope is, uh, a recipe for suicidal ideation. Normally I would mention that I haven’t met a rape-apologist in the peanut gallery who knows half as much as I do about comedy, but this time there were professionals in the aisles. It was, honestly, really hard on us. After a while we dissociated.

In June, if y’all recall, Adam Corolla blamed his inability to hold down a job on the Iron Fist of Socialized Comedy’s Affirmative Action, saying, “they make you hire a certain number of chicks, and they’re always the least funny on the writing staff. The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks.” (I see yer get back in the kitchen and I raise you get back in the Loveline.) Recently (as we posted about), contrary to Corolla’s assertion, Bunheads' Amy-Sherman Palladino reminded everyone that it is tough for women in television and comedy. According to her, though, it was mostly because mean WOC just won't leave them alone!!

We’ve also been pretty silent on the whole “Lena Dunham Keeps Digging Herself Deeper Into A Hole Of Being The Worst Person On The Planet” ordeal. Maybe this is because the FF camp doesn’t quite agree on how much The Worst Lena Dunham is, maybe it’s because we didn’t want to feed the universe’s ungodly insatiable hunger for dumb white liberal feminists yammering about dumb white liberal feminists on their dumb white liberal feminist blogs, or maybe because I know that reblogging and commenting on every piece of shit Lena Dunham drops on our floor would be so tiring. Still, in case you missed it: Lena Dunham continues to be a disgusting racist asshat, some people still like calling her fat, calling a white rich lady fat is still the Cardinal Sin of white liberal feminism, and Feministing thinks it’s not a big deal.

This might not seem to concern the “Women’s Comedy War” per se, but pay attention to the way that Dunham and her defenders employ classic comedian arguments to uphold (power/whiteness/bad jokes). Likely the same white feminists who were (rightly) eyerolling Tosh’s camp for the “there’s no boundaries in comedy!” line were dropping the “there are no boundaries of humor" line. @BhatiBeads said "Humor is pushing boundaries — you can’t please everyone." (Defining and policing categories of "everyone," "people," "women," etc. is a classic feminist tactic for upholding white supremacy, cissexism, and colonialism. The unpleasable, in @Bhatibeads’s statement, are mostly "not white people." Incidentally, Bhati Beads is a lady’s p. racist accessory company.) @heyabbi said “there are no boundaries of humor. @kathygriffin could teach you that,” cleverly appealing to a white feminist comedian hegemony. (Ugh, like, listen: I think Kathy Griffin is kind of funny but, like, really??? Is she really the most no-boundaries you could manage? Was Sarah Silverman not white enough?? Was Sarah Silverman’s racism not casual enough?? What are you even doing????)

I thought this was the most interesting part—the Feministing piece said “[Dunham]’s essentially a comedy writer and comedians say racially offensive things all the time.” Of course this is the same argument that Tosh fans spewed. While these kinds of equivalencies are flawed, I can’t help but remark that Feministing would never publish something like “comedians say sexist things all the time [so it’s not that big of a deal]”—revealing, among other things, that the non-white women Dunham was attacking don’t count in their feminism. It also seems kind of weird to me to suddenly call Dunham some kind of Comedian Insider, because I don’t think that’s what she is.

*Using “non-white” in kind of a cavalier way here, because of course I understand that veiling (especially Muslim women’s veiling that she was trying to allude to) is not exclusively a non-white practice, and there are Muslim women of every race (of course!). Still, I think it’s pretty clear that she was making a racialized reference, and race-notwithstanding the whole thing was Islamophobic as hell. (And Islamophobia and racism are inseparable!)

**The author of that post is not necessarily white, and I don’t want readers attacking her or making assumptions about her. Still, readers are free to call Feministing a site which upholds white supremacy, ‘cause it is.

Maybe I’m straying too far from the point. Today it was announced that Phyllis Diller has died at the age of 95. Today I am thinking about the decades of the “Women’s Comedy” debate. Today I am thinking about how the stakes have changed and the arguments are never revised. Today I am thinking about what she wrought and what she inherited. Today, “Women’s Comedy” is a delineated category in and around which we are forced to operate, with which we are forced to negotiate. But so much of this was forged by women who manipulated difference in order to manipulate canon (and survive). It’s worth considering how that’s historically situated.

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