There has been a raging debate the past few days about women’s roles on The Daily Show, starting with a Jezebel post that accused The Daily Show and Jon Stewart of being sexist. The discussion has began to get to the larger point of women’s contributions to the news media in general, but so far the back and fourth has been petty, shallow, and largely unhelpful. I think the topic of women on TV is a VERY important discussion to have, but it should not be about what Jezebel said, or what sexy maid costume new Daily Show correspondent Olivia Munn wore on her old show, or any of the petty back and forth between for-profit media outlets (of which jezebel is one.) Because that is not what this is about. This is about making news media work for a modern era.
I am a 17-year-old guy, trying to figure out my place in the world, and almost nightly I turn to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to be filled in on the day’s news. These shows help me understand the world. The only way in which I am able to hear about anything beyond my immediate sphere of daily existence is by turning to media outlets, so it is extremely important that we address the issue of who controls the information we receive.
A fair, intelligent, substantive discussion about the roles of women (and minorities) in our media has not yet emerged from this whole ‘The Daily Show is sexist’ debacle. Why does it matter if women or other minorities are fairly represented in media? Because as we face a whole host of global and societal problems, the perspectives of people other than white men are crucial to authentically and effectively address the world’s challenges.
Whether it be the issue of female genital cutting in Africa or rising sea levels in India, poverty in Durham, North Carolina or violence and hatred in Israel and Palestine, an “old boys club” of white, American men alone will not do the job. We need all hands on deck; we need many perspectives and viewpoints. This means it is crucial that women have a large contributing role on shows such as The Daily Show, and if the only positive thing that emerged from the Jezebel article was help me realizing this fact than at least it did some good.
As we move forward, the news media needs to understand that the world is changing, and the current model of male-dominated news is becoming less and less useful. For me as a young person, I want to see a world where women contribute equally to reporting and discussing every issue on the news.
Is The Daily Show an oppressive force against women? Of course not. Do they have an obligation to continually seek new perspectives and opinions, including hiring more ladies to write and report stories? Yes.
Check out Slate's article on how feminist blogs like Jezebel gin up page views by exploiting women's worst tendencies.
WSJ's recap of the back and fourth between TDS and Jezebel
And of course The Women Of The Daily Show Speak, which went up on The Daily Shows website a few days ago.
Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.