Sunday, June 26, 2011

The "F" Word Part 2

Feminist has become a dirty word. Somewhere along the line the popular connotation switched from a civil rights activist to a man-hating bra-burner. I resent this transition. While we have come a long way from our feminist ancestors of the 1960s and before (see my earlier post "The 'F' Word") there is still quite a lot to be done for gender equality as a whole.

Women are given more opportunities than ever before in American history, but the death of some issues has only given birth to others. Tina Fey addresses these new issues (albeit indirectly) in her memoir Bossypants. The book goes into her issues with being "fat" and "unattractive" in show business (this was the only topic I semi-resented, since her standards are obviously the unrealistic criterion of Hollywood, and even there she seems to do alright.) Bossypants talks about the jerks who claim women can't be funny, and the attitude of Fey's early improv troupe that no one would want to see a skit with two women in it. Throughout these anecdotes, however, she never uses the word "feminist," being the dirty word that it is.

There is only one chapter where Fey directly mentions feminism: in relation to her memories of portraying Sarah Palin on the now infamous Saturday Night Live sketch. In the sketch, Fey (as Palin) and Amy Poehler (as Hilary Clinton) confront the press for their sexist representation of women in politics. While the sketch exaggerated the characteristics of either woman, in reality both Clinton and Palin had been diminished in the media through descriptions of them physically, something unheard of among male candidates. In retrospect, the feminist themes are obvious, but the first time I watched it I was only laughing. Fey puts it best in Bossypants: "You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn't even realize it because of all the jokes. It's like when Jessica Seinfeld put spinach in kids' brownies. Suckers!" Feminism has become so scorned-- among both men and women-- that if the skit were to directly reference it, the popularity would've dropped tremendously.

Bossypants works the same way as the Palin/Clinton sketch. Fey puts the feminist spinach in the comedy book brownies and you'll eat it up just the same.

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