For the longest time, I have absolutely loved The Daily Show. I think Jon Stewart is an overall sensible human being whose “WTF?!” facial expression accurately depicts how I feel about the news at any given time.
So, it was with great sadness that I opened a link to a piece titled, “The Daily Show Needs More Female Guests Because, Wow, These Numbers Are Appalling.” Then, I cringed upon the realization that one of my all-time favorite newsy shows (and comedy shows, in general) has some pretty awful stats:
Since 2010, only 25 percent of the show’s guests have been women. And it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon — in 2013, men have been invited on the show as guest more than twice as often as women (107 compared to a mere 52). And the number of male and female guests hasn’t been close to equal in the new year — of the 26 guests the show has had in 2014, only seven of them were women.
Oof, that is depressing. De. Press. Ing.
Here’s the thing that bums me out about this: I do not think Jon Stewart dislikes women. I don’t think he doesn’t respect women. I don’t think he actively is trying to keep women off of his show. Judging by the way he has spoken to and about his female guests, he respects them as he should, but it’s even more obvious that he is not sexist judging by how he speaks of females in the news he disagrees with; rather than resort to sexist terminology, slut shaming and all other manner of female-connoted vocabulary that many hosts who don’t respect women tend to use.
And it may not be an issue exclusively regarding guests: in a 2010 piece by Jezebel about The Daily Show, Irin Carmon discussed the scarcity of females on TDS staff–including by the staff members themselves:
“What I was told when I was hired is that they have a very hard time finding and keeping women, and that I was lucky to get a one year contract,” says Lauren Weedman, a comedian and writer who worked on the show as an on-air correspondent from 2001-2002.
So, what of our other love, Stephen Colbert? Well…
Out of its 31 guests so far this year (I’m counting all four members of band Lake Street Drive), nine have been women, and three of those nine women appeared on the show with men. So not even a third of his guests in 2014 have been females. Again, I do not think that Colbert dislikes women or refuses to acknowledge their contributions to society, but numbers don’t lie and this is absolutely a problem.
Obviously, there are huge problems with sexism in the entertainment industry, and those do not begin nor end with The Daily Show or Comedy Central as a whole. That said, if the most-watched late night show among young people can’t even feature women proportionately to men, what hope is there for the rest of television?