What a Hoot(ers): The Daily Show Takes on Sexism

With the apparent end, this Saturday, of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency, the “was the media treatment of Clinton sexist?” question—already the subject of much discussion, as Liz pointed out last month—will (and, by the way, should) continue. And on last night’s Daily Show, “Senior Women’s Issues Commentator” Kristen Schaal put her own satirical spin on the conversation. (“Misogyny is like jazz: women know it when they hear it. Also, every party has at least one guy who’s really into it.”)

Schaal recounts some of the more infamous Moments of Misogyny of the 2008 primary season: commentators dismissing Clinton’s voice as “shrill”; mocking the emotion she showed the day before the New Hampshire primary; etc. “This whole campaign,” Schaal said, “women had to sit and watch while Hillary Clinton was treated like a Hooters waitress….Tonight I am putting an end to sexism in the only way that will get attention from the people who perpetrate it: by stripping off my clothes the way this election has stripped women of their dignity.”

Schaal goes on to, yes, strip—while a reel of some of cable TV’s more ridiculous misogynistic moments, set to the soundtrack of the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine,” plays in the background. The gag is kept PG: the clothes-shedding reveals a Wonder Woman leotard (“They’re called Underoos…all women wear them, you know, when they’re fighting injustice”).

The gag doesn’t produce, perhaps, the brand of laugh-out-loud humor The Daily Show is known for. It’s too subtle for that. But the satire is brilliant: the piece captures the mixed-messages-when-it-comes-to-gender that are perhaps, at this point, the biggest takeaway of the Clinton Media Treatment Conversation. It’s difficult to dismiss, with any degree of intellectual honesty, that treatment as simply sexist or not. In the aggregate, it hasn’t been a matter of blanket misogyny—just as it clearly hasn’t been a matter of blanket lady-philia. It’s been a reflection of the complex relationship we all have with gender, of the conflicting and often downright paradoxical approaches we take in arriving at the intersection of women and power. (See “Dowd, Maureen.”) “Stripping against misogyny,” in all its wacky irony, makes an apt contribution to the conversation.

Watch it:

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.