Literary Excerpt: Tina Fey On Being Told "Women Aren't Funny"

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Tina Fey's book BossypantsI thoroughly enjoyed Tina Fey's book Bossypants. Great to get a peek behind the scenes of 30 Rock, her portrayal of Sarah Palin, and her ideas on life in general and comedy in specific. 

A few years ago, Christopher Hitchens published an article in Vanity Fair titled Why Women Aren't Funny. This provoked a response in the same magazine entitled Who Says Women Aren't Funny? which cites Tina Fey specifically. And this provoked a response from Hitchens on youtube, titled Why Women Still Aren't Funny.


Hitch was hardly the only person to state this opinion. 


Here's Tina Fey's take. 


(Note: Bossypants was published before Mr. Hitchens' death, so bear that in mind with the reference to him being "very sick.")


I think of this whenever someone says to me, "Jerry Lewis says 'women aren't funny,' or Christopher Hitchens says 'women aren't funny,' or Rick Fenderman says 'women aren't funny'…. Do you have anything to say to that?"


Yes. We don't fucking care if you like it.


I don't say it out loud, of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist, Hitchens if very sick, and the third guy I made up.


Unless one of these men is my boss, which none of them is, it's irrelevant. My hat goes off to them. It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good. I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove it doesn't exist.


So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: "Is this person in between me and what I want to do?" If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you're in charge, don't hire the people who were jerky to you.


Tina Fey as Sarah PalinIf the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece "Over! Under! Through!" (If you're under forty you might not remember this film. It taught the concepts of "over," "under," and "through" by filming toddlers crawling around an abandoned construction site. They don't show it anymore because someone has since realized that's nuts.)


If your boss is a jerk, try to find someone above or around your boss who is not a jerk. If you're lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground - like the rifle range or the car sales total board or the SNL read-through. If so, focus on that.


Again, don't waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go "Over! Under! Through!" and opinions will change organically when you're the boss. Or they won't. Who cares?


Do your thing and don't care if they like it.



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