Reuters: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert liberal lions? The guest chair tells a different story

Reuters: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert liberal lions? The guest chair tells a different story

Last week at Reuters, I wrote about how the diversity – or lack thereof – among guests on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is in conflict with Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s reputations as liberal icons:

Appearing on Stewart or Colbert bestows credibility and respect on many of the people with whom the hosts choose to converse.

And yet when it comes to gender and race, their guest rosters more closely resemble a GOP national convention than they do the liberal vision of a diverse and equitable America. Of Stewart’s most recent 45 guests, 17 of them, or 38 percent, were women. This is closer to gender equity than many comedy and news shows manage, and it’s certainly a better showing than Colbert. But when you factor in race, Stewart’s numbers start to look very grim indeed. A resounding majority – 68 percent – of his guests were white, and of the very few African-American guests who appeared on his show, all were entertainers – the band Wu Tang Clan and the comedian Kevin Hart. Women of color fared similarly poorly on The Daily Show: Out of 45 guests, just three were women of color.

In Colbert Nation, the numbers were worse still: Of 45 guests, 73 percent were men, and 89 percent were white. And of the 12 women (12!) who appeared among Colbert’s last 45 guests, three of them shared a time slot. Of those 12 women, there was just one woman of color — District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

You can read the whole thing here.

 

Reuters: Why the contestants on Dating Naked are (kind of) just like us

Reuters: Why the contestants on Dating Naked are (kind of) just like us

I have a piece at Reuters today, on reality shows about looking for love, hatewatching, and horseback riding in the nude:

If naked horseback riding strikes you as a bad idea, then Dating Naked is not the reality show for you.

The show, which debuted last month, is filmed on a Caribbean island, and it’s much like any other reality dating show, except that contestants show up for their dates — which involve island-y activities like spearfishing, zip lining, paddle boarding, and yes, horseback riding — totally naked, and stay that way for the duration of the date. Suffice it to say, the folks responsible for pixelating the footage for this show have their hands full.

Dating Naked is one of several reality shows in which nudity is part of the central premise. Recently, we’ve also seen the debut of Buying Naked (TLC), about a real estate agent who caters to a nudist clientele; Naked and Afraid (Discovery Channel), in which strangers are left naked in a deserted location and must fend for themselves in the wilderness, is currently in its third season. If you hold to the journalism adage that three makes a trend, then naked reality shows are officially a hot new trend (or, in the case of the Naked and Afraid contestants who spent three weeks in the Yungas cloud forest of Argentina, a cold one).

What is striking about these shows, however, is how quickly nudity becomes the least remarkable element. In Naked and Afraid, building a shelter and obtaining food quickly become top priorities for many contestants, and being naked while doing so is an uncomfortable inconvenience, but not a central concern. Similarly, the contestants in Dating Naked say that by the time they’re stripping down for their third naked date, they’re getting comfortable with the idea of meeting a purported complete stranger in the buff. Since the discomfort, awkwardness, and innuendo that, uh, arise, from the nudity are central to the appeal of the show, their dissipation reveals Dating Naked for what it is: Yet another formulaic reality dating show, just as heavily edited and booze-soaked as any other member of the genre. Once the contestants get comfortable, the show loses much of its appeal.

You can read the whole thing here.

Daily Life: What pop culture gets wrong about bulimia

Daily Life: What pop culture gets wrong about bulimia

I have a piece at Daily Life this week, about why so many pop culture depictions of bulimia are inaccurate:

It’s true that bulimia happens among ballet dancers and beauty queens, and other people whose bodies are their livelihoods. But the reality of bulimia and other eating disorders that involve purging – through vomiting, overexercise, or laxative abuse – is that many people suffering from them don’t look like ballerinas or pageant contestants. Many women with bulimia – about 80% of bulimics are women – are not skinny women trying to stay skinny or trying to lose even more weight. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, people with bulimia “usually appear to be of average body weight.”

Watching pop culture portrayals of bulimia, you’d never know it. You’d also never know just how grotesque bulimia can be. It turns out that purging laxatives doesn’t make for great TV. It’s hard to give actresses the swollen cheeks that can result from frequent vomiting, while still keeping them appropriately hot. It’s hard to depict the way the stomach acid eats away at the teeth over time.

Depicting over-exercise is easier – plus, you get to show your already-skinny character in tight, stretchy exercise gear – and anorexia is easier still. Just have your character eatnothing. Bulimia is tougher to pull off on screen, in part because, while any eating disorder is brutal in its own way, the brutality of bulimia is obvious. It’s grotesque to do it, and gross to look at it, and as a result, it’s a good deal harder to sell an accurate portrayal of it to an audience, or worse, to glamorise it, than with other eating disorders.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thought Catalog: December highlights

Thought Catalog: December highlights

Here are my best weekly columns from Thought Catalog in the last month of 2013:

Mascara, lipgloss, and other wastes of time.

Get ready, gentlemen, the cosmetics industry is coming for you.

Engagement rings, Facebook, and the public wedding proposal, about the question everyone asked when they found out I was going to Paris in December, and that my menschfriend was coming with me – is he going to pop the question in Paris?

He and I are 28 and 26 respectively. We’re at that age when questions are being popped. People expect it to happen; that’s just what couples our age do. And Paris is one of the more potent symbols of romance in Western culture. I can’t imagine how many couples from around the globe get engaged there every year. One of my best friends in the world got married this fall after proposing to his now-wife on Île de la Cité, just near Notre Dame. The romance of Paris is hard to resist — the buildings, the art, the French accents, the affordability of wine, which allows you to be slightly tipsy all the time if you so choose. Fortunately, I’m a professional feminist, so it’s my job in life to suck the fun and romance out of everything, and Paris is no exception. Strolling by twilight along the Seine? You don’t want to know how many corpses have been tossed into it in the last few centuries alone. Captivated by the cobblestone streets, the winding back alleys? Cool, picture them running red with blood during the Paris Commune or the Reign of Terror. Romantic, right?

I’m fascinated, though, by the assumption that this event is going to take place, indeed, that it must take place, not only because we’re at that age and have been together almost a year, but because we are going to this place, together. It will be more special, more of an event, if it happens there. It will make such a good story. With the lights and the romance and the cobblestones, it will be so much more spectacular — and a proposal should be spectacular.

That’s increasingly what we’re told, as proposals and engagements because an increasingly visible and public part of wedding culture in America. “How did he do it?” is the first question a newly-engaged woman is likely to be asked, after “Can I see the ring?” He did it in a restaurant full of people. He did it with the help of your favorite author. He did it with a musical number at Disneyland. And he had it all filmed and put on Youtube so the rest of the world could enjoy the spectacle, too. Then comes the “He asked…” photo on Facebook or Instagram — the shot of your hand with your new ring without the rest of your body or the rest of the couple in the frame. Then the engagement photoshoot. As heterosexual marriage rates continue to drop, our performance of the rituals leading up to marriage becomes more insistent. Faced with marriage’s apparent dwindling relevance, this show goes on, bigger and bolder, like the band playing a rousing rendition of “Here Comes the Bride” as the cruise liner sinks.

The Atlantic: Why “the end of men” is more complicated than it looks

The Atlantic: Why “the end of men” is more complicated than it looks

I have a piece in The Atlantic today, about Hanna Rosin’s new book The End of Men, and what it can and can’t tell us about the experience of being a young American woman.

Women are now far more likely than men are to graduate from college or from professional schools. Upon graduation, they enter a labor market that no longer puts a premium on physical strength and instead values supposedly “feminine” traits like the ability to communicate and collaborate, and in which women are outpacing men. “At a certain point in the last 40 years,” Rosin writes, “the job market became largely indifferent to size and strength. From then on, men no longer held all the cards.” Almost all the job sectors that are projected to grow the most in the next decade are female-dominated and “feminine”: child care, nursing, home health aide, food preparation. And women, in addition to being better-educated and more likely to be employed, are simply more “together” than men, Rosin argues. They’re more ambitious, more tenacious, and more adaptable. And while they’re gaining ground, “men have been retreating into an ever-narrower space.”

The End of Men offers a long view of this shift in gender and power, replete with statistics and demographic evidence. A lot of the hard data that Rosin presents indicates that many of the gender gaps that have held women back for so long are finally closing, and then some. But the anecdotal data, the experiential accounts of what it’s like to be a young American woman in this particular cultural moment where women are on top and men are “ending,” suggests that even if the statistics say that they’re winning, young women feel like losers. This year’s critically acclaimed new HBO series Girls, created by and starring Lena Dunham, takes that experience of floundering and lays it out for all to see. Dunham’s Hannah and her friends, despite their privilege, don’t feel like they’re running the world. Their personal day-to-day experience flies in the face of the rosy statistics, and the show, which is semi-autobiographical, has struck a chord with young women who know all too well what that feels like.

You can read the whole thing here.

Bloggingheads: Television politics

Bloggingheads: Television politics

I’ve got an episode up at Bloggingheads today, with Alyssa Rosenberg of The Atlantic and Think Progress. We talked about how women in politics are depicted on TV – in shows like “Glee,” “Modern Family,” “Homeland” and “Parks and Recreation,” with a special appearance from “A Gifted Man,” the TV show about a ghost who advocates healthcare reform (yes, really).

Alyssa blogged about the many women running for office on TV this season, and you can watch the whole thing at Bloggingheads. I personally love the title of the section “Why Chloe wanted to punch ‘Modern Family’ in the face.” Why did I (briefly) want to punch “Modern Family” in the face? Go find out!

Yet more Radio Dispatch!

Yet more Radio Dispatch!

On part two of this Radio Dispatch episode, we talk about gay kisses on TV, street harassment and how great it is when guys step up and call out sexism. (How great is it when guys step up and call out sexism? It’s hotter than Sydney in February and more satisfying than a Nutella-banana-pannini. It’s that great).

You can listen to the whole thing here.