WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

WIMN’s Voices blogger and Feministing founder Jessica Valenti did feminism proud on “The Colbert Report” tonight!

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

June 5th, 2007

Earlier, Jessica Valenti posted in advance of her appearance on “The Colbert Report.” By Wed., you should be able to view her interview on Comedy Central’s website or watch it here:

As if there was any doubt, our gal kicked ass. (See some of my favorite quotes below.)

Jessica was great tonight. Loved it from the first moment of her confident entry (she gave Stephen a “Feminist chicks dig me” tee shirt), to her incredulous “Oh, Jesus Christ!” exclamation when Colbert riffed about how there is no impossible standard of beauty because he thinks she’s a hot broad with a “trim bod”, to her disarming laugh and her ability to work the interview around to the recent Supreme Court decision disallowing women to sue employers who discriminate in pay on the basis of gender.

There were a couple of annoying moments, as per usual with Colbert’s O’Reilly-esque impersonation, but that’s his shtick, it’s to be expected, and she handled it well - laughing along, not biting at the “feminists have no sense of humor and are easily baited” bits. And any minor moments of less-than-ideal conversation were far outweighed by the outstanding promotion Colbert gave to her book, Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. In an age when newspapers are gutting their book review sections, when women are marginalized in opinion journalism as op-ed writers, reviewers, pundits and expert sources, and when 72% of all books reviewed in the New York Times Book Review are by male authors (according to the Women’s Review of Books), it’s no small feat for an unabashedly political book about young feminist to be positively plugged on a major corporate outlet — especially one as well-loved and as hip as “Colbert.

I’m sure there will be those who complain that Jess laughed a little more, smiled a little more, and was a little more… well… hot… than many people might assume a feminist would be. But, that’s part of the beauty of Jessica’s role in the public debate — seriously, no pun intended. She breaks down many of the stereotypes that frighten young women away from identifying with feminism, which is the major point of her book. So by appearing on Comedy Central and being simultaneously smart, savvy, strong, serious and yet still sexy (lord, how I love me some alliteration), she is able to reach a core audience of teen and young adult women (and men) who tend to be disaffected from feminist progressive activism, but who also tend to have basic liberal or feminist values — and to this core audience, she debunks anti-feminist media messages and makes women’s rights advocacy seem less like something to be feared or scorned, and more like something to admire, support, enjoy and - one can hope - join.

As noted yesterday:

once you’ve watched the segment, a little positive reinforcement to “The Colbert Report” couldn’t hurt. You can ask them to continue to bring funny, savvy feminists on the show, and forward or blind copy your letters to WIMN: info[at]wimnonline.org. And if you’re feeling really motivated, post your feedback to the Colbert Report’s message board.

As promised, here are some of my favorite quotes:

[after Jessica gives Stephen a “Feminist Chicks Dig Me” tee-shirt]
Stephen Colbert: You’re not gonna jump on me like a merry-go-round like Jane Fonda did, are you?
Jessica Valenti: So long as you don’t have me bake like Gloria Steinem did, I think we’re OK.

* * *

[after Jessica says that her book dispells anti-feminist stereotypes, Stephen helpfully elaborates]Colbert: Like, feminists are all lesbian, man-hating abortionists who live in covens and inseminate each other with turkey basters.
Valenti: That sounds about right. It’s those anti-feminist messages that are really keeping young women away from the word “feminism.” I think that most young women have feminist values. They all believe in access to brth control, they believe in pay equity, they want to fight against rape and domestic violence. But when it comes to actually identifying as feminists that’d the big hurdle because of all the terrible stereotypes surrounding feminism.
Colbert: So you’re trying to make feminism cool again?
Valenti: I think feminism is already cool. I’m just trying to let people know that it’s cool.
Colbert: It’s not.
Valenti: It is.
Colbert: No, I’m sorry. It’s not. No no no.
Valenti: It is. It’s so cool.

* * *

Colbert: You say the Girls Gone Wild, that ideal in our culture today, there are unattainable standards of beauty for women.
Valenti: There are.
Colbert: Are there really unattainable standards for beauty?–
Valenti: There are.
Colbert: –or are a lot of women just not trying hard enough?
Valenti: I think that there are pretty unattainable. I think the messages put out there–
Colbert: You’re a good looking lady.
Valenti: Uh, thanks.
Colbert: I think you match American standards of beauty. You’re trim, you got a nice little bod, and, um, you know, you keep yourself put together.
Valenti: Oh, Jesus Christ!

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