|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down|
Since I’ve been doing the mind-numbing work of unpacking my stuff and putting it away, I’ve been watching a lot more internet video than usual, because I can just prop up the laptop and hit “play” while I put stuff away. And so I saw and laughed at the above “Daily Show” video, and was pleased to see Jezebel pick it up. It’s certainly not a faux feminist approach to the subject—that is embodied by the “hey she’s a lady” supporters of Sarah Palin—but I’d say that this was an instance of genuine feminist rage, if channeled through genial Jon Stewart. The issue at hand is the way that Gretchen Carlson of “Fox and Friends” acts on the show, which is basically that she plays a bimbo who is baffled by big words like “ignoramus”. But as the “Daily Show” researchers discovered, Carlson was not actually born yesterday, but is well-educated and almost certainly very smart. She only plays a bimbo on TV.
The schtick serves two purposes. First of all, by playing the bimbo, Carlson can advance opinions in the full concern troll space: Gee whiz, I just don’t want to ask these hard questions, but that Mr. Obama sure seems dangerous, doesn’t he? The other reason is straight up wingnut pandering. Wingnuts like their bimbos, I guess. When women play dumb, order is restored to the universe, and fragile wingnut male egos aren’t disturbed. That’s no surprise, of course, but what is a surprise is the increasingly prevalent wingnut practice of giving the women playing bimbo roles that command real authority. Carlson isn’t being Carrie Prejean, giggling and stupiding around in a bikini, in order to demonstrate that she’s never taken a moment in her entire life to think for herself. Fox News pretends to be a real news channel, and therefore Carlson is pretending to be a real news anchor. That amount of professional authority already betrays the bimbo hopes and dreams of the target audience, you’d think. To really establish proper gender roles, you’d think they’d simply not give women these jobs.
But they actually have to, and it’s because of feminism. We’ve made overt sexism just shameful enough that even conservatives want to avoid the label. Of course, they don’t want to do it by avoiding actual sexism. So this is the compromise we’re seeing: women promoted to wingnut welfare jobs that would only go to men if feminists hadn’t put the conservative establishment’s back against the wall on this. But in order to get those jobs, the women still have to adhere to gross stereotypes of women, so that the audience can fool themselves into thinking that just because women have power doesn’t mean things have really changed. And, as the Sarah Palin example shows, there’s a narrative forming about how the only women who really deserve power are the ones who adhere as closely as possible to this bimbo ideal, as if power is a reward that is passed out to compliant women, no different than a beauty queen’s crown and sash.