Trevor Noah's ark: Where the women don't walk in two by two

South African comedian Trevor Noah. (Twitter)

South African comedian Trevor Noah. (Twitter)

The visibility of diversity is necessary. Some are bored with talking about it. Some are bored with arguing about it, and many are bored with seeing the same vanilla choices being made over and over again, whether it’s in the boardroom, the newsroom or the rec-room.

To be faced with opportunities to make decisions that move society 10 steps backwards and places the same white male patriarchs in the same positions they and their sort have held for years and years is decidedly regressive. Anyone who makes those types of decisions may as well wrap a hide around themselves, gather their club and make a speedy exit toward the nearest man cave where they will be protected from all the criticism that is bound to come their way.

No forward-thinking human being feels like they need to explain why this is a problem anymore: if you’re castigated for being a backward fool, it’s because you deserve it. No one wants to try to educate you anymore because, frankly, in this day and age when you are met with a blank space and you don’t jump at the opportunity to fill it with diversity, well then you’re just plain stupid. And even if you think it isn’t the right choice, because you’re used to just one thing and you’re used to that one thing looking one way, then at least pretend. Pretend to be smart. And that, is the one thing the Daily Show cannot be faulted for. Change.

One step forward
There’s a lot of surprise and debate about whether Trevor Noah is accomplished enough to fill Jon Stewart’s shoes. He’s not American, so how in tune is he with that society and its politics? Sure, he’s a quick thinker and he’s probably a great observer, but is he so in touch with the country that he gets to host one of its most popular late-night television shows? A satirical one at that? But hey, they hired him, they know what they’re doing, and even if they don’t, even if the Daily Show fails miserably post-Noah and takes a nose-dive that forces the production team to recreate, reinvent and revise the voice and intention of the show itself, the Daily Show will still win for making that decision. Because that’s what glass ceiling are for – to be broken.

At some point, the Comedy Central folks sat back and said, we can oil this machine with another white man, like everyone else in the industry, or we can move past that, and that’s what they did.

But wait, here’s the damper … they’re still not hiring women. Dear Comedy Central, you could have gone there … but you didn’t.

Ten steps back
In degrees of diversity, women still feature last – or not at all – and black men, well, they still run the risk of being the “token” if they are hired. But I can almost guarantee that Noah doesn’t see it that way, and he doesn’t have to. He’s male. He gets to tweet crap about Caster Semenya’s sexuality or about how Jewish women don’t give head and totally get away with it. He get’s people to defend him and say: “That happened three years ago. It’s funny.” Who’s laughing? Women? No. Why? Because it’s not funny. The same way some men probably think women won’t be funny until they start joking like men … about other women of course. (Go test this out at one of those situations where the men are at the braai and the women are making the slaai. Like, talk about boobs or something and use a hand gesture. You will be a hoot! Because obviously that’s what you want. To be acknowledged as funny by men because you said “boobs”).

Women get the daytime talk shows. They get the “how to cook this” and “how to clean that” shows. They get them, because their ilk are at home getting the supper ready and making right for their husbands. Their tellies are on in the background while they’re trying to get the last scribble out their kids’ pencils so that the homework can be done before bath time. Well come on network television, get your head out the ass of 1950.

Late-night comedy talk shows? Reserved for men. Why? Because men can laugh with other men. There is a fear among network television producers that, should they cast women as hosts, the ratings will plummet because their numbers show that the vast majority of the late-night viewership – especially for these types of shows – is male and thus they will lose money.

Stagnant times
In other words, they think men don’t want to watch women host late-night comedy shows and they’re not willing to give them a chance, especially not on shows that have a reputation and following. As a woman you might get the odd chance to dabble in the treacherous waters of trying out something new, maybe even late at night – but in today’s competitive market, when even the best episode of the Daily Show competes with the funniest cat video of the day, you’re probably destined to fail.

And that’s probably what all the networks go on … “Remember how we had a woman have that late-night show one time and it was kinda funny but mostly it failed because no one knew about it ever and so all women’s shows should automatically go into the fail bin and the shows that are already successful should just remain hosted by men!”

The real failures are the people who continue to make regressive choices in industries that are meant to be challenged, that are ripe to explore new avenues and that exist on the expectation that new life will be breathed into them by a new breed of creatives with new ideas.

They choose to keep their asses firmly fixed on the patriarchal stool at the old boy’s club where they homoerotically (something they would never admit to because they’re “real” men) high-five their fellow blokes because they’re the funniest people in the world, ever.

And they’re so high on testosterone that they can totally ignore the unseen problem that’s going to cause the inevitable sinking of the ship.

(To every woman who has ever come across this at work or a social event, or wherever, and managed to keep the bile from spewing out of her mouth just at the sight of it, I salute you).

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is the social media accounts director at Ogilvy PR. She was previously the deputy digital news editor and social media editor at the Mail & Guardian. Haji has an honours degree in journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and continues to write columns for the M&G. Read more from Haji Mohamed Dawjee


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