The Nuances of Humor and Feminism: Tina Fey’s Bossypants

It’s the end of the semester and suddenly my schedule is full of essays that need to be written, grad school applications that need to be submitted, and finals that need to be studied for. So you know what I do?

I decide to re-read Tina Fey’s Bossypants.

bossy pants

I know, I know. I should be in Carrier Library holed up in some artificially lit corner with a trail of empty coffee cups surrounding me with dirty, unwashed hair in the same clothes I put on three days ago. But I’m not. I’m at home, wrapped up in my comforter, ignoring the massive amounts of work I have to do, and laughing at Tina Fey’s utter hilarity.

And then, every now and then, in-between the laughter, I stop and let the words she’s written wash over me. Because let’s be honest – as much as I love Tina Fey, and as much worth as I think this book holds, when people mention feminist literature, Bossypants is probably not even going to earn an Honorable Mention. It’s true, this book is not an exploration into feminist theory or even a How To guide on succeeding in the entertainment industry. But this book is very much about Tina Fey, the person: the woman, the comedian, the mother, the daughter, the actress, and, yes I would even argue, the feminist.

Amidst the humorous stories of her days back at UVA and when she was struggling to make it in Chicago while working at the local YMCA, there’s serious introspection about her life and the obstacles she faced in her career specifically because she was a woman. She writes about being around when Second City first decided to have a gender equal cast (3 men and 3 women), how during almost every photo shoot she’s faced with trigger-happy Photoshopper’s who want to edit out the scar on her face, to the horrible internet trolls who go out of the way of accusing her of being successful just because of her lady parts.

And maybe the best story – the best message – to come out of this book, was one that Tina Fey was only a witness to when she got to see Amy Poehler stand her ground to Jimmy Fallon (who continue to be friends, as Tina Fey makes sure to clarify).

Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”.

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it!”

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t care if you fucking like it.”

[…]With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.

And there’s something to be said about this brand of feminism – this no apologies, no holding back, baring of ones feminism. And maybe when you think of feminist literature, you don’t think of a memoir full of funny non-fiction essays. But maybe you should.

And hey. It’s a worthwhile distraction from those finals.

2 thoughts on “The Nuances of Humor and Feminism: Tina Fey’s Bossypants

  1. I like Tina Fey a lot and I definitely agree with this post. However, I haven’t read her book. Are there other examples from the text that you think exemplify feminism?


  2. While I was enjoying many moments of the book, the chapter about working mothers ruined the power of the book for me. In not one, but two places, Tiny rationalizes being a working mom “so that 200 people don’t lose their jobs.” Us working moms were with you Tina, until then. I almost want to buy your book on tape to try to detect satire in your voice. What say you for the 99.9 percent of us working who do not have 200 employees depending on it…only our families.


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