Good afternoon Mr. Stewart,
First let me congratulate you on the tremendous success of the Daily Show. You’ve become incredibly well-respected and caused everyone to forget that Craig Kilborn ever existed. I am writing you today because I’d like to offer a rebuttal to comments you made regarding Caitlyn Jenner.
While I agree with your overall point that many people are missing the big picture of how important this story is, I must disagree with your assertion that sexism has come into play. While rampant sexism is a very real problem I do not think it has anything to do with this situation. The media has made a lot of (mostly positive) comments about how Caitlyn looks because this is inherently a story about a physical transformation. Her brain, feelings, and ideas are still the same and it is her physical form that has transformed. Therefore it’s natural for us to react to that physical from. While there is an article in Vanity Fair that accompanies the cover photo the important part is the photo. The importance of the photo is that it brings visibility to a struggle rarely discussed in mainstream media. If Vanity Fair chose only to interview Jenner without photos and feature someone else on the cover than the whole thing would not have been such a momentous event. If that were the case then media, if they covered it at all, would probably be talking about her ideas and not her looks.
I applaud Caitlyn Jenner’s courage to put it all out there regardless of the details of how she did it. We should also recognize that she chose to come out wearing only a corset. That’s a very specific image she is choosing to project. She probably would have chosen a very different outfit if she didn’t wanted people to focus on her body. I’m not blaming her for her choice of outfit because I don’t think there is anything wrong with what she chose. I think it was a great choice and more importantly I think she’s getting exactly the attention she wanted. It’s OK for a woman to want people to listen to her ideas as much as it’s OK for a woman to want to get positive feedback about her appearance.
The short segment felt like lazy journalism and to be honest it pandered to your audience. Liberals can pander just as easily as conservatives. In a lot of these types of arguments someone inevitably brings up the cliché defense, “They wouldn’t say that if a man did it.” Let’s examine that. When Prince Fielder posed naked on the cover of ESPN Magazine I didn’t hear anyone talking about his political views. Furthermore, I challenge you to pose on the cover of a magazine in only a Speedo and see what people say. As a respected news entertainer you’d probably never do such as thing and there’s a reason why. Although she’s in great shape, there’s a reason we’ll never see Rachel Maddow in a bikini on the cover of Fitness magazine. You can’t blame us for commenting on the image a person puts forth. The only sexism that may be getting involved here is that women often need to show skin in order to get attention.
Going forward please remember that members of minority groups are multifaceted people and we/they are not always victims. Even though the intent is good many people often marginalize us because deep down they think of us as people who need protecting. Whether it’s women, trans people, gay people or any none white person, we all want to be treated as equal members of society and not as delicate aberrations that need constant defending. Caitlyn Jenner is a real person with complexities and while she should be praised as a pioneer she is far from helpless. Love it or hate it she came from the world of the Kardashians and she has definitely learned how to manipulate the media to her advantage.
One last thought, I honestly don’t think you had any bad intentions and I suspect this might just be a case of senioritis since you’re leaving the show in August. I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this letter if I didn’t respect your show. So have fun in your last weeks on the show and good luck in any future endeavors.
The Gay Gasp