Bossypants, Tina Fey

Tina Fey, visionary behind hit television show 30 Rock and the all-too-funny movie Mean Girls, former SNL star and renown for her Sarah Palin imitation, has written a book. It’s a sort of biography mixed with advice-column and of course, because its Tina, its comedy. But don’t be fooled by the cover (a picture of Tina’s face with hairy male arms behind her); while she posits at the beginning of the book that you may have picked it up to learn practical career tips or how to raise “an achievement oriented, drug-free, adult virgin,” her book is in fact a feminist undertaking, and a fantastic one at that. A few pages in, for example, she explains the title of her work, Bossypants:

“Why is this book called Bossypants? One because the name Two and a Half Men was already taken. And two, because ever since I became an executive producer of 30 Rock, people have asked me, ‘Is it hard for you, being the boss?’ and ‘Is it uncomfortable for you to be the person in charge?’ You know, in the same way they say, ‘Gosh, Mr. Trump, is it awkward for you to be the boss of all these people?’ I can’t answer for Mr. Trump, but in my case it is not.”

Whoa. So much feminism in that one, kind of hilarious statement. That’s the fantastic part about this book: as both an executive and a comedy writer, Tina can take a reality about being an executive and turn it into a comedic and relatable title.

In this book, Tina covers growing up: learning (or rather, not) about menstrual cycles, discovering the many ways female bodies are critiqued, having gay friends, being a high school theater geek, and experiencing awkward college romances.  One of my favorite excerpts is when she talks about a conference she attended in preparation for writing Mean Girls, when she discusses the moment when the women “knew they were a woman”:

“The group of women was racially and economically diverse, but the answers had a very similar theme. Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. ‘I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, “Lick me!”’ ‘I was babysitting my younger cousins when a guy drove by and yelled, “Nice ass.”’ There were pretty much zero examples like ‘I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team.’ It was mostly men yelling shit from cars. Are they a patrol sent out to let girls know they’ve crossed into puberty? If so, it’s working.”

I find this super interesting. Is it because others identify us as women that we come to understand that we have become them? Is it because our understanding of women is fundamentally based on being different from men–the other? I’m still trying to figure this one out, but I think it’s fascinating.

She confronts sexism head-on in this book only a few times, but does a wonderful job of dismantling it for her reader. For example, she discusses one of the first improv theaters she works for, The Second City, and their policy of making casts that consisted of four men and two women.

“When it was suggested that they switch one of the companies to three men and three women, the producers and directors had the same panicked reaction. ‘You can’t do that. There won’t be enough parts to go around. There won’t be enough for the girls.’  This made no sense to me, probably because I speak English and have never had a head injury. We weren’t doing Death of a Salesman. We were making up the show ourselves. How could there not be enough parts?… If everyone had something to contribute, there would be enough. The insulting implication, of course, was that the women wouldn’t have any ideas.”

Of course Tina Fey, being the badass that she is, was a part of the change as the first third woman in the first gender-equal cast.

She goes on to discuss her SNL experiences, starting her own show, balancing career and family, being a woman in the media, playing Sarah Palin—and it’s all feminist, hilarious, and well worth a read.

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