Jane Curtin Tells Oprah About Early Misogyny on SNL

Oprah had some past Saturday Night Live cast members on yesterday.

Jane Curtin and Chevy Chase were among the guests. When Chase started to say that there were some problems for women writers in the first year of the show because they mostly wrote about “women’s issues,” Jane Curtin schooled him.

Schooled him.

Watch here.

John Belushi, it seems, thought women couldn’t be funny. Fundamentally unfunny. And he did his damnedest to make sure that the women writing for him didn’t have the chance to be funny.

As a writer myself, I sometimes think about the fact that there was a time when I would have had to hide behind a man’s name to be taken seriously, no matter what I wrote.  In fact, this kind of de-feminizing still happens. JK Rowling used her initials because a publisher didn’t think boys would want to read a book written by Joanne Rowling.

That article about Rowling gives a glimpse into why this kind of thing can go on when she says, “It was the publisher’s idea, they could have called me Enid Snodgrass. I just wanted it [the book] published.”

I write young adult novels, too. I can’t say for sure what I would do if a publisher insisted I masculinize my name.  I wish I could say that I would refuse, but sometimes the desire to be published (or to have your SNL skit chosen) is so great, something like your name seems absolutely insignificant.

The first time I was published, I had to choose between my father’s or my husband’s last name, anyway. Even if I were to adopt my mother’s maiden name, we’re still talking about my grandfather’s name. So what if a publisher wants me to use my initials or call me Tom, Dick or Harry, as long as they publish my story? Right?

Or maybe JK Rowlings incredible success with young, male readers–even though they knew she was a woman–means that I won’t ever face the name problem at all. Suzanne Collins didn’t have to, even though The Hunger Games trilogy needed to attract male readers much the same way the Harry Potter books did.

Maybe it took until last Tuesday for one of the women from SNL’s 1975 season to say, “hey, this happened, and it wasn’t okay,” because the desire to be do this thing raised the tolerance-for-misogyny level for the women writers high enough for them to tolerate John Belushi’s bullshit rather than letting him chase them off.

And maybe because they put up with him and forged on, other women comedy writers will have a stronger voice against the next guy who decides women just can’t be funny.

* * *

Shaunta Grimes blogs about body acceptance and athleticism for everyone at Live Once, Juicy.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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