The Hostile Environment Thing


Nell Scovell, Whistleblower. Photo:

Nineties Woman Hannah just made an interesting comment:

I worked at a large company where two of the big bosses were in a relationship. Everyone knew, but we weren’t SUPPOSED to know. I kept talking about it at home, and my husband would correct me when I described it as an “affair.” You see, they were both divorced and so technically not cheating on anyone. But by carrying on and making everyone pretend we didn’t know, it felt like we were all complicit in a dirty secret.

That’s what Nell Scovell, a former Letterman staffer, said the vibe on the Late Show was like in her recent Vanity Fair article: kind of skeevy, and bad for women who weren’t sleeping with male staffers. She writes:

There’s a subset of sexual harassment called sexual favoritism that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, can lead to a “hostile work environment,” often “creating an atmosphere that is demeaning to women.’And that pretty much sums up my experience at Late Night with David Letterman.This kind of boys-club work atmosphere is all over the news right now because of Letterman and also because of the better access the sportier guys in Obama’s cadre get because they can play golf or basketball with him.

I feel like The Daily Show and Colbert both give off a way more feminist vibe than the other late-night shows, even if they also don’t hire as many women. Here are Sexism Watch’s numbers: The Stephen Colbert Show (2 women out of 14 writers– but he does have a female executive producer- who had now resigned); The Daily Show (1 woman out of 16); Late Night with Conan O’Brien (NO women out of 16); Late Show with David Letterman (NO women out of 14); SNL (5 women out of 22).

Scovells says: I realize that “hire qualified women!” is the sort of outraged demand that’s often met with a sigh. No one disagrees and yet gender inequality in high-paying positions extends into all professions. A friend of mine who temps at an investment bank once remarked to her male boss, “You know, I don’t see a lot of female bankers”—but he cut her off. “Don’t even,” he warned, as if the problem were simply unsolvable. But, of course, that’s not true.

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One response to “The Hostile Environment Thing

  1. Hannah

    A look at the number of female writers on the late shows is not surprising given the predominance of Harvard Lampoon graduates working those shows. While I was not a member of the Lampoon as an undergraduate, I dated one (or two) in the 1990s. At Harvard, it was never uncool to make fun of women. And what made the Lampoon so sinister was that if you showed any sign of not liking it, you were accused of not being able to take a joke.

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