Jessica Williams' Feminist 'Daily Show' Segments Prove She's a National Treasure
Jessica Williams has been a correspondent on The Daily Show since 2012 and I don't think I need to tell anyone that she's one of the best. Ever since they hired her, Williams has taken on everything from race to politics to women's issues with comedy and aplomb and the greatest straight face ever seen on television. Her latest segment for The Daily Show was called "Feminized Atmosphere" and it was something of a sequel to her earlier video speaking out against catcalling, "Masters of Sexism". In the latter, Williams laid out exactly why women do not find catcalling flattering or appreciate it at all. In the former, Williams showed exactly why catcalling was damaging and exactly how often women had to deal with that street harassment.
In the two years since Williams has been working with The Daily Show, she has covered a broad range of topics, but never has she focused so openly on speaking out on behalf of women and their issues since the start of 2014. Williams is currently the only black female correspondent, and the only black correspondent since the recent departure of Michael Che to Saturday Night Live, so her segments in the past have mostly focused on race relations. However, Williams has begun tackling meaty pro-women segments this year and she's knocked every single one out of the park.
Her most recent segment, "Feminized Atmosphere", featured a camera following her on her walk to work. In took less than five minutes in for her to be harassed by construction workers. She then went on to outline the roundabout, 55-minute long walk she'd have to make in order to avoid any catcalling and spoke with a very large group of women who shared their own experiences with street harassment. The whole segment illustrated just how disgusting the harassment can get and how impossible it is for women to shoulder the responsibility of avoiding it — even if they don't go outside or wear red shirts, as Williams suggests. In a single segment, she defeats the argument that catcalling is being done for us and should be taken for the compliment it supposedly is.
"The Fault in Our Schools"
Jordan Klepper and Williams teamed up to teach people the very different ways in which men and women keep themselves safe at a party. While Klepper shows that men rarely have to worry about anything more serious than getting a penis drawn on their face, Williams counters with terrifying instructions on how women can protect themselves from being sexually assaulted while they're trying to have fun at those same parties. The back-and-forth may have seemed extreme, but the contrast between innocent party fun and the ever-present need for women to protect themselves at parties did a great job of illustrating that a bad night at a party for a woman can be horrifically different from what is normally considered a bad night at a party for a man.
"Masters of Sexism"
In her first segment on the subject of catcalling, Williams gave the world's most epic speech on exactly why women don't find catcalling as flattering as men seem to think they should. From the moment she said "[A woman's] walk to work is not there for [men] to comment on. It's not a red carpet, it's not a fashion week runway. It's a sidewalk," she had the hearts of millions, myself included. It was the kind of truth bomb that sincerely needed to be dropped, especially in response to the Fox News commentator who seemed to think women enjoyed it when he applauded them as they walk by on the street. This wasn't Williams' first feminist segment, but it was one that certainly got a wide variety of people to stand up and pay attention.
"Operation Black Hair"
Williams used this segment to combine her status as both an African American and a woman, featuring a topic that is very relevant to black females across the country. When the military made a rule against natural African-American hairstyles, leaving female soldiers with only options that take hours and hours to achieve and maintain, Williams illustrated exactly how ridiculous that was by taking a military official to a beauty salon and making him watch the four hour process a black woman goes through to get braids in her hair.
The fact that she has been giving so much attention to these feminist issues this year is something I truly want to see continue. It doesn't need to overshadow her poignant commentary on race and political issues, but Williams real talks about women's issues so well that I would trust her to take on any controversy at this point. She truly is a national treasure.
Image: Comedy Central Video