Jessica Williams and Knowing When to Step Back

Those who know me know my affection for all things The Daily Show. I especially love Jessica Williams, a correspondent on the show. She’s not just a correspondent — she’s my personal favorite. Always telling it like it is and putting misogynist jerks in their place in a hilarious and classy way that rarely brings me to less than applause.

So when Jon Stewart announced his retirement, my second reaction (after total heartbreak) was hope for Jessica Williams to take over. It was the reaction of many of my friends and, not surprisingly, many in the media. Pop culture writers immediately called on Williams to take over. Fans started a petition. She is widely loved and admired by audiences and critics alike.

Sunday night, Williams took to twitter to address this call to arms. First saying, “I’m not hosting. Thank you but I am extremely under-qualified for the job! At 25, if something happens politically that I don’t agree with, I need to go to my room and not come out for like, 7 days.” She showed her gratitude shortly after with a tweet that said, “Thanks to everyone tweeting at me but like, I’m not dead. This is just the beginning of my career.”

It was exactly what I have come to expect from her — a classy and funny way of saying, “thanks, but no thanks.” She’s just a year older than I am, I don’t blame her one bit for not being ready to step into a career-defining role.

I was disappointed, but immediately put it out of my mind.


Tonight, sitting in a bar with some friends, I look at twitter. The first headline I see, my jaw drops. “On the Daily Show’s Jessica Williams, the Latest High-Profile Victim of Imposter Syndrome.”

Excuse me?

Before I could even read the article, I felt sick to my stomach. (I get defensive over people I don’t know sometimes — so what?) Who do these people think they are, calling a complete stranger a victim? Just because her life goals don’t match what this entitled loser thinks they should be?

Of course, it got worse from there. Hiding under the guise of feminist solidarity, the author went on to “reject Williams’ humility” and say that she “just needs a pep talk.”

First of all, Williams knows her qualifications. She’s a sharp, witty, intelligent, successful actress who knows the job and what it requires better than any of us who aren’t involved with the every day workings of the show.

But in this piece, the author is guilty of exactly the same thing that she suggests the “old white people” were — undermining a competent, confident young woman. (Not necessarily defending old white people here. But in this particular case, they’re not the only villains.)

Here’s the deal — telling a fellow lady that she’s wrong about herself, her goals, her achievements, isn’t doing her any favors. It is simply being condescending and rude. Just because you’re also a lady doesn’t mean you get to feel like some kind of feminist savior by “guiding her to the light.”

Isn’t that exactly what feminism is supposed to be fighting against? Strong, independent ladies being told that they don’t know what they want or what’s best for them?

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