Shocking right? Tina Fey is quite literally the definition of white feminism – her work and activism fights for equality of (white and middle class/rich) women and lacks any sort of intersectional lens.
A part of the reason I consider Fey to be problematic is because of 30 Rock – the show in which she was the creator, executive producer, and star. The show was loosely based on Fey’s own experience being head writer at SNL and during its seven season run, there is ableism, blackface, and so much more. There were at least three instances of straight up black face in the show, twice done by Jane Krakowski’s character. And there have been more than one rape joke in many of the show’s episodes.
One of Fey’s most recent projects has been Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – a show that I admit to not having watched past the first episode honestly because I was just bored but that’s not the point here. But there have been critiques of the Netflix show, especially for the backstory of Jacqueline Voorhees (played by the very white Jane Krakowski).
During one of the episodes, it’s revealed that Voorhees is actually Native American – a decision made apparently to give the character a sympathetic background. But there could have been many other ways to do this that didn’t involve Krakowski playing a Native American character and even if we were to accept that (and the jokes that came with the character), there would still be problems. Libby Hill wrote about this, saying that:
If we take the show at its word, we are laughing at a Native American woman who felt so uncomfortable in her skin and in not being a member of the dominant culture, she sold her soul to look the way she thought she should. That’s not funny; it’s disturbing. Not just because the pressure to Anglicize exists for so many cultures in America today, but because of how this very country systematically stripped the Native American people not only of their culture, but of their lands, too, not so very long ago.
And Tina Fey has been called out for some problematic behavior so much that she recently said in an interview that “there’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and [she is] opting out of that”. (Has she ever apologized for her problematic work?!) Being able to opt out of criticism (and other things) is such a privileged thing to do because it means you are literally able to walk away from something and not have it impact every single part of your life. But the really important thing about this is that this quote from Fey is, for me, saying that she is opting out from being accountable to those who criticize her and her work.
**In this situation, I’m talking directly about the actual criticisms that face Fey and her work – not the usually sexist trolls that come for many women online. As Caroline Framke specifies at the end of her article about this: “
Being able to support women doing their own thing is so incredibly important to me but I also realize that we need to hold people accountable for their shitty behavior and work as well.