Why Ester Bloom Needs The Biggest Best Privilege Check Ever
Quick catch up time: Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show, which leaves them in want of a new host. A lot of people championed Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams for the job. Her response was “Thanks, but no thanks. It’s not for me.”
Ester Bloom, a columnist at a site called The Billfold, was not content with Ms Williams statement. She wrote a piece with the click-bait title “On The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams, The Latest High-Profile Victim of Imposter Syndrome“. (She filed the article under the tag “Sexist Bullshit”, which was laughably appropriate, although not for the reasons she probably intended.)
She only addressed the first tweet. Williams is very clear on why the job isn’t a good fit for her, but acknowledging that would have derailed Bloom’s entire premise. Funny how it didn’t get mentioned.
This article is one of the most offensive things I’ve read in the past year. It’s patronizing, paternalistic and racist. You can almost hear the “I’m not like other white people, look at how I mock them” self-congratulations:
You can almost hear all the old white people who benefit from the status quo nodding their approval. We did it, they whisper. We have succeeded in instilling in yet another competent, confident young woman a total lack of understanding of her own self-worth! We didn’t even need to undermine her; we gave her the tools and she undermined herself.
Holy SHIT. Okay, here’s a tip for the white feminists who missed “How Not To Be an Asshole Day” at feminism school: WE DON’T GET TO TELL WOMEN OF COLOR HOW RACISM AFFECTS THEM. AT ALL. EVER. NO. DON’T DO IT.
The article undervalues the complexity of Ms. Williams’ work (comedy is HARD, y’all) while dismissing the unique challenges that come with being behind The Daily Show desk and Williams’ own ability to know what she’s ready to take on. (This is where ignoring that second tweet came in handy.)
What on earth does “under-qualified” mean when it comes to being a comedian? You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re self-possessed. Is there something I’m missing?
From her armchair Bloom diagnosis Ms. Williams with Impostor Syndrome, which she then incorrectly defines as:
a well-documented phenomenon in which men look at their abilities vs the requirements of a job posting and round up, whereas women do the same and round down, calling themselves “unqualified.”
No. Wikipedia has the most succinct definition I came across:
The impostor syndrome (also spelled imposter syndrome), sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.
It’s amazing what you can learn in two minutes of research. (Not that it matters, because until she says otherwise I’m going to assume the biggest problem Jessica Williams has with impostor syndrome is when it’s being assigned to her by people on the internet.)
The cherry on this bullshit sundae is Bloom’s suggested solution to the self-esteem problem she’s decided Jessica Williams has:
A pep talk.
Put her in a room with some other highly successful people in the entertainment industry, Bloom avers, and she’ll
emerge as from a funeral pyre, naked and coiled in dragons, ready to lead.
Regardless, apparently, of whether she wants to or not.
When Bloom says:
Jessica Williams, respectfully, I reject your humility
What she meant was, “I reject your ability to accurately assess your own skills and abilities because you’re not doing the thing I want you to do.”
Bloom apologized after being brilliantly called on the carpet by Jessica Williams herself. Well, she kind of apologized. She said “I’m sorry”, anyway. Right above the tweet leading straight to the article that caused the problem in the first place.
She stated that insulting Ms. Williams was “not her intention” and added a blurb at the end of her article. It reads, in part:
I apologize for being insensitive here. I should have underlined that of course the choice belongs only to Williams. If she had said, “I don’t want the job,” I would have left it there. Her saying “I’m not qualified” is what intrigued me, especially since I’ve read so much about Impostor Syndrome lately and that’s so often the language women use.
She does not say she’s wrong. She’s still not taking a seat and listening to anything she’s being told. She’s saying, “Well, if she’d worded it differently I would have left it alone.”
She’s ignored Ms. Williams request that the words “victim” and “clear symptoms of impostor syndrome” be addressed.
Okay, no. She didn’t apologize in a meaningful way at all.
Feminism, ideally, is supposed to be about supporting women. ALL women. Lifting each other up and making sure that our choices matter and that our voices are heard. Bloom wasn’t hearing what she wanted to hear so she leaned in to her privilege, talked over (and down to) Jessica Williams, and attempted to disguise white feminism as feminist sisterhood cheerleading.
Recommended reading (Yes, there’s homework):
Cate Young, This is what I mean when I say White Feminism. Seriously. Read it. It’s amazing, and she does a far better job of explaining why this sort of thing is problematic than I ever could.
Latoya Peterson, Stop It With The Feminist Whitesplaining Why articles like Ester Bloom’s are part of a much bigger problem.
*Since this posted, Ester Bloom has added another note to her article in which she strongly apologizes and unequivocally states that she was wrong and addresses the points Ms. Williams specifically requested be addressed.
“Sexist Bullshit” shirt pictured above available through lookhuman.com.