— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) September 14, 2015
If you’ve been sitting around wondering why late-night television is better than ever, wonder no more. A story in the October issue of Vanity Fair, conveniently titled “Why Late-Night Television Is Better than Ever,” offers photographic evidence: 10 men in suits! 80 percent of them white! 100 percent of them hetero! Better than ever! Phew, I’m glad that’s settled. To be fair, the writer acknowledges the absurd lack of diversity in late-night TV and a few hosts have committed to increasing representation of women and people of colour on their staff. The head writer of Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show, Robin Thede, is a black woman and The Daily Show has continues to diversify its correspondents pool. Still, the smug art direction of the photo spread — the snazzy suits, the whisky glasses, the mid-century modern chairs — bordered on self-parody, like it was aiming for a spot on the Congrats, You Have An All-Male Panel! Tumblr. It was so retro that Jezebel speculated it was a vintage photo from a Mad Men–era board meeting. Instead of highlighting the greatness of late-night, it underscored the backwardness and blandness of the whole genre — which the peerless (and future late-night host) Samantha Bee decimated in one excellent Tweet (see below). To borrow a phrase from one of those white male hosts: How is this still a thing?
Another thing that’s still a thing: boys’ clubs, literally. Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver recently cancelled a speech around the time his Liberal opponent Chrystia Freeland pointed out that the venue, Toronto’s Cambridge Club, doesn’t allow women members. (According to news reports, Oliver’s staff said “that something had come up.”) But, progress south of the border: An elite male-only social group at Harvard University announced it will finally open its application process to ladies — it remains to be seen whether any will be granted admission. And no word yet on whether the He-Man Woman Haters Club is accepting girls.
One more thing that’s still a thing: conflating “thinness” with “fitness.” Air India will ground 125 crew members for not being “fit” — or more accurately thin — enough. (Last year, 600 staffers were put on a six-month probation and told to lose weight.) The company insists that is purely about safety not looks — and given the tiny quarters of a standard passenger plane there may be some people whose size makes doing the job difficult. The airline requires that male staff have a Body Mass Index between 18 and 25 and female staff between 18 and 22. (BMI basically compares your height to weight.) There are serious flaws in using BMI as a measure of health, but Air India’s regulations skew skinny even by BMI standards (18.5 to 24.9 is considered a “normal” range). According to the airline’s rules, a 5’4” woman who weighs 130 pounds would be too heavy for its flight crew.
Another thing that’s still a thing: beauty pageants. While reigning Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull has proven to be one serious badass trailblazer, the pageant world remains a bastion of prudishness. Take this weekend’s long, long overdue apology from the Miss America organization to Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to win the crown 30 years ago. After it was revealed that she had once posed for Penthouse, she was what we’d now call slut-shamed into resigning. Good for Williams, who accepted with graciousness. But the three-decades-in-the-making mea culpa seemed less about setting mistakes right than about making the increasingly obscure pageant relevant and newsworthy once more. Still, even though the pageant is past its prime, at least it had a female co-host — which is more than you can say about the current lineup on late-night TV.