Christina Warren was not having this bit — and she was right.
I cannot look away from Apple. I love all of their over-priced products, constantly watch out for the latest rumors, and cannot look away from every keynote. As much as I love pop culture and hard, gritty news, I really want to be a tech reporter for places like Wired, The Verge, or Mashable. But like everything else in the tech world, there’s an bezel-less, OLED glass ceiling.
While I watched Apple’s most recent WWDC on Monday, I kept remembering an op-ed from Mashable that I read a few years ago by Christina Warren where she took a bad SNL joke to task.
Warren recounts the joke (which seems to have disappeared from the internet) where Cecily Strong rolls up to the Weekend Update desk as Glamour magazine’s tech reporter Jill Davenport and immediately can’t function around host Colin Jost. In Warren’s words, “the clip, which, insulting conceit aside, was truly unfunny, is yet another reminder of just how much of a disconnect there is with the idea of women and tech.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I love all three of the things this bit included: Cecily Strong, “Weekend Update,” and tech reporting. I just don’t know how it all went so wrong when put together. I feel like tech is easy pickings for SNL, especially something short and punchy like “Update.” Overpriced products, terrible AI phone assistants, and ungodly amount of apps doing who knows what. Instead, they went with something completely unfunny and off base.
I remember watching this live and feeling really uncomfortable the entire time. I was with a few friends, all women, all feminists, and they thought it was (kinda) funny. But I couldn’t figure out what the joke was here. Was it that a woman had to flirt with Jost? Was it that all female journalists are flirts during interviews? Why did she have to specifically be a tech journalist? What was the punchline? Then I read Warren’s piece the next day and felt relieved that an actual female tech reporter also got that this joke was off putting.
But as a female tech reporter who has been covering gadgets and hardcore tech topics for the last eight years, what insults me most is that the sketch wasn’t even funny. Seriously SNL, if you’re going to insult a gender and be completely sexist about a topic as broad and mainstream as tech, you could at least be funny.
It’s bullshit. With issues of feminism so prevalent in so many fields — including other parts of journalism — I’m honestly bothered that there aren’t half a dozen hand-wringing essays about this on Medium.
When I go to tech events, I’m invariably confused as someone’s wife, assistant or girlfriend. This happens less now that I know more people, but in the early years of my career, I had to constantly let people know, “Yes, I’m the tech reporter.” And yes, I’m usually carrying a designer handbag. Deal with it.
It’s no longer OK to pretend like it’s funny that a woman would be a tech reporter. Or that a female publication would care about tech. Guess what — women use technology, too. We like our iPhones every bit as much as our male counterparts. We probably spend more on accessories. Women are engineers, CEOs, security experts and gadget lovers.
She understood that SNL had only reinforced stereotypes about female reporters, women’s magazines, and female tech reporters. She got that clearly some people still think tech is a boy’s club and women can’t possibly be there seriously. She’s experienced sexism in her field first hand. And she was put off by the lack of reaction then and outcry afterwards.
It’s not breaking news that women invested in tech don’t get taken seriously, be it as CEOs, engineers, developers, consumers, or apparently even as writers. And like I said, video evidence of the clip has since vanished from the internet, and we’ve never seen Jill Davenport again. Warren wrote her op-ed back in December 2015, so maybe it’s possible she and others were able to convince SNL that the bit wasn’t cool. But it’s been two years, I still think about Warren’s op-ed whenever tech news breaks, and I wonder how much has changed for them. My guess? Not much.