When I heard about that Vanity Fair story where Taylor Swift uses this quote — “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” — against Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, I was all, “Oh no you did not!” That’s a bit harsh. Given Swift’s highly publicized multitude of boyfriends, it’s only natural for Fey to warn her to “Stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son,” so she can have “some ‘me’ time to learn about herself.” Poehler was just like, “Go for it.” That’s it.
This joke shouldn’t be the feminist issue that Swift turns it into. But now it is. If anything, Taylor should complain about people not helping people, including themselves (as she digs a deeper grave for her image). It’s unnecessary to limit that scope to women helping women. Even then, Fey and Poehler are Women’s Women, man. You know, like, they do actually help women and stuff.
Fey and Poehler have been heroines of mine ever since they were blazin’ in their blazers together on “Saturday Night Live”’s Weekend Update. A lot of their jokes went over my head in my youth, but that just made me assume that they were really smart or something. And the audience usually made some noises resembling laughter, so apparently they were funny too. Eventually, I could decipher what they were saying, and my assumptions turned out to be true. This made a huge impact on my sense of humor and got people like me and Lena Dunham through middle school.
Their careers are inspiring to probably every person aware of their existences, especially the femme-ographic. They got their starts performing improv at Second City. They worked their way up to the cast of “SNL,” where they dominated the usual boys’ club of comedy. And they went on to play and write defining roles, like Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope. Of course, they aren’t the only comedienne pioneers in an exciting time for women in comedy, but they’re two of the most prominent in a long line of progress. Oh yeah, and they’re helping each other with their going-on 20 years of friendship and collaboration. In other words, bitches get stuff done.
And these beautiful broads have also provided wise words on the most common struggle for women: body image. In an oft-reblogged quote from her memoir “Bossypants,” Fey mocks the media’s impossible ideal of lady beauty by listing “the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful,” including the “Jamaican dance hall ass” that so many of us have always aspired to flaunt. And in “Ask Amy,” a YouTube equivalent to an advice column, Poehler quells insecurity by advising, “Make friends with those parts of your body (you’re thankful for) and not try to focus on the parts that will never change.” Statements like these won’t abolish insecurity, but they can make women feel better about having to wear sweatpants after eating a bunch of Kalteen bars.
With all that lady do-gooding, they avoided carrying out this non-feud with Swift when Poehler graciously responded with, “Aw, I feel bad if she was upset. I am a feminist, and she is a young and talented girl.” Granted, Swift did try to stick up for herself, albeit in the dramatic manner characteristic of her break-up songs. But it would be even more helpful if she could learn to take a joke — something that Fey and Poehler can help her with.
Contact Caitlin Kelley at [email protected].