Chelsea Handler Calls Out Sexist Punctuation

Late-night host criticizes 'New York Times' for relegating her to parentheses

Chelsea handler
Mike Windle/Getty
Chelsea Handler arrives at the amfAR Inspiration Gala Los Angeles.
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Chelsea Handler struck back at the New York Times for pushing her to the margins in a recent article about Jimmy Fallon and other late night TV hosts. "This is about being noted as a parenthetical, reaffirming what I feel has been an underlying, yet consistent inconsistency with how I am handled as the only woman in a traditionally male field," Handler wrote in an editorial for The Huffington Post on Friday.

In its February 12th article "Bullish on Boyish," the Times discussed the competition that Fallon faces in his new role as host of The Tonight Show. "Even with potent competition for younger viewers all over cable," the Times' Bill Carter wrote, "from the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central and Mr. O’Brien on TBS, the host NBC is clearly most concerned about is Mr. Kimmel, who is 46. (The only female host in late-night is Chelsea Handler, 38, on E!)"

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Noting that she didn't expect to be the focus of the article, Handler nonetheless bristled that she was the only name listed in parentheses. "I wanted to confirm what a parenthetical suggests, so I looked up the definition. The first few definitions that came up were: incidental, subordinate in significance, minor or casual," she wrote. "Depending upon whose research you look at, I share the distinction of having the youngest average viewership with Colbert, The Daily Show and Conan. So from a purely statistical standpoint how, in this paragraph, could I only be mentioned as an aside? Was it because I'm a woman?"

Carter told The Wrap that his piece never intended to be a complete list of all competitors in the late night field, and that he had added a sentence about Handler after her photo had been added to the layout. "I suggested the sentence about Chelsea and it was an editing decision to put it in parenthesis," he said. "I also heard from people for Craig Ferguson and Arsenio who had much better gripes because they got left out altogether and obviously they deserve as much recognition as any of the others. But it was sort of a function of after-the-fact adjustments in the text because of the layout. No slights were intended toward any of these talented people."

According to Handler, however, the parentheses fit into a pattern of media outlets marginalizing her position in the field. "Just as I don't want to be inconsequential in any late-night discourse, I also don't want to be singled-out and lauded merely because I am successful 'for a woman,'" she wrote, after acknowledging that some readers will probably roll their eyes at her complaint. "I only want to be acknowledged for having worked hard to build an equally significant audience and fan base to those of my peers. I believe the success of any woman should never be qualified by her gender."