If you look at the list of all 126 people who’ve ever been credited with writing or co-writing an episode of The Simpsons, you’ll notice two things very quickly: First, the very first name on the list is a woman, cartoonist Mimi Pond—who wrote the series’ legendary premiere, “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire,” on the request of her friend Matt Groening—and second, despite that, Pond only has that one credit to her name. This week, Jezebel did an interview with Pond (who currently has a new graphic novel, The Customer Is Always Wrong, out with Drawn And Quarterly), revealing that she was shut out of the show’s writers’ room by its first showrunner, the late Sam Simon, because she was a woman.
“I was never invited to be on staff, and I never knew why for the longest time,” said Pond, whose TV work also includes an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and a brief stint on the final season of Designing Women.
No one ever called me or explained to me or apologized or anything. And it wasn’t until years later that I found out that Sam Simon, who was the showrunner, didn’t want any women around because he was going through a divorce. It had remained a boys’ club for a good long time. I feel like I was just as qualified as anyone else who came along and got hired on the show, and it was just because I was a woman that I was, you know, not allowed entry into that club. I always wind up being the turd in the punchbowl because the show is so beloved and everything, and I’m sorry to burst bubbles but [laughs]. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for me.
A further look through the writers list reveals just how skewed the gender balance on the show’s writing staff has been, right from the beginning: out of the more than a hundred writers or writing teams who’ve been credited on the show, only 12 are or include women. And while the most prolific female writer in the show’s history—producer and vocal director Carolyn Omine—has 20 episodes to her name, most female writers, like Pond, have only one or two; out of 616 aired episodes, roughly 8 percent credit a woman on their writing staff.
[Note: Jezebel, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]