I realize Amy Schumer isn’t for everyone. She’s pretty crude, and some of her sketches shift suddenly from funny to uncomfortable.
She also hasn’t done the greatest job approaching intersectionalism through her humour. While she humbly apologized for racially inappropriate jokes that she made in the past, she recently missed the mark again with race jokes in her movie, Trainwreck. That said, I think Schumer offers some fantastic socially conscious comedy. She’s created a niche as a funny feminism, and has drawn attention to some really important women’s issues through her jokes. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the difficult issues that Schumer addresses on her show.
Rape is never funny. However, the way Western society often responds to rape is an absolute joke. Schumer has perfected the socially conscious ‘rape joke’, not by downplaying the seriousness of the violent crime, but by mocking the ridiculous social circumstances that allow rape to go unpunished.
In “A Very Realistic Video Game”, Schumer draws attention to the way female military officers rarely see justice after being assaulted by a fellow officer.
Similarly, her sketch titled “Football Town Nights” looks at the way athletes’ celebrity status has led entire towns to defend young rapists as though they were victims rather than perpetrators .
2) Internalized Misogyny
There are a lot of ways women police ourselves. We try not to be too cocky, or too naggy, or too loud and obnoxious, or too vain. We are taught to police these behaviours because they will make us less likeable, less dateable, or an embarrassment for our significant others.
Sketches like, “I’m Sorry” or “Compliments” draw attention to the pressure women feel to act coy, even in situations where their male counterpart would be encouraged to be confident.
Meanwhile, “I Have a Boyfriend” and “Hello Mi’Lady” highlight the way women can be manipulated into accepting unwanted advances, since ignoring or rejecting them is considered “bitchy” or “cruel”.
3) Unrealistic Beauty Standards
Schumer regularly takes on unrealistic beauty standards, especially those that target female celebrities.
Her parodic music video, “You don’t need make-up,” mocks (most) men’s misconception of what ‘natural beauty’ actually looks like.
Meanwhile, “Schumerenka vs. Everett” highlights the way women are expected to sustain a certain type of look, even in the athletic world. This is a problem recently highlighted by a racist/sexist New York Times article that framed Serena Williams as masculine, and even animalistic for her physical strength.
With her recent rise to celebrity status, Schumer has also experienced her fair share of body shaming. At her first audition, for example, she was told to “either lose weight or gain a bunch of weight” in order to secure a role as either “the fat friend or the romantic lead.” She has also been targeted by Twitter trolls for being “too fat”. Recently, she dedicated an entire episode to these trolls, by having men on her show debate if she was actually hot enough to be on TV.
Rape, misogyny and beauty standards aren’t just ‘lady problems’, they are societal problems. These issues matter, and I’m glad Amy Schumer is drawing attention to them via her show. I’m also glad Schumer approaches these issues with a sense of humour. Humour has a powerful way of helping us self-examine ourselves, and think more deeply about problems we might have dismissed if they hadn’t made us laugh.