Female Comics and Social Justice

Category: Culture
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“In a similar vein, ideas expressed by women who identify as feminists are often dismissed under the idea that they are angry and unable to take a joke. Thus, the stand-up stage is a space where homophobic, sexist, and all together insensitive jokes not only occur, but thrive. The comedy business is hard and unforgiving to queer audiences, fueling anxiety and self-hatred, as has been pointed out by queer comedians such as Hannah Gatsby. In her standup special Nanette, Gatsby calls out this mentality when she says: “…Do you know what self-depreciation means? When it comes from somebody who is already in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to seek permission to speak.”

As Gatsby points out, the intolerance and discrimination, both blatant and implicit, constantly affects the way queer female comedians navigate their comedy sets on stage. It is only after getting past the shame and emotional duress simply caused by having this identity on stage causes that female queer comedians can even begin to perform their comedy. According to Willard’s extensive study on humor used by queer men and women, it was found that queer women often use humor to work against the type of deprecating humor often found in the majority of society. Thus, even though humor can be painful, it can also bring power.

Likewise, even when off stage queer, women face a number of issues their straight cis male counterparts must. For example, a 2001 study states that “”psychosocial factors such as a sense of isolation, low levels of social support, and frequent stressful life events may also contribute to elevated rates of psychiatric disorders in this population.”” Despite the number of obstacles, however, stand-up comedy has managed to become increasingly female and increasingly queer in recent years. More and more, the homogeneously straight male medium of comedy has been diluted by queer female voices. Queer women are taking to the stage to perform about their lives unapologetically addressing a number of topics from pop culture, politics, and daily life. By navigating the harsh world of comedy, they have managed to do one of the hardest things for a comic navigating marginalized identity: visibility.

Thus, for those who have been able to become successful, stand-up comedy can be a mechanism to address a uniquely queer lens and all the joys and troubles that come along with that identity. It is no secret that comedy has a lot of political potential. Satire has long been used for addressing grievances with the state of the world, often with great affect. For example, panel data surveyed in the late stages of the 2008 presidential campaign suggested that those who viewed Tina Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin had a lower approval for Palin than those who saw debate coverage through other means. Particularly, Sarah Palin’s incompetence has been attributed to her saying the phrase “I can see Russia from my house.” Said during the first Saturday Night Live sketch of six that would occur throughout the 2008 campaign season, the reoccurring parody of Palin’s inexperience and folksiness remained at the center. While the phrase does echo a statement actually made by Palin where she said, “You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska,” invocations of Palin frequently employ the line “”I can see Russia from my house,”” rather than the actual phrase. One of these lines does sound more nonsensical, and that phrase is the, one more often than not, associated with the Vice-Presidential candidate.

Coined as “Charged Humor” by Rebecca Krefting, comedy can be utilized to challenge ideas such as sexism, homophobia, and racism. Furthermore, stand-up is a great mechanism to engage in social justice as it is a way to address pertinent issues, while seemingly non-confrontational. For many, the very word “comedy” denotes mindless, light-hearted entertainment. Therefore, it makes it easier for political commentary to slide by those in power as it catches them off guard. If employed appropriately, comedy can challenge, disturb, and reflect on serious issues involving policy and identity. As the literature suggests, comedy can serve as a mechanism for talking about difficult societal problems, such as racism and rape culture. As a community known for having high rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, comedy is a medium where several societal issues can be worked out instead of internalized. Thus, it is a mechanism for queer female comics to perform social justice.”

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Female Comics and Social Justice. (2021, Jun 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/female-comics-and-social-justice/

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