Amherst Wire

Amy Schumer redefines what it means to be a “lady”

The stand-up superstar shatters societal norms and expectations.

Mario Santoro / PR Photos

Meghan Carney, Writer

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Why do people hate Amy Schumer?

Critics stand together on one platform- she’s too vulgar. Ever heard John Mulaney’s in-depth joke about the time he thought he had a bowel movement in his doctor’s hand? Jerry Seinfeld has told jokes based on women’s bodies in the same ways Amy Schumer talks about men. Both are great comedians testing out the boundaries of what’s funny, and yet, they don’t seem to receive the same backlash.

Amy Schumer’s outward confidence scares people. Her loudness scares people. She’s polarizing; people are scared because she breaks the rules, or they’re scared that the “rules” about what she’s allowed to say are societal norms that she’s poking fun at.

Stand-up comedy is a performance which occasionally involves bombing, but audiences seem particularly determined to discredit Amy Schumer as a legitimate comedian.After “The Leather Special” received negative reviews, some online sources honed in on it, quoting each of the negative reviews almost to laugh in her face. These anonymous Netflix reviews were, of course, viewed as comedy expertise for the sake of the argument.

For too long, femininity has been defined by weakness, fragility and “ladylike” qualities that add up to being submissive. Amy Schumer redefines femininity in a much more empowering way to influence a generation of women and young girls who are able to express themselves in any way that they choose. Taking the stage as a pregnant woman and challenging the romcom notion of a “pregnant girl in overalls painting the barn” does just that. We’ve all seen “Mamma Mia”, maybe you’ve even seen “Mamma Mia 2.” Awesome! But somehow I believe Amy Schumer’s pregnancy narrative is more believable.

Her special is entitled “Growing,” but it isn’t made for pregnant women and pregnant women only. On that note, it isn’t even made for women and women only. She connects being pregnant and being a woman to being a human, and the general emotions that we all share, whether everyone is able to see that or not. Most people might not be pregnant, but everyone has a specific friend come to mind when she describes her self-proclaimed (hopefully dramatized) “dirtbag friend” who encourages her to drink while pregnant. Sometimes, the darkest comedy is the most effective.

Normalizing subjects that are often considered awkward is an important component to successful comedy, second only to storytelling in an effective and entertaining way. Through relatable stories, Schumer tackles the issue of period shame, and why women feel uncomfortable asking each other for tampons. She likens “the talk,” to “You’re a woman now, and that’s disgusting. Never let anyone know of your filthy secret.” Her jokes on the topic may appear obscene, but effective storytelling is not censored.

What better way to end the stigma and normalize the reality than a lighthearted PSA?

Men possibly feel targeted by her jokes, but jokes about sensitive topics such as sexism usually require a closer look and more thought. Much like the restrictiveness of traditional femininity, a dated view of masculinity can make men feel trapped and shamed for not conforming. One joke describes the fear that women feel when walking in New York City alone at night. Schumer sarcastically adds that as she walks, she remembers the movement of “not all men,” and immediately feels safe.

The argument has never been all men are the issue. Gillette tackled this issue with their controversial “The Best Men Can Be” campaign, illustrating that it’s all about holding other accountable, not blaming the innocent.

Tackling this issue with comedy is slightly more tricky than an advertisement, where the message is more outright and clear. Sarcasm and satire make it possible for critics to point at Amy Schumer and tell her she hates men. Her empowerment and self-security make her audience aware that she’s chosen to tackle this issue, no matter what the critics throw at her.

Email Meghan at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @meghan_carney_.

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Amy Schumer redefines what it means to be a “lady”