Everyone Needs to Pay More Attention to Amy Schumer

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If you love stand-up comedy–especially of the bluer shade–then you need to do yourself a favor and check out this comedian. She’s got a new show on Comedy Central called Inside Amy Schumer, and you won’t want to miss her one-hour special Mostly Sex Stuff. There’s a lot I could praise in a general sense about her work as a master of the form, but what really grabs me is the way she uses comedy to mercilessly skewer absurd gender norms. I especially lost it when I saw this clip, in which a group of women friends earnestly give compliments to one another. Schumer and her writing staff deftly captured the knee-jerk impulse that so many women express in these moments: praise other women but make sure to cut yourself down for fear of seeming too confident (i.e., arrogant, aka threatening to other women/not attractive to men). What I love about this sketch is that it shows how women find themselves socially overtaken by perceived expectations of how to “act like a woman” even when there are no men in sight to impress.

Stay with me here, but this sketch actually made me think of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, particularly the section in which Woolf is reflecting on how Mary Carmichael depicts the friendship between two women, Chloe and Olivia:

“For I wanted to see how Mary Carmichael set to work to catch those unrecorded gestures, those unsaid or half-said words, which form themselves, no more palpably than the shadows of the moths of the ceiling, when women are alone, unlit by the capricious and colored light of the other sex. She will need to hold her breath, I said reading on, if she is to do it; for women are so suspicious of any interest that has not some obvious motive behind it, so terribly accustomed to concealment and suppression, that they are off at the flicker of an eye turned observingly in their direction.”

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Student Loans: My Ticket Out of a Shitty Town into a Brighter Future

This is a counter-intuitive take on the student loan debt bubble that I’ve bee mentally working out ever since my deferment period expired and it came time to start paying back three degrees’ worth of student loans. It’s just my story, but it’s probably not one entirely unique. Anyone who knows what a FAFSA is can likely relate.

Here’s the breakdown:  I got a BA, MA, and PhD, all in the growth industry of–wait for it–the English department!  Believe me, I read many, many opinion and long-form articles about what a waste of time and money this would be and was still undeterred. While I was finishing up my doctorate, I silently pulsed with anxiety and dread about that day I would check the Dept. of Ed. website when it would reveal a very large balance that would rival what my parents paid for their house. And now, I am gainfully employed (though underpaid for now, but that something I’m working on changing) and between my partner and I, make monthly payments that probably won’t chip away at the principal amount we owe for at least a decade or so.

Poor me, right? NOPE. And don’t you dare tell me you feel sorry for me because I did it all myself because it was the right thing for me.  This just skims the surface of what my student loans got me:

I could go on and on, but here’s the bottom line: student loans gave me the resources to find out what was possible beyond the rural Connecticut town from whence I came.  Sure, I could have lived at home and worked full time to pay for community college and perhaps transferred to a state school. I would probably have married my boyfriend from high school, who did exactly that, and then we would have gotten divorced in short order. Instead, we broke up while I away at college, and I went on to grad school where I met my life partner (who paid for dinner and drinks with his student loan money, too).

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the student loan bubble isn’t a problem. My experience has mostly been with federal loans and the private loan industry is a whole other animal that needs taming. My issue is with the narratives of people who lament not being able to afford to buy a lot of big ticket items because they have student loan debt and question the value of investing in their education in the first place. Who says you have to own a house by the time you’re 30? Or 35? Or ever? If you want to get married and have a family then DO it. Use that brain of yours that you pay for every month to Salliemae and come up with creative solutions to your problems. Or better yet, stop caring so much about stuff you buy and value the intangibles–love, relationships, art, music, nature, among other things–and don’t worry about never being able to afford a BMW or buy a summer home.

But wait, what happens to people with student loan debt? Do they die alone in a gutter? Flipping burgers? Pouring drinks? Sometimes. Or sometimes not.

Thanks, Surf Taco. I Guess I’ll Keep Eating Your Nachos.

Yesterday I wrote this and today I received this e-mail message:
Heather-
I apologize for the Tri-City ad.  Their was miscommunication between me & our ad agency.   There is a new ad out this week highlighting our new menu.  we are a lifestyle brand; beach, surf, bathing suits, volleyball, and promote an active lifestyle.  I appreciate your feedback.
Rob
Surf Taco
Thanks, Rob. While it’s tacitly understood that sexist images are here to stay (though I am heartened that he wrote “bathing suits” not “bikinis”), at least you let me know that you know it was a hack move to showcase tits and pussy to move tacos. I’ll take it.

Stop Using Women’s Body Parts to Sell Tacos

My Letter to Surf Taco about their Sexist Ad in the Monmouth County TriCity News, May 2, 2013

I have been patronizing your establishment for about a year or so, and have enjoyed the low-cost and tasty nachos and tacos. I have noticed that the paintings and media displayed on the walls of the business tend to showcase the body parts of women, and I can only assume that this was done to create an atmosphere of carefree beach fun. And of course, I know that sex sells. In this case, though, it is sex that has caused you to lose two customers (myself and my husband). I picked up the latest copy of the TriCity News in Red Bank, NJ, and saw an ad for Surf Taco that featured a woman’s body from the neck down, featuring only her Surf Taco themed bikini.  Had she been eating a taco or even drinking a soda this ad would have been just a tad less exploitative. Showing her face would have signaled to me that she was a human being in the very least, and while I might have been annoyed, it would have been far less dehumanizing. I’m not so naive as to think that this letter will initiate an overhaul in your sexist advertising theme, but I urge you to rethink using the shortcut of women’s body parts to sell your food. Be more creative! The people who design your ads can do better, and frankly, your customers deserve better, too.