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.”