In the first (and best) part of her new Netflix show “The Leather Special,” comedian-actress Amy Schumer examines the balance of power between men and women during sex. She mocks the confidence with which men ask their partners where they want them to finish (“On my breasts” she replies, with fake enthusiasm), and demonstrates the “shelf” she constructs by holding her arm beneath her chest, in order to reach the bathroom without getting messy.
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She also devotes ample time to the smell of her vagina, which she says is far from great even on her better days. A moment after an ode to natural body odor and a call on men to apply themselves to oral sex, the joke changes gear and Schumer describes her attempts to avoid kissing the man who’s making his way back up.
Yes, Schumer is back, talking once again about her vagina, body image and sex – but it’s far from a superficial take. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but instead, a smart and nuanced look at sex. It enables Schumer to deliver sharp, feminist messages about self-acceptance and sexual liberation. You could argue that her humor is one-note and doesn’t really develop from year to year. But you can’t ignore her daring and humorous monologues, which she fires off without hint of embarrassment.
Two years ago, millions of viewers fell in love with Schumer thanks to this bold feminist humor, which intensified during the final seasons of “Inside Amy Schumer.” Her Comedy Central show featured clever sketches on such sensitive subjects as misogyny, gender inequality, slut-shaming and rape culture. But during the time that has passed between her meteoric rise and latest stand-up show, Schumer has had to deal with a wave of insults, and become one of the most hated women on social media.
She is regularly attacked by feminists who see her humor as “white feminism”; was labeled a racist due to jokes she told at the 2015 MTV Movie Awards; and was even called a rapist after she talked about a bad sexual experience she had in her youth with a drunken boy. In addition, in January 2016 she was accused of plagiarizing (she vehemently denied it), and has to deal with frequent insults about how she looks.
This time, too, straight after the show premiered on Netflix this month, Schumer’s virtual enemies on an “alt-right” forum united to give her zero stars on the Netflix app. They also encouraged people to write negative reviews and give low ratings on the Amazon website to Schumer’s book “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo” and her 2015 film “Trainwreck.”
All of this hatred raises the question: To what extent is the magnifying glass with which Schumer is examined and the unbelievable number of attacks against her related to the fact that she’s a woman? That same question applies to attacks on other influential women working in comedy – including her friend Lena Dunham and “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones.
White man’s fear
Hagit Ginzburg is a journalist and stand-up comedian behind a show in Tel Aviv that features five female comedians. She’s convinced that women conforming to the Hollywood model of beauty wouldn’t have received such a reaction.
“There’s something about a woman who isn’t pretty or thin enough in the eyes of society that’s very easy to hate – especially if she has a big mouth and confronts you with a truth you don’t want to hear,” says Ginzburg. “Schumer doesn’t go down easy in any way. She doesn’t look as is expected of a woman who performs onstage; she doesn’t weigh what’s expected of a woman; and she doesn’t give a damn – and that’s what’s inspiring.”
Ginzburg says the insults hurled at female comedians aren’t suffered by their male peers. “Look how Louis C.K. or any other chubby male comedian appears,” she says. “And C.K. says things that are just as harsh as Schumer. Has anyone every shamed him? Even when there were suspicions of sexual harassment against him, did anyone ridicule the way he looks? There were a few complaints against him, and it ended after a few days. There was no ‘body shaming’ and he wasn’t humiliated, and they didn’t stoop so low,” noted Ginzburg.
She says the hatred toward Schumer is also connected with the current mood in the United States. “It’s linked to the reasons why Donald Trump was elected,” she says. “The average white man is very afraid. This is an era when women who are coming out against the standards of Hollywood beauty are successful and going onstage – and narrow-minded men are afraid of that. They know that a lot of the oppression experienced by women surrounding body image and being thin is over. So the only power left to them is to behave like bullies and to try to shame them. But these women don’t give up. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who can silence Amy Schumer.”
The people attacking Schumer may be in the minority, but it’s a vocal minority that uses its power to boycott Schumer and lessen her power and influence. Social media sites were soon filled with posts about the fact Schumer’s special was receiving bad reviews – but only the Splitsider website checked the source of these reviews.
Like before, Schumer didn’t let the haters silence her. In an Instagram post, she thanked the website and wrote: “I am embarrassed for the ‘journalists’ who report on trolls activities as if it’s news. It’s indicative of [the] administration right now. ... The alt right organized trolls attack everything I do. ... They organize to get my ratings down. ... It makes me feel so powerful and dangerous and brave. I am only alarmed by the people printing their organized trolling as ‘news.’ ... So this post has nothing against the trolls. Call me a whale. Call me a thief and I will continue to rise and fight and lead.”
Tackling the gun lobby
After 30 minutes of jokes about sex from a female perspective (some spot-on, others less so), the tone of the show changes. Schumer, who is now rich and famous, tries hard to convince the audience she’s still that same unknown comedian who can’t find herself in Hollywood.
She shows the audience pictures of her and her sister wearing tattered clothing, says she’s happy to gain weight after dieting for the film “Trainwreck,” and describes her crush on movie star Bradley Cooper. But even if Schumer feels she isn’t part of Hollywood, it’s not funny or interesting to hear her talk about it.
In the same breath, she uses her influential status to address the ease with which men can purchase guns in the United States. Since a 2015 shooting in a Louisiana movie theater during the screening of “Trainwreck,” Schumer has been working to change the gun laws. In the show, she tries to treat this sensitive subject with humor and hide the didactic aspect – but fails.
Despite the show’s inconsistency, Schumer still manages to inject humor and feminism into her jokes, without fear of being too blunt, aggressive or silly. Although she isn’t the only female comedian who does this, she is one of the best and most influential. Her comic voice isn’t only funny but also necessary and important. For proof, you just have to see the number of people who, for misogynistic and conservative reasons, hate a woman who speaks confidently about sexual liberation.