Amy Schumer is by far my favorite female comedian. Not that this says much, because I don’t appreciate most female comedians. In Amy’s case however, she stands side by side with Jim Norton, Opie & Anthony, Patrice O’Neal, Doug Stanhope, and not far behind George Carlin. In fact, I think I laughed harder at many of Amy’s jokes than I did at Carlin’s, even if Carlin was more interesting to listen to in general.
I became aware of Amy on the Opie & Anthony show some years back. Like most comics, she is self deprecating, and talks about sex frequently. She refers to herself as a whore from time to time. She makes sexist comments against her own gender, because it fits a certain stereotype which, for better or worse, makes a joke funny.
But Amy, unlike most modern feminists, knows that this does not diminish her as a human being. She is, in fact, empowered by her sexuality and her ability to make people laugh. She is not a man, nor does she desire to be. She is a woman, and she takes advantage of her differences with men in her humor.
She does not condemn men for making jokes about women. You’ll never hear her throw out ad hominem attacks like “sexist” or “misogynist”. She works side by side with male comics, and she comes back with witty retorts. She makes fun of men, like they make fun of women, and understands it is all for the sake of entertainment. Rather than complaining about inequality in the comedy business, she strives to be the best, and in this, she excels.
So when she gave the this speech at the Ms. Foundation Gala, I was touched, but not surprised. Amy understands that her self worth is a thing of herself. She does not figure it out by how society deems her, she figures it out for herself.
In her speech, Amy describes being the queen of her high school. When she got to college however, things changed. She wasn’t getting the attention from men to which she had become accustomed, she was no longer at the top of the social structure, she gained weight. Not surprisingly, this had a very negative impact on her self esteem “I’m embarrassed to say, it was killing me” she said.
She describes getting attention from an older boy on campus named Matt, and how this attention felt like success to her. One morning, Matt called and invited her over to his place, and Amy got all excited about spending the day with this older boy. She had all these fantastic ideas about what a wonderful relationship she was about to start with this guy, and that brought her self esteem back up.
This was short lived however, because when Amy showed up, Matt was drunk. She wasn’t the first girl he called in the morning, she was the last girl he called of the night. He wasn’t looking to start a beautiful relationship with her, he was looking for a booty call. Amy didn’t feel so good about this, but she was attention starved and went along with it anyway. She describes in some detail Matt’s failed attempt to consummate, mocking the firmness of his erection, his oral talents, and his general inability to perform, before he fell asleep on top of her.
Her eyes teared up as she laid in his bed, and she described feeling terrible about herself because of the actions of this young man. Then, as the love songs played off the CD he had started before losing consciousness, something clicked. Amy realized she needed to pick herself up and get out of there. “I became my own fairy godmother” said Amy.
And that’s exactly what she did. Today, Amy is a brilliant and successful comedian. She has been on Last Comic Standing, David Letterman, Howard Stern, and Opie & Anthony. She’s been featured in a number of Comedy Central Roasts, and even has her own TV series on Comedy Central titled “Inside Amy Schumer“. She didn’t let Matt decide her value. She didn’t ask congress to pass a law. She didn’t run around complaining about society, or patriarchy, or sexism. She decided to be great, and great she became. As she puts it;
I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will.
I wish feminism understood this. A woman’s self worth is a thing of her self. Nobody can give it to her, and all attempts to try will fail and make matters worse. It has nothing to do with how a man sees her, or how “society” sees her. If she has self esteem issues, they are her’s to deal with. Laws, social engineering, society, they can’t fix it. It’s not a “patriarchy” keeping you down, and saying so only diminishes your ability to bring yourselves up. Take the responsibility for yourselves to be great, and great you shall be. Blame it on others, and you will live in misery forever.
The speech in full;
Here I go, and if it doesn’t go well, please just don’t blog about it.
Right before I left for college, I was running my high school. Feel it. I knew where to park, I knew where to get the best chicken-cutlet sandwich, I knew which custodians had pot. People knew me. They liked me. I was an athlete and a good friend. I felt pretty, I felt funny, I felt sane. Then I got to college in Maryland. My school was voted number one … for the hottest freshman girls in Playboy that year. And not because of me. All of a sudden, being witty and charismatic didn’t mean shit. Day after day, I could feel the confidence drain from my body. I was not what these guys wanted. They wanted thinner, blonder, dumber … My sassy one-liners were only working on the cafeteria employees, who I was visiting all too frequently, tacking on not the Freshman 15, but the 30, in record-breaking time, which led my mother to make comments over winter break like, “You look healthy!” I was getting no male attention, and I’m embarrassed to say, it was killing me.
But one guy paid me some attention — Matt. Matt was six feet tall, he looked like a grown-up von Trapp child, and he was five years older than me. What?! An older boy, paying attention to me? I must be okay. Uff. I made him laugh in our bio lab, and I could tell a couple times that we had a vibe. He was a super senior, which is a sexy way of saying “should have graduated, but needed an extra year.” He barely spoke, which was perfect for all the projecting I had planned for him. We grew up in the same town, and getting attention from him felt like success. When I would see him on campus, my heart would race, and I would smile as he passed. I’d look in the mirror and see all the blood rise to my face. I’d spend time analyzing the interaction, and planning my outfit for the next time I saw him. I wanted him to call. He never called. But then finally, he called.
It was 8 a.m., my dorm room phone rang. “Amy, wassup? It’s Matt. Come over.” Holy shit! This is it, I thought. He woke up thinking about me! He realized we’re meant to start a life together! Let’s just stop all this pretending that we weren’t free just to love one another! I wondered, would we raise our kids in the town we both grew up in, or has he taken a liking to Baltimore? I don’t care. I’ll settle wherever he’s most comfortable. Will he want to raise our kids Jewish? Who cares? I shaved my legs in the sink, I splashed some water under my armpits, and my randomly assigned Albanian roommate stared at me from under her sheets as I rushed around our shitty dorm room. I ran right over to his place, ready for our day together. What would we do? It’s still early enough, maybe we’re going fishing? Or maybe his mom’s in town, and he wanted me to join them for breakfast. Knock-knock. Is he going to carry me over the threshold? I bet he’s fixing his hair and telling his mom, “Be cool, this may be the one!” I’ll be very sweet with her, but assert myself, so she doesn’t think she’s completely in charge of all the holiday dinners we’re going to plan together. I’ll call her by her first name, too, so she knows she can’t mess with me. “Rita! I’m going to make the green bean casserole this year, and that’s that!” Knock-knock. Ring ring. Where is he?
Finally, the door opens. It’s Matt, but not really. He’s there, but not really. His face is kind of distorted, and his eyes seem like he can’t focus on me. He’s actually trying to see me from the side, like a shark. “Hey!” he yells, too loud, and gives me a hug, too hard. He’s fucking wasted. I’m not the first person he thought of that morning. I’m the last person he called that night. I wonder, how many girls didn’t answer before he got to fat freshman me? Am I in his phone as Schumer? Probably. But I was here, and I wanted to be held and touched and felt desired, despite everything. I wanted to be with him. I imagined us on campus together, holding hands, proving, “Look! I am lovable! And this cool older guy likes me!” I can’t be the troll doll I’m afraid I’ve become.
He put on some music, and we got in bed. As that sexy maneuver where the guy pushes you on the bed, you know, like, “I’m taking the wheel on this one. Now I’m going to blow your mind,” which is almost never followed up with anything. He smelled like skunk microwaved with cheeseburgers, which I planned on finding and eating in the bathroom, as soon as he was asleep. We tried kissing. His 9 a.m. shadow was scratching my face — I knew it’d look like I had fruit-punch mouth for days after. His alcohol-swollen mouth, I felt like I was being tongued by someone who had just been given Novocain. I felt faceless, and nameless. I was just a warm body, and I was freezing cold. His fingers poked inside me like they had lost their keys in there. And then came the sex, and I use that word very loosely. His penis was so soft, it felt like one of those de-stress things that slips from your hand? So he was pushing aggressively into my thigh, and during this failed penetration, I looked around the room to try and distract myself or God willing, disassociate. What’s on the wall? A Scarface poster, of course. Mandatory. Anything else? That’s it? This Irish-Catholic son of bank teller who played JV soccer and did Mathletes feels the most connection with a Cuban refugee drug lord. The place looked like it was decorated by an overeager set designer who took the note “temporary and without substance” too far.
He started to go down on me. That’s ambitious, I think. Is it still considered getting head if the guy falls asleep every three seconds and moves his tongue like an elderly person eating their last oatmeal? Chelsea? Is it? Yes? It is. I want to scream for myself, “Get out of here, Amy. You are beautiful, you are smart, and worth more than this. This is not where you stay.” I feel like Fantine and Cosette and every fucking sad French woman from Les Miz. And whoever that cat was who sang “Memories,” what was that musical? Suze Orman just goes, “Cats.” The only wetness between my legs is from his drool, because he’s now sleeping and snoring into me. I sigh, I hear my own heartbreak, I fight back my own tears, and then I notice a change in the music. Is this just a bagpipe solo? I shake him awake. “Matt, what is this? The Braveheart soundtrack? Can you put something else on, please?” He wakes up grumpily, falls to the floor, and crawls. I look at his exposed butt crack, a dark, unkempt abyss that I was falling into. I felt paralyzed. His asshole is a canyon, and this was my 127 Hours. I might chew my arm off.
I could feel I was losing myself to this girl in this bed. He stood up and put a new CD on. “Darling, you send me, I know you send me, honest, you do …” I’m thinking, “What is this?” He crawled back into bed, and tried to mash at this point his third ball into my vagina. On his fourth thrust, he gave up and fell asleep on my breast. His head was heavy and his breath was so sour, I had to turn my head so my eyes didn’t water. But they were watering anyway, because of this song. Who is this? This is so beautiful. I’ve never heard these songs before. They’re gutting me. The score attached to our morning couldn’t have been more off. His sloppy, tentative lovemaking was certainly not in the spirit of William Wallace. And now the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard play out as this man-boy laid in my arms, after diminishing me to a last-minute booty call. I listened to the songs and I cried. I was looking down at myself from the ceiling fan. What happened to this girl? How did she get here? I felt the fan on my skin and I went, “Oh, wait! I am this girl! We got to get me out of here!” I became my own fairy godmother. I waited until the last perfect note floated out, and escaped from under him and out the door. I never heard from Matt again, but felt only grateful for being introduced to my new self, a girl who got her value from within her. I’m also grateful to Matt for introducing me to my love Sam Cooke, who I’m still with today.
Now I feel strong and beautiful. I walk proudly down the streets of Manhattan. The people I love, love me. I make the funniest people in the country laugh, and they are my friends. I am a great friend and an even better sister. I have fought my way through harsh criticism and death threats for speaking my mind. I am alive, like the strong women in this room before me. I am a hot-blooded fighter and I am fearless. But I did morning radio last week, and a DJ asked, “Have you gained weight? You seem chunkier to me. You should strike while the iron is hot, Amy.” And it’s all gone. In an instant, it’s all stripped away. I wrote an article for Men’s Health and was so proud, until I saw instead of using my photo, they used one of a 16-year-old model wearing a clown nose, to show that she’s hilarious. But those are my words. What about who I am, and what I have to say? I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing, but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, “All right! You got it. You figured me out. I’m not pretty. I’m not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I’ll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see.” But then I think, Fuck that. I am not laying in that freshman year bed anymore ever again. I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak and share and fuck and love and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they had it in them to do it. I stand here and I am amazing, for you. Not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you, and I thank you.
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