It’s a weird position to be in, wanting to defend Amy Schumer’s jokes without being the white male who says “Whyncha quit bein’ so sensitive, Latinos??” That said, a lot of the criticism of Amy Schumer that was flying around in the past few weeks seemed like it was based on a lot of flawed premises and was deliberately ignoring any context. One of the most often cited critiques was a piece in the Washington Post entitled “Don’t believe her defenders. Amy Schumer’s jokes are racist,” which began:
Wouldn’t it be funny if Donald Trump and the wildly popular feminist comedian Amy Schumer joined forces and ran on the same presidential ticket in 2016?
First of all, no, it wouldn’t be, but congratulations on squeezing two big search terms into the first sentence. Secondly, it feels like a false frame for a critique, because it’s accusing Amy Schumer of selling herself as some icon of feminism, and not just a funny person who happens to be a lady (it’s kind of inherently sexist to label Amy Schumer “a feminist comedian” just because she’s a woman, isn’t it?).
The piece, which was written by Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard, continues:
You might not think this duo has much in common, but they certainly share similar views about Mexicans. Whether joking or not, both draw on shared cultural stereotypes and use dehumanizing language that gives life to an ecosystem of racial fear and violence.
“Whether joking or not.” Oy. It seems like an incredible feat of rhetorical magical thinking to associate this joke with “an ecosystem of racial fear and violence.” Or at the very least, pretty unfair to the context of the joke. Did anyone really think Amy Schumer was calling all Latinos rapists in that joke? I suppose it’d be easier to make that judgment if you had no context for it at all, which, it turns out, was exactly the case with Dr. Stacey Patton. Who, in a new interview with The Interrobang, revealed that she’d never seen an Amy Schumer performance or show, not even as background for the piece.
The Interrobang; Have you ever watched Amy’s television show… in preparation for the article?
Stacey Patton: Nope. Not at all.
The Interrobang: Her stand up set[s]? have you ever watched any of them?
Stacey Patton: Nope. None of them.
And the editorial apparently wasn’t her idea:
“The Outlook editor actually wrote to me last week and asked if I’d be willing to write about this. And I hadn’t actually heard about the incident. And you know, I’m not a fan or foe of Amy Schumer. Hadn’t really paid attention to her. She’s not a comedian whose work I follow so I was not really that familiar with her. And I was still quite frankly reeling from Charleston. Because I was in Charleston three days before the shooting and I was staying two blocks away from the church so, yeah, I was still dealing with a lot of the backlash from my Washington Post piece on that. And so when I kind of looked at some of the coverage on Schumer, I initially thought meh. This woman is joking. You know, myself and a lot of people are still grieving the lives of those people in Charleston.
“But then I thought about Donald Trump’s remarks and then the fact that a few days layer Dylann Roof stands up in a church and before shooting nine people says, ‘taking over my country you’re raping our women’ despite the fact that most of his victims were black women. And then it was Schumer’s comments about Mexican men and rapists. And I thought, see, that’s when I had to say something.” [The Interrobang]
So basically, Patton changed the context of Amy Schumer’s joke from a comedy show years ago to the news stories of that particular week. I’ve heard comedy is about timing or something?
It’s ironic that the charge most often leveled in thinkpieces is “dehumanizing,” because the first step of most of these thinkpieces is stripping the teller of the benefit of any context or extenuating circumstance you normally would give a fellow human. You make a certain soundbite part of some larger pattern with the excuse of it being a “teaching moment,” whether or not the original quote truly fits. I’m hoping that one of the lessons of thinkpiece culture is that empathy goes both ways.
But probably Stacey Patton will just get doxxed and called horrible racist names (for the love of God, be nice to her), which she’ll interpret as evidence that she was right all along, and all the crazies on both sides will dig in and begin shouting at each other and all of us sane people will be stuck in the middle, covered with their saliva flecks. And now I feel bad for even writing this. You know, guys, maybe this whole internet thing was a mistake.