Lady Problems is a weekly column that looks at how the entertainment industry — and its corresponding culture and constituents — is treating women in a given week. (Hint: It will almost always be “poorly.”) Every Thursday we’ll review the week's most significant woman-centric conflicts, then provide a brilliant solution to each problem that nobody in Hollywood will ever listen to or enforce.
The Lady Problem: Amy Schumer’s built much of her recent career around feminist comedy, most successfully with viral videos like “The Last Fuckable Day” and “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” that address double standards and garden-variety patriarchal bullshit. For a long time, I loved Amy without abandon; now, I love her like she’s a recalcitrant teen finding herself and I am her mom and she’s screaming at me that she hates me and I’m like, “OK, that’s fine, I won’t drive you to Jessie’s,” and then she’s like, “Just kidding, I don’t hate you, please drive me to Jessie’s.” In other words, like anybody, girl’s still learning, and she’s got her limits and her major blind spots. Unfortunately, though, she doesn’t always seem to know what they are.
Amy’s been criticized in the past for promoting white feminism, ignoring intersectionality, and occasionally putting her foot in her mouth when it comes to race, i.e., joking that Hispanic dudes were rapists and implying that black men were “statistically” more likely to catcall than white dudes (The Mary Sue has a great summary of these incidents here). Amy’s traditionally been good about apologizing for statements like these, explaining that she is still learning and evolving. Which, great! We are all animals and have only been speaking out loud for about 100,000 years. Let’s all learn and evolve together until we die and then it will have all been for naught.
Except then Amy went and did another thing. This week, Amy put out a confusing ... parody? ... of Beyoncé’s “Formation,” a song meant to empower and celebrate black women. The video, which was released on Tidal (?), features Amy, Goldie Hawn, Joan Cusack, and Wanda Sykes (... ?) twerking and lip-synching to lyrics like, “I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils,” and at times wearing what appear to be bulletproof vests (??) in the jungle (???).
Not only is it 100 percent unclear what the fuck is going on in this video — what, exactly, are they parodying? What is the statement they’re trying to make? Where is the funny part? Why is Joan Cusack here? What? Is? Happening? — but it’s also just like, Amy, my girl, pick your battles, stay in your lane, know your audience, know your limits, know that it’s not a great look as a white woman to mock a black woman for making a video about black self-love.
The Solution: The backlash against Schumer has already been swift and decisive, with Twitter throwing an #AmySchumerGottaGoParty and my dad calling me up and saying, “Hi, Rachel. Feminism is eating its own tail.” Both have fair points. I don’t think it’s constructive to eat Amy Schumer alive for this whatever-the-fuck-it-is, because I do think she’s done a lot of good work for the #feminist #cause in the past and will likely do more in the future, and I also think that women arguing over who’s good and who’s bad at feminism is not really constructive and just distracts us from our greater mission, which is fucking shit up. But I do think it’s constructive to call Amy out for being stuck in something of a white-feminist echo chamber and ask her to think twice before inserting herself into a narrative that has not one single thing to do with her, and then trying to satirize it.
Honestly, I think Amy and I are both equally confused about what this mess even is. In the days since, Schumer’s put out an “explanation” of sorts on social media, saying that the video was meant as a “tribute” and that it was “all love and women inspiring each other.”
OK. Sure. But how about we remove this bizarre, empty “tribute” from YouTube and replace it with a parody of Meghan Trainor, another gal who likes to use black culture like a prop? You bring the egregious faux-blaccent, I’ll bring the star of Spy Kids (????).