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Is Amy Schumer a problematic fave? An investigation

Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

Tiger style Source: amyschumer

IN 2015, AMY Schumer had the kind of banner year most comedians could only dream about.

She wrote and starred in Trainwreck, which wound up earning $140 million and two Golden Globe nominations. Her show Inside Amy Schumer garnered widespread critical acclaim with sketches achieving viral success every week.

She hosted the MTV Movie Awards. She supported Madonna in Madison Square Garden. She landed her own HBO stand-up special. She secured a whopper multimillion-dollar book deal.

It was, to paraphrase wine snobs, a good year.

But with increased fame and notoriety comes a higher degree of expectation and responsibility. You’re held to a higher standard and everything you say and do is left wide open to criticism.

As Amy Schumer has learned all too well this year.

Since the beginning of the year, Schumer has committed faux pas after faux pas and found herself dogged by controversy. In the space of a year, she has gone from being hailed as a feminist prophet to being deemed “problematic”.

How did she get here? Let’s take a look.

The Glamour Plus Size Controversy

Earlier this year, Amy Schumer was featured in a Glamour issue devoted to plus size fashion. Schumer took umbrage with the fact that she was included in the magazine because, as she saw it, she wasn’t technically plus size.

Plus size is considered size 16 in America. I go between a size 6 and an 8. @glamourmag put me in their plus size only issue without asking or letting me know and it doesn’t feel right to me. Young girls seeing my body type thinking that is plus size? What are your thoughts? Mine are not cool glamour not glamourous

Glamour Magazine’s editor apologised for the implication, but many felt that Schumer was too quick to distance herself from the label as though being “plus size” was somehow bad or undesirable.

Model Ashley Graham told Cosmopolitan, “I can see both sides, but Amy talks about being a big girl in the industry. You thrive on being a big girl, but when you’re grouped in with us, you’re not happy about it? That, to me, felt like a double standard.”

The Kurt Metzger Rape Comments

Earlier this summer, comedian and Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger posted a Facebook status in which he mocked women speaking out about sexual assault and suggested some women lie about it.

(Metzger was responding to a New York comedy theatre‘s decision to ban a comedian after multiple women accused him of sexual assault.)

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The tone of the status seemed at odds with Schumer’s brand of feminist comedy and fans called on her to condemn Metzger’s remarks.

So Schumer posted a tweet in which she said she was “saddened and disappointed” by his comments, but maintained that he was her “friend and a great writer”.

Afterwards, she claimed that Metzger didn’t work for her and she was therefore not obligated to comment on his actions. This led to some confusion. Had Schumer fired Metzger?

As it turned out, no.

Many were disappointed that Schumer didn’t take a stronger line on Metzger’s actions, particularly as she has spoken and written extensively about her own sexual assault. (For what it’s worth, Metzger later recanted his earlier statement and came out in support of the alleged victim.)

In an interview with Lena Dunham, Schumer seemed to dismiss the controversy and claimed that Metzger was merely being a “troll”.

But also, why are these women treating him like he raped someone? He’s not Bill Cosby; Kurt has never raped. What he was saying was horrific, and he was being a troll. He can be an Internet troll.

As you can imagine, it didn’t go down too well.

The Racist Jokes

The morning after @rizahmed

A post shared by @amyschumer on

While Schumer’s star was on the ascendancy, fans unearthed jokes she had made at the expense of people of colour in the past. In particular, she caught a lot of flack for this joke about Hispanic men.

I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual.

In June 2015, she apologised for the joke and said that it was part of a “dumb white girl character” she used to play on stage. She assured fans that she was “evolving as an artist” and vowed to stop telling jokes like that on stage.

CJQN2ijWsAAenRu Source: Amy Schumer/Twitter

Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident. In fact, a quick Twitter search yields lots of similarly problematic jokes on Twitter.

Like this one about black people.

Or this one about black men.

Or this one about Asians.

And this especially tasteless one about South African athlete Caster Semenya.

giphy (14) Source: Giphy

And a few months ago, her problematic attitude to race reared its ugly head again…

In September, an interview between Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer was roundly mocked and criticised. During their chat, Lena Dunham accused football player Odell Beckham Jr of ignoring her at the Met Gala.

I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards.
The vibe was very much like, “Do I want to fuck it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.”

Dunham was later forced to apologise for “ascribing misogynistic thoughts to someone I don’t know AT ALL” and unintentionally contributing to “a long and often violent history of the over-sexualisation of black male bodies”.

Meanwhile the following tweet was sent from Schumer’s account. The tweet implied that men of colour were statistically more likely to catcall women.

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Schumer later claimed that the tweet was sent in jest by a member of her band and deleted it. Needless to say, it did little to rehabilitate her image among those she had previously offended.

White Feminism

I adore being a girl

A post shared by @amyschumer on

‘White feminism’ is a term used to describe feminism that amplifies the voices and experiences of straight white women while excluding women of colour and LGBT women.

Figures like Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham have been accused of promoting white feminism in the past.

Critics say these women use their positions of privilege to speak up on matters like equal pay for women, but rarely speak out on issues affecting other marginalised groups. And when they’re called out for being racist, they either claim ignorance or attack their critics.

As The Mary Sue put it:

What bothers me the most about this sort of thing is that both Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer have painted themselves as feminists, have even been lauded for it, but have gotten away with racist remarks and sexualizing black bodies because this is what White Feminism looks like. Those who operate under ‘White Feminism’ work under the notion that they’re speaking up for equality but then, when it comes to the issues regarding people of color, they’re either ignorant, silent or trying to silence the voices of those who would call them out on their racism.

As actress Gabrielle Union explained, the likes of Amy Schumer and model Kate Upton — who has been critical of NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s Black Lives Matter protest in the past — often say offensive things without understanding precisely why they’re offensive.

I would love to talk to Kate Upton and Amy Schumer. Maybe I can help to explain the oppressive systems that have benefited and allowed them to say these careless, insensitive and offensive things. Those conversations are awkward as f**k and they get heated. Similar to watching people have conversations about consent.

Okay Ladies, Now Let’s Get in Formation

Source: Amy Schumer/YouTube

A few weeks ago, Amy Schumer shared a video of her and Goldie Hawn dancing to Formation. The video featured the two actresses dancing in… a jungle? While wearing… dust-covered rags? And Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes were also in it?

Anyhow, it wasn’t especially funny and inspired the hashtag #AmySchumerGottaGoParty.

The video didn’t sit well with people who felt that it was mocking what was originally intended as a celebration of black womanhood.

In a moving address on panel show The Real, comedian Loni Love explained the significance of Formation to black women and why Schumer’s parody caused offence.

When Formation came out, we’d been going through all this civil unrest. People were upset and a lot of black women feel that they’ve been put to the bottom, that they’ve been brushed to the side.
I don’t think Beyoncé realised the power she gave to a group of women. I know some people are saying, “Lighten up”. You don’t understand – we have some issues in this country. We need to get through these issues. And you’ve got to respect their point of view.

Source: Jezabel TV/YouTube

Amy Schumer’s initial response to the furore was lacklustre, to say the least.

She posted a moody black-and-white photo of herself in  the nip on Instagram (not the best look for an apology) and wrote, “We had so much fun making this tribute. All love and women inspiring each other.”

She later posted an essay on Medium in which she sort of addressed the criticisms and explained that it wasn’t her intention to minimise the message from the original video.

I love how in the lyrics of “Formation” Beyoncé is telling us to get in formation. And also I like to think she is telling us ladies to get information. I did not mean to detract any of the meaning from the video.
I am of course horrified and sickened by the events that are addressed throughout that video and didn’t see this as minimizing that and still don’t. It was a way to celebrate bringing us all together. To fight for what we all want. And to do it together.

In spite of her efforts, some people still felt that she had missed the point.

ada Source: Morgan Jerkins/Twitter

So can Amy Schumer come back in 2017>

That crowd tho. photo cred @marknormand

A photo posted by @amyschumer on

Schumer has alienated many fans with what they see as her refusal to adequately address criticisms or indeed learn from her mistakes. Her apologies are often cloaked in a defensiveness that’s off-putting to some and suggests that she either hasn’t engaged with or doesn’t understand the criticisms. (The fact that she regularly blocks those who call her out on Twitter would suggest the former.)

If she rectifies this in 2017, maybe she can shed her ‘problematic’ label once and for all. Until then, however, she’s a problematic fave.

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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