If you had told me just a year ago that I would be interviewing Chelsea Handler primarily on politics and the current state of feminism, I would have promptly laughed in your face at the absurdity. Yet, when I found myself at a press conference for college students to have a candid conversation with Handler, the host of the eponymous Netflix talk show, and the discussion revolved around human rights and freedom of speech in the age of Trump.
Chelsea Handler´s wit rolls off her tongue so smoothly I often forgot that I was talking to a well-known celebrity, and was lulled into a feeling of intimacy, as though I had known her for longer than a few minutes. ¨I am an amazing aunt – that´s all I have patience for,¨ she said, quick as a whip, when questioned about how she feels about children. When the clock struck 4:20 PST, she quipped, ¨Happy 4:20, I hope you are all smoking wherever you are.¨ Her irreverent humor pervaded the entire press conference.
On the topic of humor, are there any political issues you cannot joke about? Chelsea doesn’t think so: ¨I think pretty much anything can be joked about. Humor makes things digestible. There´s a certain group of people that humor resonates more with.¨ The idea that humor makes serious topics more palatable does contribute to the rise of political satire shows such as the “Daily Show” and perhaps even Chelsea´s own show, that tackle Trump´s turbulent presidency.
Yet this begs the question: what has inspired Chelsea´s newfound ardor for the political? To her, her passion for politics stems from the need to rise up against injustice to all people. She explained, ¨When you can help out a group of people that you´re not a part of, it shows more character than when you only help out a group that you are a part of.¨ She entreated, ¨I want people to know that they can trust me and depend on me for that.¨ Reflecting on herself at age 20, she admitted that she hadn´t been political, but instead, more ¨selfish and self-absorbed.¨ However, she still had staunch values. She would think, ¨When I grow up, I’m not going to depend on a man. I’m going to do what I want with my own money.¨
On politics, she said, ¨It´s too serious not to get involved. You have to be aware. You have to exercise your right to vote . . . what other generations fought for us.¨ The current regime — if you will — seems to have shocked many prominent people into action, which can explain how Chelsea organized her own local women’s march for the day after President Trump´s inauguration. She realized that the election did not only have a major impact domestically, but also internationally. No matter where in the world she talks with people. “Everyone is obsessed with our election. We have a political impact — we’re supposed to be the most progressive, modern, democratic.” So what part is she playing post-election? Chelsea emphatically said, ¨I´m interviewing five Trump supporters tomorrow, reaching across the aisle – and behaving myself.¨
However, Chelsea could not shy away from giving Trump a tongue lashing with acerbic wit. When inquired upon what she would say to Trump, she replied, ¨I don´t need to speak with him – it´s like talking to a lifesaver – there´s no point.¨
As an apparent ‘feminist activist,’ Chelsea imparted some of her sensibilities. On women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, Chelsea implored emphatically, ¨Do not ever be quiet about it. Scream and yell till people hear you. Look at [what happened to] Bill O´Reilly and Roger Ailes. This is a country where we have a history of change for the better. Use your voice.¨ The shadow of the termination of the two Fox News hosts over numerous sexual harassment allegations arose this year hung above us. The most influential feminists that have been on her show? ¨Gloria Steinem, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman. Sarah Silverman paved the way for a lot of us [female comedians].¨
As an intersectional feminist myself, the mention of Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman as feminist icons gave me pause. I had already suspected that Chelsea´s feminism skewed white, and this only confirmed my pre-existing thoughts. Sarah Silverman as a comedian is a purveyor of outlandishly racist jokes, from putting on blackface in a nod to minstrelsy to suggesting that her half-black boyfriend would make an ‘expensive slave.’ Amy Schumer did a racist parody of Beyonce´s “Formation” video, and has made countless racist jokes, including a joke that, “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual.” If your feminism is not intersectional, I refuse to take it seriously. Chelsea Handler would do well to be more cognizant of who she praises as ¨influential feminists¨ if she hopes to be received as a knowledgeable feminist.
But alas, maybe such knowledge is left to our generation. Chelsea herself enthused to us young ones, ¨Your world is about to begin. It´s an exciting time. Embrace it.¨ I surely will.