Last week on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix show ‘Chelsea’ , an episode aired where she had a dinner party for four female guests. The guests included actresses Hilary Swank and Connie Britton, director Ava DuVernay and Miss USA and soldier Deshauna Barber. The episode entitled ‘These Strong Women’ also featured vignettes from feminist activist hero and true badass Gloria Steinem giving mini women-in-history lessons. I really enjoyed this episode for an erray of reasons, firstly being I love Chelsea’s show.
Chelsea began airing in May of this year and streams three episodes a week. Prior to this I had watched Chelsea’s “Chelsea does shows”, which I really liked, so was curious to see what this new project would consist of. I, usually, only watch snippets of talk shows online when I am a fan of the interviewee and it is rare the host can hold my attention for much longer. To my surprise, I found a show that I follow consistently and really enjoy tuning into every week. I admire her honesty and bluntness, approaching topics from politics to pop culture with comedy bits intersected. In the traditional style of talk shows, the fourth wall is broken and the host speaks directly to the viewers at times. Although these monologues are there to build a rapport with the viewer and to draw us in and to share information, I have always felt a very stagnant barrier between me, as a viewer, and the host, like they were reciting a stiff speech that I was watching from afar. They feel distant and foreign.
On the contrary, with Handler I feel a lot more engaged in the show, perhaps because she is a woman but mainly because she is a blunt and unapologetic, real woman talking about real things from a female perspective. As well as the usual celebrity guests she features scientists, politicians and experts of different fields. The show format feels a lot less rehearsed than other shows and the varied content makes every episode feel somewhat new. I don’t agree with everything she says, or think each episode is riveting but it is very refreshing and admirable to watch another woman be uncensored, honest, rude, charming, blunt and likeable all at the same time and I love to tune in every week.
As mentioned prior, last weeks episode featured a dinner party comprised of women sharing their experiences being a woman. The first question they answer is when they first realised they were different from a boy. Hilary Swank speaks about how she first knew she was different from a boy is when a boy punched her because she beat him in a game and he couldn’t have a girl beat him.
Looking back on my own experience, asking myself that question. My first experience of being told I was different to a boy was when I was in 1st class/grade of primary school, I decided I wanted to wear trousers, like the boys. In Ireland most schools have a uniform consisting of very heavy fabrics, normally grey or navy or some other depressing colour and are quite restrictive, particularly the girls. In my school the girls had to wear a shirt underneath a heavy pinafore shirt and a tie tucked under a thick fuzzy jumper that scratched the skin. What I loathed the most was the thick, grey tights I had to wear, they became the bane of my infantile existence as it felt like I spent the whole day pulling them up when they slid down which interrupted my busy playing schedule.
When I would play soccer at recess I was constantly dragging them up back up over my hips and always felt self conscious of my skirt rising up when I was running. So one day I asked my parents can I wear trousers instead of a skirt. My parents did not rely on traditional gender roles and being a girl was never imposed with the stereotypical status it did with others. So, I got trousers – the exact same brand and style the boys wore. When I went to school on Monday, excited by the security, comfort and freedom my covered legs brought me, my teacher did not feel the same. They had some spare skirts in the classroom for people who had ‘an accident’ and she instructed me to change into a skirt immediately. I can’t remember if I did or not but I remember being so confused and angry as to why we have to be different.
When I went home and told my parents, they told me to wear whichever one I wanted to and don’t change because I’m told to. So rebellious 6 or 7 year old me paraded into school the following day, again wearing my trousers proudly and was faced with another round of discipline. Instead of making sense of the reasoning that boys and girls should be equal- she saw it as breaking the rules. This woman was flabbergasted and appalled that I had suggested girls should be able to wear the same as the boys to be able to run freely, do head stands, spread their legs wide and sit however they like without feeling conscious or ashamed. I can’t remember what happened, I think my dad had some words with her but I got to keep wearing my pants. Then some more girls began to wear trousers, and more, and more and we all played freely and happily without the burden of hiking up our tights all day.
The pay gap between men and women is also discussed in this episode. Amidst (kind of) interrupting the other guests, Hilary Swank shared this anecdote;
“After my second Academy Award, the next couple of movies later I get offered a movie but the male hadn’t had any critical success but had been in a movie where he was ‘hot’ and he got offered 10 million dollars and I got offered 500,000, after 2 Academy Awards, so I said no and they went and found a newcomer who they pad 50,000 so they saved 450,000, probably to give the guys his bonuses.”
The fact that people anywhere are getting this amount of money to act in a movie is astonishing, let alone the major offensive and unfair pay gap between men and women. The gap in these figures are astonishing and unfortunately are very real. An article published just today in The Guardian describes how “Gender pay gap could take 170 years to close, says World Economic Forum”. I believe that is bullshit, we gotta pull up our sexist socks sooner than that and, in the words of Rihanna, ‘Bitch better have my money’.
For anyone that asks why the need to talk about feminism so much – above are a few examples of the long lists of injustices that need to be fixed. We need shows that have all female directors (like Ava DuVernay’s show Queen Sugar) and like the upcoming season of Netflix’s Jessica Jones because for so long it has only been men given the opportunity and therefore we watch it from a male perspective. We need strong women like Chelsea Handler to say whatever the hell she likes on television and not be apologetic for having a say, because for a long time we have only seen men do this.
I’ve become such an admirer of Handler I even bought her book online. I couldn’t wait to read her stories in detail.
I was a little disappointed when this arrived.
I’m saving it for a day I want to pretend I am a giant, maybe on a plane with a small bottle of liquor. How ironic that by failing to read the small print, I got a whole book of small print.
Anyhoo, my #WCW post today is dedicated to the virago that is Chelsea Handler. You go girl!
Author: Shaunna Lee Lynch
About: I am an Irish writer, performer, avid day dreamer, generally enthusiastic, hip hop enthusiast,living in Hong Kong.