It can be hard to muster a smile in a year that seems determined to make you cry. But, as per Gloria Steinem, laughter is essential.
"Surveys show that what women fear in men is violence, and what men fear in women is ridicule," Steinem said at an event for Ms. Foundation for Women Wednesday night. "That's the reason why it's been so extraordinarily difficult for women to come up in comedy even though there have always been funny women."
Ridicule and violence are hardly the same — and it's downright funny that men are so afraid of being ridiculed. So, suggests Steinem, we must continue to ridicule. Because the more we do, the more we dismantle the system with our own (very tame) violence.
Added Steinem, "Because, let's face it, the vision of someone masturbating into a potted plant and making someone else watch is not the greatest pleasure of mutual human sexuality....[but] it does make you laugh." Steinem is referencing Fox reporter Lauren Sivan's account of film producer Harvey Weinstein forcing her to watch him pleasure himself into a nearby plant. The story is disgusting, but — to quote Steinem — it does make you giggle, if only because you find yourself feeling very bad for a plant.
Teresa C. Younger, president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation, added that feminism and comedy mirror each other pretty nicely. "If you define feminism as the social, political, and economic equality of all genders, then you just have to add humor into that," she said. "And so, it's about breaking down the power structures and the systems. Then humor is [also] about breaking those down, and being a part of this activity, and saying there's room for us to be laughing just as much as there is room for us to be fighting equality and gender equity."
The event, titled "Laughter is the Best Resistance," presented a slate of women comedians headlined by Jen Kirkman, at Caroline's On Broadway.
Onstage, Steinem, who is the "founding mother" of the organization, underlined the importance of comedy. "As I learned a couple of years ago, laughter is the only free emotion," she said. "You could compel fear. You could also compel love, if someone is captive and dependent and enmeshed in order to survive. But you can't compel laughter. It happens when two things come together — it happens when you learn something! Or when you realize something. If laughter is the ultimate proof of freedom, than the ability of being able to laugh could not be more important."
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