“Julia Dreyfus’ brand of comedy- naturalistic lunacy, sharp but never cruel- taught a whole generation of women they were allowed to change the rules and a whole bunch of men that a woman with rough edges was something to desire.” -Lena Dunham

Consistently in American culture, it is expected (or shall I say, preferred) for women to be involved in things that promote their image as graceful, calm, even pretty, rather than the loud, ambitious person on the front lines of their industry or cause. Change has come relatively recently. Currently, the U.S. is experiencing a beautiful trend. The nuclear family is becoming less and less common as women take more powerful roles in and outside of the home. Feminism is no longer a radical concept, as it is the basis of many aspects of popular culture and politics. Comedy has been around for ages like any other industry or subcategory of entertainment. It’s shocking and mildly horrifying how slow any industry caught on to the necessity of equal pay, representation, and promotion; comedy is no exception to this disappointing fact. Comedy is a unique beast because it is all-encompassing of social commentary, humor, and serious topics. This amalgam is the reason women still face such obstacles in comedy. The perpetuated vision of the ideal American woman does not align with a powerful, hilarious woman in a career dominated by men who often discusses sex, cursing, the gritty sides of daily life, politics, etc.

Think about current network and streaming television. Lena Dunham consistently dominated network television with Girls. Amy Schumer dominated live comedy, then comedy film with Trainwreck, now both network and stream television with Inside Amy Schumer. Mindy Kaling dominated network television as a comedy writer and simultaneously as an actress on The Office , finishing those endeavors to write, produce and star in the Hulu original the Mindy Project. The few women I have mentioned in this paragraph, the figurative tip of the iceberg, have also published books that are as funny, dynamic, sensitive, and ground-breaking as their other roles. Backlash towards these 3 women tend to be the same. Although it neglects politeness, scientific fact, and relevance, people call them overweight. People say they’re vulgar, or my personal favorite “too much.” (As if “too much” is an insult! I’d like too much of everything, please. Too much money, too much success, too much love, too much fun, too much good food.) Americans try so hard to disconnect themselves from sexist ideals that existed into the mid-late 20th century, but there are still very obvious connections to roles for women, established especially in comedy. Critics of Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, or Lena Dunham tend to shoot for physical insults. There are two possible scenarios for why those seem sufficient.

Number 1: It is extremely hard to attack their financial success, intellect, popularity, or sense of humor. Number 2: American popular culture has perpetuated an idea that women in entertainment need to fit a certain beauty standard, even though height, weight, race, age, physical appearance, etc. etc. are completely irrelevant to aptitude for success in comedy, writing, acting, and other serious professions within entertainment.

Both of these scenarios put women in comedy into a box. A focus on appearance makes the profession seem less intellectually focused or important. Criticism and guidelines for women in comedy is depriving them of things like embracing their sexuality in a significant way.Amy Schumer once said during stand-up, “People call me a ‘sex comic,’ and I know it’s because I’m a woman. A guy could come up here and [get naked] and they would say ‘he’s a thinker.”

Emily Blake