For comedian Louis C.K., there are few topics that are safe from public ridicule. Over the years, C.K. has performed sketches covering topics from nut allergies and road rage to heavier issues such as race, privilege, and gender. Unafraid to address controversial subjects, this comedian has found a way to use his profession to highlight the societal and systemic problems plaguing our nation. Feminism is one of those topics that has not been spared from the limelight.
While it is easy to think that a male comedian would write and perform a sketch that ridicules feminists and takes a misogynistic turn, C.K. does the exact opposite. In 2013, C.K.’s stand up special Oh My God was released on HBO. One of the sketches opens with a talk about the “courage” involved in dating.
C.K. first describes the “male courage” in asking a girl out, with an emphasis on the traditional definition of “male courage,” as a Slate article notes. The courage on the female’s behalf is saying yes to the man. C.K. delivers his feminist punch with the rhetorical question: “How do women still go out with guys, when you consider that there is no greater threat to women than men?”
Coming from a man, this question is especially powerful in its recognition of the inequality between men and women. Rates of violence against women are significantly higher than those of violence against men. C.K. explains to his male audience, “We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of mayhem and misery to women…You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease.”
With his characteristically blunt and self-degrading humor, C.K. has once again made the audience question their former presuppositions, now highlighting the inequality between men and women in the dating world. Here we have a middle-aged white man using his talent and celebrity to make a difference in the way people view the world. C.K. has complicated a seemingly simple dating game into a gender and power issue that is not only limited to just going out, but can also be applied to various aspects of daily life.
What’s more is that C.K.’s feminist sketches aren’t limited to his stand-up shows. While both Oh My God and his previous show Live at the Beacon Theatre have featured bits on the subject of injustice towards women, C.K. has made a splash with his show Louie on FX. During season four of Louie in May 2014, C.K. wrote and directed a scene between his character Louie and a woman named Vanessa, who was romantically interested in him.
The only problem is that while Vanessa is straightforward and charming, she is also overweight. In the final scene, she gives a monologue about how difficult it is to be in the New York dating scene as a “fat girl.” Over the course of the seven-minute scene, seen below, Vanessa talks about the need for honesty and the standards of beauty that exclude “fat girls” from having serious relationships as opposed to engaging in hookup culture.
As a Huffington Post article points out, this monologue is poignant as it is delivered by a plus-sized actress talking about her self-confidence and need for others to recognize her desires. But what’s more powerful is that it was written by C.K., who has brought the topic of body image into the spotlight. He has, through Sarah Baker and her performance as Vanessa, woven his feminist beliefs into his work and helped viewers comprehend yet another vital issue in our society.
If you haven’t seen C.K.’s comedy sketches, we recommend you check out the Oh My God or Live at the Beacon Theatre performances discussed above to see this feminist comedian in action.
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