Why Chris Rock is a feminist

A SYTYCB entry.

Feminist theory has never been exclusively about women. The beauty of the many strands of feminist theory is that they break through convention generally — convention that values hierarchies, normalizes the white male experience and leaves women, people of color, people who are poor or people who are queer voiceless/marginalized/impoverished/irrelevant.

So why do I think Chris Rock espouses at least some feminist cred, even when in his HBO specials he has said that he “would never hit a woman, but he would shake her,” or that “men lie the most but women tell the biggest lies.” Or that women with children should stop clubbing and get back to their children. ?*

It’s something that requires a great deal of patience with words that bite (the same way I know Sarah Silverman isn’t actually racist, for example). There are as many true insights in Chris Rock’s comedy (about why women don’t rule the world for example) as there are digs at women. But Comedian’s behavior off stage is what is most telling about her or his true spirit. And I think Chris Rock’s decision to produce W. Kamau Bell’s show is the best evidence that he is belongs more to the big tent feminist camp than he does outside of it.

W. Kamau Bell is a self-identified socio-political stand up comedian. His comedy troupe, “Laughter Against the Machine,” traveled around the country entertaining/supporting the Occupy movement. He hails from San Francisco, and his team of writers have pretty solid feminist cred. And with Chris Rock’s support, he now has a show on FX that will hopefully get picked up.

I see evidence of Chris Rock’s feminism in this show just as I see evidence of Judd Apatow’s (interest in) feminism/girl comedy in his decision to support Lena Dunham’s program. Both producers Rock and Apatow are taking raw, marginalized talent and fitting them for mainstream audiences…a challenge, and we’ll see if either show has staying power. I predict Girls will be around for a while.

Feminism isn’t just about supporting women. It’s about bringing to the fore people who don’t fit inside the mainstream, and people who push the socio-cultural-political envelope. I think we are all indebted to the hilarity and honesty Chris Rock has brought to the culture, and I think his contribution to the progressive feminist movement has only begun.

*(In fairness to his complete body of standup: Chris Rock has also said that it is a beautiful thing that abortion is legal, and that women should just ignore the jerks that screw them and leave.)

Check out this incredible Chris Rock stand up clip from 1989:

Sheila is a former employment attorney who now writes about gender and economic justice. Her first book, Part of the Family, was released by Ig Publishing in 2014 and chronicles the U.S. domestic workers' movement.

Sheila Bapat is reviewing books related to gender, domestic work, and economic justice for Feministing.

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