Spotlight on Lady Heroes: Chelsea Handler

I’ve always been a fan of Chelsea Handler, but my views on her over the past year or two have transformed. She’s no longer just a sassy talk show host, she’s become a politically-involved, pro-female role model for us all. She reflects a clear, post-election sobering up. Handler has always accessed a huge female audience through her comedy, and she’s never been afraid to speak her mind, no holds barred. She’s one of the most outspoken, straightforward women on TV. Unafraid to be aggressive and crude in nature, she still comes across as approachable, even charming. She’s capable of calmly clicking through a slideshow of her naked body on social media, all the while smiling at her audience. She calls out Ivanka Trump as if she were bluntly confronting a friend: “You need to get off his lap, slip on your discontinued heels and stand up for something that you believe in! If you’re going to allow people to call you the Trump Whisperer, then you need to whisper a little fucking louder!” This ends up being actually respectful, engaging Ivanka simply as another woman who needs to stand up for what she believes to the ones she has influence with. She busts right through the plastic daytime host façade.

She stands up for herself with humor when criticized, always letting people know that she works every day to educate herself and stay as aware as possible. This open-mindedness to being challenged fortunately veers her out of the ‘white feminist zone, and I appreciate how she tackles new and unfamiliar content like politics with such an earnest and open heart.

She has also been someone who was misperceived by the public and the media. She’s been judged as a loudmouth, a “bitch” (which really just means a “boss,” who doesn’t take shit from men) or a “ditz.” Actually, there are millions of capable women out there who are as misjudged as this inspiring lady has been, so she’s a role model in that unique way.

Referring to the celebrity focus her previous show on E!, Handler admitted that she hated wasting her breath and public platform on Kardashian drivel and other entertainment content. And once the election hit us hard (especially women), she efficiently repurposed her fluffy talk show into a platform for public discourse and discussions of women and other intersectional communities. More importantly, she has used her own voice to amplify theirs – a collective yell.

She’s not what you would expect from a host that tackles politics. She’s definitely no Jessica Williams or Gloria Steinem. She’s no expert, and she’s the first to admit that. But she’s enthusiastic and fearlessly opening necessary dialogue between women. This year we all need to adopt this approach, rather than competitively shooting each other down for lacking conventional credentials.

So, even though her good intentions and humility are hidden under an act of aggressive bravado which is misinterpreted as many things, Chelsea, at her core, embodies confidence, and I admire her deeply because of that. She’s a woman who refuses to apologize for what she hasn’t done wrong, and now is exactly the time to shut down our reflexive, unmerited “sorry’s” instead of meekly handing them over to the next bully who shows up. Chelsea Handler shows us how to be as unapologetic as ever in an era when it matters the most. 

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