If Chelsea Handler’s ‘Childless Woman’ Bit Upset You, Ask Yourself Why
The Very Hurt And Angry Feelings I’m seeing in regard to Handler’s comedy sketch are not new and not surprising.
Since Trevor Noah left The Daily Show in December, a parade of comedians have been filling in until the long-running news satire show can find a permanent host. Among those who have stepped up include Wanda Sykes, Leslie Jones, Sarah Silverman, and Chelsea Handler. With all those women talking, you knew it was only going to be a matter of time before people got mad... and right now, people are mad at Chelsea Handler...
As part of her hosting stint, Handler did a sketch all about “A Day in the Life of a Childless Woman.” Presented like a TikTok video, with her voice speaking over brief clips from her day, she begins bright and early. “I wake up at 6 a.m.,” she narrates. “I remember that I have no kids to take to school, so I take an edible, masturbate, and go back to sleep. I wake up at 12:30 p.m. and get ready for a busy day of doing whatever the f*ck I feel like.” Her list of daily activities grows increasingly absurd — achieving enlightenment, teleportation, building a time machine and killing Hitler — explained by the fact that “the weightlessness of my existence has granted me superhuman powers.”
But it is a truth universally acknowledged that any time a woman is funny, there’s an angry mob of mostly men and plenty of women waiting to be mad about it, and boy howdy did they deliver on this one.
“Yes, you’re really living your best life, aren’t you,” replied Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute, a Conservative/Libertarian think tank that champions causes like *checks notes* Big Tobacco and climate change denial. “Just to be clear, because it apparently needs to be said by parents, I wouldn’t trade 10,000 of your supposedly carefree childless days in Paris and sleeping in until noon for one smile from my baby girl.”
“I wouldn’t trade my beautiful, sweet daughter for all the ‘self love’ in the world because you know what? ‘Self love’ is just materialism & self-idolatry,” opined Liz Wheeler, former OAN correspondent and podcast host. “It’s nothing. It’s empty. It’s vapor in the wind. But the tiny precious soul I’m shepherding? That’s eternal. It’s real love.”
I must have missed the part of the video where Handler suggested no one should have children or trade their children for an imaginary trip to Paris...
Another common refrain among those who failed to realize that “not having children gives me time to climb Mount Everest” was a joke? The idea that Handler is lying to herself about her own feelings. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, noted vagina non-expert, declared on his YouTube channel that Handler must be “miserable,” noting that it’s “written all over her face.”
“You forgot the part where you cry yourself to sleep alone at night,” says musician and (absolutely wild) conspiracy theorist Brad Skistimas, who apparently forgot the part in the video where she actually goes to bed at night with whatever hot guy she found on a dating app... and also, apparently, the part where this was a joke? But I digress.
This idea that Handler “can’t hide [her] misery” was as pervasive as comments extolling the virtues of motherhood and priggishly scolding Handler. Meghan McCain suggested Handler was for “mocking” mothers... I must have missed that, too.
“The point of these kinds of videos about the glory of living a childless life is to convince others to do the same. That’s why it’s worth pointing out how messed up it is,” Haskins goes on to say, without evidence. “I couldn’t care less what people do with their own lives.”
The contradiction here is so rich I just know reading it is clogging my arteries. My good dude: if you think a childless life is “messed up” then you absolutely care what people do with their own lives. To quote my colleague Samantha Darby, “I couldn’t care less except I CARE VERY MUCH.”
It’s not surprising that the vast majority of these kind of comments (and there were a lot of them) came from self-declared conservative pundits and accounts. And I know that reading that last sentence, some right-leaning women are seeing red while the Kill Bill siren going off in their heads. And sure: not every single conservative is gung-ho about motherhood — I am acquainted with several happily childfree, self-declared conservative folks who, like Handler, sing the praises of childfree life, particularly any time someone suggests they are missing out by not having kids. (This was, in fact, the set-up for Handler’s bit on The Daily Show.)
Motherhood as a defining characteristic of womanhood is, and has always been, a central tenet of conservatism, and not just in America.
Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly saw motherhood as a woman’s natural destiny and most important role, which should supersede all other, writing in her book The Power of the Positive Woman that “it is ludicrous to suggest that [other jobs] are more self-fulfilling than the daily duties of a wife and mother in the home.” Sarah Palin updated this vision of a woman’s place in conservative politics by coining the phrase “Mama Grizzlies,” directly tying the idea that their political power and their maternal status were one in the same. Prior to both women, anti-suffragists, men and women, linked women’s right to vote as being antithetical to their role as mothers simultaneously depicting suffragettes as neglecting their children...
... and unhappy spinsters who, actually, were only seeking the vote because they couldn’t have husbands and, by extension, children.
And this is all to say nothing of conservatism’s platform of banning abortion, either significantly or all together.
These are all far from the only examples, but they’re emblematic. And when motherhood and womanhood are so intertwined — when your belief system establishes, either overtly or more subtly, that there’s a “Right Way To Be A Woman,” someone who doesn’t fit that mold and, moreover, thrives outside of it, that person is an affront to your worldview.
In short, the Very Hurt And Angry Feelings I’m seeing in regard to Handler’s comedy sketch (again, it cannot be stated enough times that she suggests childlessness offers her an opportunity to time travel) are not new, not surprising, and are definitely telling us more about the people expressing anger than they provide insight on Handler.