Chelsea Handler regularly gets asked what it’s like being a woman in the male-dominated world of standup comedy. The truth is, she said during a panel discussion Tuesday morning, men are not the problem. Women are.
“It wasn’t the men that tried to intimidate me. It was women in positions of power who kept me at bay. They were the ones who didn’t want me to succeed,” she told the audience at the Bloomberg Business of Equality summit. It’s not because women are naturally competitive with each other, she added—it’s a learned behavior. “We are taught that if one of us succeed, others can’t.”
Handler said she has made a point of inviting female comedians to her eponymous Netflix show, she said, to try to combat this lesson. Another panelist, talent attorney Nina Shaw, put it this way: “If you want to be a woman in power, empower other women.” Shaw is a co-founder of Time’s Up, a legal defense fund that provides subsidized support to those who have experienced workplace sexual harassment, assault, or abuse.
The panelists—who also included actress Ashley Judd, one of the first women to come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein—also discussed the #MeToo movement. This time, Handler pointed to men (or one man in particular) as the reason the anti-harassment movement has gone viral: “We elected a sexual predator and we all knew about it and we still did it and now we have to reconcile that with ourselves,” she said, referring to the sexual harassment allegations against President Donald Trump. “That’s called the morning after.”
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