Editorial: Our reaction to Chelsea Handler’s visit to campus


Chelsea Handler is notorious for her strong personality, which often reveals itself in controversial, unfiltered rhetoric. While this rhetoric is often masked by humor, Handler has recently attempted to turn towards legitimate political activism. This is an admirable choice, one that required her to humbly acknowledge her privilege and press “pause” on her television career. We certainly respect Handler for her attempts to advocate for marginalized groups, advance feminism, and promote civic engagement. We did, however, find some of these attempts to be problematic.

We noticed that Handler seemed to lack adequate information on current politics, which makes it easy to discredit her points. This was evident during the Q&A session, when one of the audience members asked Handler what she considered Hillary Clinton’s biggest accomplishment as Secretary of State and Handler could not find an answer. In general, she failed to offer any novel ideas and relied primarily on ideas that have already permeated the media.

Another point of contention was Handler’s prescription to voter apathy: everyone should simply become a one-issue voter. If we were to adhere to this solution, we also run the risk of ignoring everything about a candidate besides for their position on a single issue. There is also reason to believe that it is precisely this type of polarization that allowed Donald Trump to be elected in the first place.

On another note in response to a question about her brief fling with rapper 50 Cent, Handler dove into a description of his intimidating sexual prowess, to put it tastefully. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Handler, as she often brings up her sexual attraction to black men on her show.

The problem with Handler’s comments on black men is one of fetishization. Though she advocated for the accountability of white cops who murder black men at disproportional rates, and commented on the importance of supporting the fight against institutional racism, she turned around and made comments about being sexually attracted to black men as a result of the dirty nature of their sexuality. This comment is a propagation of a prescribed sexuality assigned to many black men based on preconceived notions of racial and bodily stereotypes associated with them, including their sexual aggression. To promote a message of racial equality, and then participate in the perpetuation of stereotypes harming black men seems at least counterproductive, and at most, quite detrimental. In this way, she embodies the nuance of white liberalism: she attempted to advocate for marginalized communities, but ended up contradicting her message with misinformed microaggressions.

Handler’s heart was definitely in the right place, and we admire her for that. That does not, however, permit us to ignore issues like this when we see them. Just as Handler asserts that it is our duty as citizens to engage politically and socially, it is also our duty as journalists to point out contradicting messages and set them straight.

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