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Film Amy Schumer is not the feminist voice you’re looking for

Amy (Amy Schumer) on a date with Aaron (Bill Hader) in Trainwreck, the new comedy from director/producer Judd Apatow that is written by and stars Schumer as a woman who lives her life without apologies, even when maybe she should apologize.

Mary Cybulski

Amy Schumer's title as the New Voice of Feminist Comedy has been in place since the start of her television series' third season back in April, when she delivered such biting sketches as "Last Fuckable Day" and "Football Town Nights," which commented on ageism, sexism and rape culture. Combined with her stand-up material and her MTV Movie Award hosting gig, she became what seemed like the latest torchbearer in a relay run by comedy titans Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham and anyone else whose life's work has been digested through think-pieces.

But Schumer's success, though well deserved, doesn't mean we get to appoint her as "the new voice" of anything – nor is it about weighing her down with expectations. She is simply a comedian who is working hard, and her success signals that determination and talent pay off – and that feminist messages are becoming more digestible among the masses. (Or, that the masses have learned that feminism isn't something to be afraid of, which would be nice to think.) But whatever Schumer is, she is not the Queen of Feminist Comedy – that title does nothing for her or feminism.

When we bestow women with labels connoting ruler-like status, we're limiting the voices of everyone, including the person we're supposedly honouring. With Schumer, we're burdening her with our own expectations and clipping her creative wings by insisting that she abide by a strict list of guidelines. Suddenly, she's on a pedestal, which makes it all too easy to kick her off. Two years ago, she was a stand-up comic who was talking about the things that mattered to her – including, yes, sex – and working out bits that worked and bits that didn't. Today, her every move is analyzed and discussed to excess, with murmurs of "backlash" abounding whenever her name is mentioned. Controversy is considered par for the course upon reaching certain levels of fame, but what it also takes away from is the overarching message that there's room for strong, smart women of all backgrounds in comedy. We're too busy watching one person to realize there are hundreds of others deserving of space, too.

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Schumer knows this. From the earliest episodes of Inside Amy Schumer, she's enlisted friends to appear alongside her, such as Nikki Glaser, who just scored a stand-up special on Netflix, or Vanessa Bayer, who co-stars in Trainwreck. A hierarchy doesn't seem present within her sphere: Queens sit atop a throne, deigning to look down. But in today's comedy world, inclusion trumps everything else.

Like Poehler (who produces Broad City and heads Smart Girls at the Party), Fey (who co-created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Shonda Rhimes (who produces smart shows revolving around independent, interesting women), Schumer has made her world one in which many women are welcome. Does this make her a perfect pop icon? Of course not. But it does prove her understanding that feminist comedy is less about the work of one person than it is about the collaboration of many (just look at her friend-packed sketch "12 Angry Men," which destroyed gender roles and expectations).

Ultimately, what Schumer's success has created is opportunity. Both for her (obviously – especially if Trainwreck is successful) and for all up-and-comers. Considering Schumer is a smart woman whose identity is built on speaking her mind, her rise to fame suggests that audiences are ready for more women to do the same. She decided to work hard and utilize her talent, and now here she is. (Cue Drake's Started From the Bottom.)

Of course, there are realities to face: Non-white, non-cisgender women are muted and marginalized on a regular basis, so there is a responsibility to anyone in the creative field who has a voice and who has reach to clear enough space to bring these women along, too. But there's a difference between responsibility and being touted as the second coming of comedy Jesus.

Schumer has made feminist comedy accessible to viewers who may otherwise have steered away from it. She works, she writes and she performs. But she isn't the Queen or the New Voice – she's a person whose success has earned her a powerful platform that's big enough for many other women to join her on.

A platform isn't a pedestal. Those are too easy to fall from.

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