April 11, 2010

I love me a foul-mouthed funny feminist

Filed under: Featured Feminist — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 8:42 pm

If you’ve been following Feminist Fatale as of late, you know that we’re on a continuous quest to replace the vapid, superficial and one-dimensional images of femininity with real girls and women that inspire, provoke, agitate and move us. Guest blogger, Rachel O, chose the fabulous Janeane Garofolo. I must admit, I was stoked that Rachel, who is young enough be my daughter (yeah, I can’t believe it either), chose a woman iconic to many third wavers and Gen Xers such as myself.

Unsurprisingly, I became familiar with her in 1994’s Reality Bites. I was not only smitten but I felt connected and inspired by her character (and subsequently Janeane herself). I identified with her snarky, cynical and critical ways, the ways in which she called out pop culture on its various dysfunctions. She was (and is) liberal and unapologetic. I dug it (and I still do).  It just so happened that 1994 was the same year I took my first class about women, Sociology of Women.

But I don’t hear a lot of women under the age of 35 referencing Janeane. I don’t even know if they know who she is and how insanely cool she is. Rachel knows and she’s here to tell you what she thinks.

Rachel O on Janeane Garafolo:

After watching Hilary Swank portray the famous and groundbreaking feminist, Alice Paul, in Iron Jawed Angels I intended to writing my Featured Feminist post on this brave and revolutionary woman.  It made sense. My major was set; I would pursue Women’s Studies for my BA and Alice Paul is one of the “big” names in feminist history, a woman that helped change the lives of all girls and women to follow.  However, when I started to write I realized I didn’t have much to say about Alice Paul.  Inspiring? Most definitely.  An awesome feminist who I aspire to be?  No doubt. But I found myself unable to identify – her fearlessness, and the impact she had is something I can’t entirely relate to.

So I began thinking, trying to come up with a name that I could write an entire post about.  Wikipedia’s list of current supposed feminists turns up a pretty big amount of names, but when googling a name on the list + the word “feminist” I’m pretty hard pressed to find an interview, a quote wherein the actress, director, producer, TV star, etc. is willing to declare themselves as such.  And people who I simply assumed would readily admit they’re a member of the group, proved me wrong.

So.  A couple weeks ago I watched Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion for the first time in a few years.  As I watched foul-mouthed, so-black-it’s-almost-blue haired Heather Mooney step up to the Jaguar dealership counter, I realized – Janeane Garofalo.  Janeane Garofalo is a self-proclaimed liberal, feminist, atheist.  When I watch her (even in some terrible movies), read her interviews and hear her speak, I want to run out, dye my hair black and buy some cat-eye frames.

I was surprised to learn Janeane wasn’t always a liberal or a feminist.  She was raised conservative, right wing, Republican, Catholic.  It wasn’t until she was in college that her worldview broadened, she began to read, study current issues on her own, and did a 180 on her social and political views.  She began doing stand-up in the 1980s, which eventually led her to Hollywood.  Her film career reached its peak in the 90’s – where she starred in Reality Bites, The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, and 200 Cigarettes.  The roles she’s taken on and been offered in the past ten years have declined both in quantity and quality.  She admitted to being a sell-out in a recent interview, just to achieve the limited work she receives.

Janeane has never been one to back down or shy away from making her true feelings on social and political issues known, and admitted her outspoken behavior has cost her work.  She makes declarations that I rarely hear in Hollywood.  While doing stand-up, she proclaimed to an audience:

“Like many women in this room, I truly believe myself to be the fattest person to ever walk the face of the earth.  Alright?  And…as that holds true I do not deserve real love.  But…I’m not completely responsible for that, that’s not all my fault…the media has mindfucked me as they have mindfucked you, and when I spell fuck it’s spelled with a PH, so don’t anybody get all up in arms.  You know, when you picked up the newspaper, is it news to you about Delta Burke’s yo-yo dieting or Roseanne Barr’s weight gain?  Is that news?   Do you give a shit?  Alright, and I would keep my mouth shut, if I just read one story about Charles Durning, Ned Beatty, Brian Dennehy, Jack Nicholson, Rutger Hauer: have you seen him lately?  John Goodman, who had to lose weight to play the Babe, by the way, P.S.  Nobody seems to think that’s a big deal, alright? But if you’re a woman, oh God Forbid, okay?”

Her most recent wave of press came when she accepted a co-starring role on 24.  It was slightly controversial, she told her interviewers, because the show had been originally created by someone from the right wing, and the show itself exemplified many of the political issues she worked to fight against, such as torture.  She currently resides in New York, spending most of her time doing stand up.  She still gives interviews, and speaks about politics to a variety of platforms, everything from Real Time With Bill Maher to Fox News.

I’ve listened to Janeane complain about everything – from politics, to society’s view of women comics, to modeling and the impact it’s had on eating disorders in women.  She doesn’t fear labels, and even told an audience, while ranting about high fashion, “I will not back down on this, I don’t care how unlikeable it makes me seem to you, I hate it.”  She does it all – being a smart, informed feminist, who encourages others to educate themselves, while being a hilarious comedian, and fantastic actress.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some new frames to find, and a box of hair dye to buy.


  1. YES!! YES!! And, YES!! I’m a little bit in love with JG 🙂

    Comment by Lani — April 11, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

  2. I LOVE Janeane a Huge amount!

    Comment by tarbo — April 12, 2010 @ 7:05 am

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