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Nice Ladies

I’m not a nice lady. I express my (many) opinions loudly, I’ve perfected the sarcastic comment as an art form, and I’m the proud owner of both a copper IUD and a sweatshirt that reads “I’ve got 99 problems and white heteronormative patriarchy is basically all of them.” I’m in good company: there’s an established tradition of funny Jewish women who are not nice ladies—Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner...to name a few. I’d go as far as to say that most female comedians, regardless of background, are not nice ladies.

Michelle Wolf (a non-Jewish comedian) is definitely not a nice lady. Don’t be fooled by the title of her debut comedy special on HBO, “Nice Lady;” she is anything but. How do I know this? Well, mostly because she says “I’m not a nice lady” in her special. I know, I’m doing some serious investigative work here.

So, why isn’t Michelle Wolf a nice lady? It’s because––don’t be too shocked by this–– she prioritizes herself and her career over having a relationship and a family. I know … monster! Her exact words are, “I don’t want to be in a relationship for the same reason I don’t want a kid. I don’t want anything in my life to be more important than me. And maybe that’s selfish and mean but the jig is up. I am not a nice lady.”

I know at this point some of you might be thinking, “What is a nice lady?” Now, I can’t speak for Wolf, but I’m going to venture a guess at what she means by this. I think a “nice lady” is a woman who always puts others’ needs ahead of her own, who doesn’t want to ruffle too many feathers, and who’s okay with not being in charge. We could add to this list, but you get the idea. Perhaps the stereotypical (and largely false) image of a 1950s housewife is a good example of a “nice lady.” I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a “nice lady,” but, for Wolf, “nice ladies” aren’t typically women who get shit done.

Taking it a step further, a “nice lady” is the epitome of what the patriarchy wants women to be: pleasant, subservient (to men), unambitious, quiet, and agreeable. This is a model of femininity that’s designed to disempower women. Thus, a “nice lady” couldn’t be president––and that’s bullshit.

I have no interest in being a “nice lady,” and, I don’t think I have to worry. I mean, I just used the word, “patriarchy.” I think I’m a lost cause.

Besides not being a “nice lady,” Michelle Wolf is also not Jewish. After a failed internet search I messaged her on Instagram, and she wrote back confirming that she is, in fact, not Jewish! I’m not really going anywhere with this—I just think it’s cool that I messaged Michelle Wolf on Instagram and she actually wrote back to me. I know, my millennial is showing.

Speaking of Instagram, one of Wolf’s complaints about feminism today is that we’re trying to do too many things at once. She comments that some women want to focus on being in charge of more stuff, while others are like, “we want to free the nipple on Instagram.” She speaks to the fact that it’s unfair that men can show their nipples on Instagram and women can’t, while also hinting that there’s probably more important work to be done.

Wolf also makes quick work of the idea that women can “have it all.” While discussing the fact that she doesn’t want to have children because she wants a career, she says people will tell her: “You don’t have to choose, you can have it all. Women can have it all.”

I can’t possibly do justice to Wolf’s response to this (you’ll just have to watch the special!), but she quickly and brutally lists many of the reasons why women can’t “have it all.” Maybe this seems harsh, but remember, Michelle Wolf is not a “nice lady.” Now, I know many women who have both children and successful careers, but I think we have to acknowledge that this is typically much harder for women than it is for men, and the truth of the matter is–for many women–it’s simply not possible.

There’s so much more to this special, but I can’t cover it all in one blog post. Michelle Wolf has a lot of opinions about a lot of things—again, SHE IS NOT A “NICE LADY!!!”—so you’ll just have to watch it yourself to hear what she thinks about things like periods, men who claim to make decisions in the interest of “protecting women,” pregnancy, women’s bathrooms, and the environment.

I keep saying that Michelle Wolf is not a “nice lady,” so, what is she? I think I’m gonna go with what I see as the antithesis of a “nice lady”—a “nasty woman.”

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More on: Television, Comedy,
Michelle Wolf (2016)
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Image of comedian Michelle Wolf doing standup in 2016.
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How to cite this page

Klebe, Larisa. "Nice Ladies." 20 December 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 15, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/nice-ladies>.

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