Learn from Smart Women

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A wave of déjà vu washed over me while watching Master of None.  I immediately noticed that the Netflix Original series features a fair amount of recycled material from Ansari’s most recent stand-up special, ‘Live at Madison Square Garden.’  Fortunately, this did not capsize my viewing experience.  Most of the topics covered in ‘Madison Square’ deserved greater attention than is afforded in a 45-minute set.  So even though I recognized the main beats from the seventh episode, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ – namely Rachel’s anecdote about being forced to hide in a pet store to escape a man following her and the entire opening sequence at the bar with Diana, I remained completely engaged.  The episode portrays everyday sexism with a laser-like focus, and it doesn’t skip a beat.  From subtler incidents to blatant scenes, Master of None’s depiction of gender-based discrimination is spot-on. 


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Once the episode ended, I pressed pause.  Still elbow-deep in a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, I retracted my arm, peeled my lethargic body off of the couch and stood up for the first time in my several-hour binge-watching session.  I paced up and down the halls hoping that one of my roommates might respond to my shouts, ‘Who has seen Master of None?  Show yourselves!  We need to talk!’  When that returned no results, I then began sending mass texts.  I finally saw a portrayal of gender discrimination that I could identify with. 

I sank back into the couch, pressed play and let the credits roll.  It was then that I discovered that co-creators Ansari and Alan Yang were not responsible for the episode.  Instead, the creative authority was given to a team of three women: teleplay writers Sarah Peters and Zoe Jarman, and director Lynn Shelton (She also directed Mark Duplass’ indie flick, Your Sister’s Sister.  She has the Midas touch, everything she directs turns to gold.).  My appreciation for the show grew tenfold upon learning this.  As a narrative tackling the marginalization that women continue to face, it’s only fitting that a woman should be the one to tell it.  It made me think, maybe this is an excellent example of how men factor into modern feminism.

Master of None is a show carried by a male protagonist, predominantly created by men, and uses brutal honesty to depict how ridiculous it is that in 2015, women are still being treated as subordinate playthings.  In order to raise awareness and hopefully affect change, it’s necessary to address this social issue via the largest forums available.  A television show, particularly one that is guaranteed high viewership due to Ansari’s celebrity, is an incredibly powerful forum.  I applaud Ansari and Yang for using their show as a platform for advocating change.  And it seems that Peters, Jarman and Shelton are equally as supportive.  Dev’s final monologue in the episode functions as both a thank you and a simple request of men everywhere.  It is a thank you to the show’s creators for choosing to listen to these stories, and believing others should too.  And it is a request to other men to do the same. 


No means no, not try harder.  No is a final answer.


Men will never know what it's like to be a woman, and that’s perfectly okay, but positive change can start with the simple things.  Listen when we talk.  We have so much we want to tell you.  Buying us a drink does not mean you bought our company.  No means no, not try harder.  No is a final answer.  Our existence is more meaningful than being eye-candy.  Believe us when we tell you there are, as Rachel says, ‘tons of little things’ that happen to us on a daily basis that you will never have to deal with. 

Be our ally, not our enemy.  Open your ears and your heart, and hold the megaphone up for us so that our voices can be a little bit louder.  Sure, it won’t end sexism.  But it’s a good place to start. 


Mellie Nolen studies Theatre and Narrative Studies at the University of Southern California.  She currently costars with her roommates in a Funny or Die University Web Series called White Girl Code.  She has recently entered a polygamous relationship with her couch and a bowl of pesto penne.  She is happy to share that things are going very well.  Learn more about Mellie on website MellieNolen.com


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