Last summer, I relocated to Nebraska from New Jersey for a job opportunity. After road tripping across the country following my college graduation, I wanted to explore the Midwest. Ever since, I’ve found that my East Coast personality clashes with Nebraska natives. Sometimes, I find myself self-censoring my personality to survive in this new environment.
In December, Femsplain published my essay about finding progressive voices in a historically conservative region, packed with “30 Rock” references. Primarily, my message hoped to reach out to silenced progressives. Instead, it reached out to the oppressor. A few hours later, the site tweeted a sentence-long excerpt from my story: “I now live in a place where I can’t say Larry the Cable Guy’s name in vain.”
When I was living in the countryside outside of Lincoln, Neb., I made a joke about Larry the Cable Guy. I didn’t know the comedian lived nearby, nor that he was a Nebraska native. No one laughed. In fact, the room gave me confused, blank stares. There was a certain camaraderie I wasn’t involved with. From that moment on, I knew it wasn’t appropriate to joke about this particular comedian.
Within minutes of my story being published, @GitRDoneLarry (Larry’s verified Twitter account) found the story and replied to Femsplain’s original tweet. In several tweets, (verbatim) he said: “lol. So everything you see and disagree with is propeganda? Your the perfect progressive. Your article is garbage. you move to a state with low unemployment low crime rates and a populace and a friendly populace but to you were all back ass because our political views different from yours! When you grow up rewrite it. and don’t correct my grammar or it was (too) I got shaky thumbs.”
Although I didn’t respond to him directly, I analyzed feedback for a moment. It seemed he read on long enough to read my encounters with religious propaganda, but clearly, not long enough to understand the purpose of my piece. On the other hand, maybe he did read it and refused to accept my point of view. Either way, this interaction illustrated my point precisely. This is what silences progressives, or anyone else sharing a different voice than the popular one. This particularly happens to women in male-dominated spaces.
Larry the Cable Guy alone represents the obstacle women in comedy face. His humor coincides with sexism and racism, alongside other oppressive -isms and -phobias. Even if you’re not on stage, this humor hurts women in the audience. While comedy has the power to perpetuate oppression, it also has the ability to reverse it. I turn to comedians like Aziz Ansari and Jessica Williams to break down stereotypes and challenge societal norms.
Fortunately, Larry the Cable Guy isn’t the voice of the majority, even here in Nebraska. I’ve met many, if not all, local friends through progressive communities, whether it be a women’s organization, progressive politics, vegan community, and even comedic outlets. I stand with women comedians when I say, I refuse to be silenced.