April 27, 2017
Karmenife Paulino, a comedian who utilizes feminism and women’s issues in her stand-up, performed in the Sadove Student Center living room this past Thursday, April 20. The twenty two year-old graduate from Wesleyan University currently resides in New York City and is most recognized for her controversial photography project titled “Reclamation.”
The project was an attempt at healing from her freshman year in college when she was raped in the basement of a fraternity house. The series of photos depict Paulino, dressed as a dominatrix, in and around fraternity houses on Wesleyan’s campus, dominating models donning collars, gags and frat tanks with “FRAT FILTH” spelled out in bold letters. The attempt to regain power in spaces she felt powerless in provides a bold but powerful message that challenges a myriad of social constructs, including female sexuality being viewed as shameful or unclean.
This unapologetic attitude toward tackling social issues translated directly into her stand-up comedy.
Although Paulino’s performance was undoubtedly comedic, it did not fit the standard mold of “stand-up” for a variety of reasons. She began her act by pointing out the flashcards that she carried during her performance, joking that although most comedians do not use flash cards, the audience did not come to see most comedians; they came to see her. This attitude, celebrating the unique individual, carried throughout the performance.
Comedians have more leeway to discuss irreverent topics in lewd ways. Oftentimes, comedians use this freedom to ignore “political correctness,” sometimes even reinforcing negative gender or racial stereotypes, thus harming marginalized groups even more by normalizing racism and sexism.
Paulino, on the other hand, challenged gender and racial stereotypes, confronting society’s injustices via the same platform that some use to reinforce the problems of today.
The comedian did not hold punches along the way either, making jokes about everything from Hillary Clinton’s whiteness by comparing it to the recent hit movie, Get Out, to the importance of normalizing female body hair and the struggles of bikini waxing.
Paulino also did not hesitate to discuss more serious topics in a relatively serious manner, which most comedians would shy away from.
One serious topic she tackled was the issue of strife between white women and women of color, a sensitive and uncomfortable subject for many on our campus.
At first, I was surprised that she decided to discuss the topic. She later addressed the importance of not being afraid to make others uncomfortable by talking about injustice and oppression. After realizing that a lot of social constructs surrounding what people should and should not say stems from avoiding uncomfortable topics, all the bold topics she tackled that I had been surprised by suddenly made sense.
Paulino spent a good amount of time speaking on rape culture and consent on college campuses, as to be expected by her past projects. This was the most serious tone that she took throughout her performance. Considering the topic, however, I felt the tone appropriate. She even announced that if the talk was too much for anyone, she would not be offended if they stepped out. In doing this, she reminded the audience that rape survivors are sometimes deeply affected by the discussion of the topic. She also validated the emotions of those who might be personally affected by rape.
Overall, Paulino’s performance was enjoyable, enlightening and thought-provoking all at the same time. She represents the new generation of people who are unwilling to simply accept the social structures that we were born into, and she does so by unapologetically confronting social injustices through humor relatable to those who are marginalized and humor that is enlightening for those who might not be. Even the way she carried and dressed herself exuded confidence and encouraged individuality in a way that was refreshing and encouraging. Her revolutionary humor will hopefully soon propel her into success on a large scale.