If you are to accept any advice throughout your entire life, let it be this: “Find one thing you care about a lot and then fucking go for it.”
These words of wisdom, and many more, were offered by comedian, actress, and writer Chelsea Handler at “Get With The Times: Fearlessly Forward with Chelsea Handler” last Thursday night in the Goldstein Auditorium.
The conversation between the actress and investigative reporter for The New York Times, Megan Twohey, covered a range of topics from political activism to marijuana legalization to Handler’s two-month fling with 50 Cent, which she called “the proudest moment of her career.”
Sexual harassment was another main topic of discussion, considering Megan Twohey—as well as journalist Jodi Kantor—is responsible for breaking the story of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged abuse toward dozens of women over decades. The story marked the beginning of the revolutionary #MeToo movement.
When asked if she has ever been a victim of sexual harassment, Handler said she has never been faced with any inappropriate behavior from men that she is aware of, but she does not see this as a reflection of her being stronger or braver than other women who have. Instead, she was just one of the lucky ones, she says. Issues of sexual misconduct plague the entire nation; Handler calls the exposing and unfolding of the wrongdoing of sexual predators a “referendum” of the election of President Donald Trump.
The event concluded with a Q&A session between Syracuse students, Handler and Twohey. While the majority of the conversation was progressive and left-leaning, Handler encouraged one Trump supporter in the crowd, decked out in red “Make American Great Again” gear, to come up to the microphone and ask a question.
Handler believes that having a conversation with someone who has polarizing views from her own is something that she has “really had to work hard at.” People do have opposing views and it’s important to find common ground. According to Handler, the lack of conversation is “what led us here,” to an undoubtedly politically divided nation, in the first place. Here’s how their conversation went:
Student: If there was actually a wage gap, wouldn’t only women be hired because men would be too expensive to hire and businesses are looking to save money, so wouldn’t they only hire women?
Handler: Well, the wage gap—like equity—would mean that men and women get paid the same, so men wouldn’t be more expensive.
Student: Do you mind repeating that one more time?
Handler: Yes, men and women would make the same wage. That’s equity. They would have equal pay—so, say a man gets paid 50 grand; a woman gets paid 50 grand for the same job. Men don’t become more expensive. You actually balance out the playing field.
Student: But my question is that you’re saying that women get paid less. So, if they get paid less right now, wouldn’t they be the ones hired, because people want to pay cheaper? People who are bosses, people who are in business, it’s too expensive. If they wanted to find a way to save money, they would only hire women.
Handler: Or immigrants, because apparently they steal all our jobs too.
The rest of the Q&A session, while less politically stimulating, focused on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, women in government positions, and how young people can make a change in their community:
Student: You [Twohey] were the leader and you broke the story on the Weinstein scandal. It was revolutionary and really started a revolution all around the world. I was wondering if you ever felt that you were unprepared for that responsibility or that you felt that responsibility may be too big for you?
Twohey: That’s an interesting question and what I can tell is that, as an investigative reporter at The New York Times, I’m a little bit scared of my job every single day. When I was first starting out as a journalist, I had a great mentor who actually gave me that piece of advice. He said, “If you’re not a little nervous going to work every day, then you should get a new job.” Because it’s only with that sort of bubbling nervousness and a little bit of fear that, at least in my case, I’m propelled to do the hard work that’s required to investigate wrongdoing and do investigations of powerful figures like Harvey Weinstein.
I think we also knew because with a story like that…over months my reporting partner and I had been collecting the experiences—horrific experiences—of women who said they had been sexually harassed and abused and worse by him, and once we started to carry that knowledge around with us, we were terrified at the prospect of failing…So, absolutely. We really saw it as a grave responsibility that we took so seriously and had to push through some fear in the process.
Student 2: What has been the experience for you [Handler] transitioning from comedic spotlight to a more political spotlight?
Handler: For me, it’s just always trying to be focused about what I care about and to be authentic and to not fake something…I want to really put all my effort into getting as many women elected, not just because they’re women. There are many male candidates that I support too…It’s about going out and campaigning for people. It’s about showing up for people. It’s about getting people registered to vote, about getting young people galvanized, getting Latino people galvanized for the midterms…We can get rid of people like Ted Cruz who don’t give a shit about anybody…Hopefully, I’ll be able to have made some sort of small contribution when this time comes. And, yeah, I will go back to doing T.V. stuff, but it’s just not my priority right now.
Student 3: I was wondering if you [Handler] have any advice for young people who are planning on making a difference, to cause change.
Handler: Yeah, I mean, I think everyone in this generation has been affected by shootings in schools. I think that’s an issue that people give a shit about. Don’t you want our children to be protected? That’s something that I think this generation is going to be galvanized because of, because everyone’s been affected in this country, by one way or another…I think people may have gotten a little bit lazy after Obama because we didn’t have to worry about stuff, or women didn’t have to worry about their rights being taken away. So, I have a lot of faith in young people. I have a lot more faith in young people than I do in my own generation.
Student 4: How do you [Handler] think the country would be different if more women were elected into office?
Handler: I think women and guns is a perfect example. I think women are just smarter than men in terms of compassion. What parent—How can Paul Ryan sit there with children and say it’s not the time to discuss gun reform? How can any parent—I don’t like kids! But how can any parent be okay with that? How can any citizen be okay or suggest that teachers, who are already taking on one of the most noble professions that you could do…How could they suggest that on top of that we should be carrying weapons? The NRA wins every single time and women are not, generally, going to be taking money from the NRA. So, that’s one reason.
Student 5: You’ve [Handler] talked a lot tonight about how you’ve been engaging women in the past year-and-a-half, two years. How are you going to continue to encourage young women, especially, to be engaged politically after the Trump era?
Handler: Well, let’s hope that ends sooner than we think. But, I don’t know the answer to that. I just know I’m just doing whatever my instincts are telling me to do. I feel really driven by this time and I have the platform to be able to do something. So, I’d like to contribute. You know, I don’t know if this is helping. Maybe it’s helping me deal with the situation? But I think this movement that’s happening, both movements this year…there is something happening and as long as we keep that going, I think we will see permanent change. Maybe not as fast as we want it but we at least know how strong we are together. And when women have that power, then there’s no need to fear each other. We’re together.
*Photo curtesy of University Union