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Sarah Silverman's answer to this question about 'political correctness' was totally unexpected.

A textbook once listed her as the definition of the word 'offensive.'

Sarah Silverman's answer to this question about 'political correctness' was totally unexpected.

Free speech is under attack! Or at least that's what some comedians would have us believe.

It seems like every few weeks, a new comic pops up to go all "kids these days" and decry what they call a culture of political correctness. Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Patton Oswalt are all outspoken critics of this culture, especially when it comes to a comic's haven: the college campus.

That's why when I heard that comedian Sarah Silverman, who has never shied away from being politically incorrect herself, had weighed in on the debate over whether or not political correctness was destroying comedy, I figured it was more of the same.


I was dead wrong.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Silverman tackled the question with amazing nuance.

She began by stating a simple truth: You can't please everyone.

Comedy, like any sort of creative media, is a subjective field. It's inevitable that you'll encounter some people who find your work offensive in ways.

All GIFs from Vanity Fair.

This is a point often raised by comedians who push back against being politically correct. Which is why I was so surprised, and delighted, by where she took the answer next.

Silverman is calling on comedians to "change with the times, to change with new information."

Whaaaaat? She's siding with Team Be A Good Human? Yes! Join us, Sarah! We have cookies!

Silverman touched on one of her own comedy crutches and the evolution that led her away from it: her habit of calling things "gay."

Clinging to that single word to describe something she found boring, annoying, exhausting, or otherwise not her cup of tea is ridiculous, to say the least.

Why was she clinging to that word so tightly, she wondered. And how would it sound years from now?

So she scrubbed that use of "gay" from her vocabulary, and it turns out it wasn't really all that inconvenient.

If calling things "gay" was hurtful to people, why do it? As a comedian, isn't her job to bring joy to others? She knew for sure it wasn't her job to reinforce negative stereotypes about the existence of an entire group of people.

And she decided to make sure her comedy reflected that.

And as for that P.C. college crowd so many comedians seem to fear?

She made a great point there, too:

She's right. Comedians can yell at kids to get off their metaphorical lawns or they can try to understand why the kids are there in the first place. And it's a lesson for all of us: As we grow older, it's important we continue to become aware of the world around us and change with it accordingly.

A static life isn't really much of a life at all.

So what makes this all so surprising coming from Silverman?

Well...

Silverman's career has consisted of riding (and frequently overstepping) the line between edgy and offensive.

She's managed to upset just about every minority and oppressed group to walk the earth. Perhaps her most infamous joke involved the time she did blackface on her Comedy Central show, which was probably (definitely!) ill advised.

I mean, a textbook once listed her as the actual definition of "offensive" (seriously).


Does this mean the world will see a less edgy, gentler Sarah Silverman?

Believe it or not, I kind of hope not, and hear me out.

There are ways to be funny and edgy without being hurtful. I trust Silverman can find that balance if she wants to. One of the things I've always appreciated about her work is her fearlessness. When the risks she takes pay off, they pay off big. Now that she's giving more thought to the effect her words can make (both good and bad), I'm excited to see her prove that you can be an edgy, funny, and yes, politically correct all at once.

Check out her interview with Vanity Fair below:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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