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Education

​Comedian tackles modern social issues


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Feb. 07, 2016 - 7:55 AM

​Comedian tackles modern social issues

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Sam Killermann is an advocate for social rights. He wrote “The Social Justice Advo- cate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender,” and is the co-creator of the Safe Zone Project.

– By Kate Croxton

Most people would not think to use comedy and casual conversation to discuss intense dialogues about diversity and social justice, especially gender and the oppression of it. For Sam Killermann, it is not only a worldwide problem that needs to be addressed, but it is also a personal struggle he has faced almost his entire life. He discussed these issues and potential ways of overcoming them in his show 'It's Pronounced Metrosexual.'

Sam, a stand-up comedian and social justice advocate, used funny stories from his life to illustrate the components of the cycle of oppression, focusing on the delicate balance between individual identity, group identity and oversharing embarrassing personal experiences. He started his show by exclaiming 'I'm not gay,' which relaxed the atmosphere and relieved some anticipated tension from the audience.

'I use comedy because these conversations can be really intense, and they stress people out, and when we're stressed, we're not learning,' explained Sam. 'The comedy allows them to de-stress a little bit so they can learn. I use comedy to make the message a little bit more palatable to remove the stress from it.'

The entirety of Sam's show composed of anecdotes about either his childhood, such as family dares and imaginary friendships, to people confusing him as being gay throughout college. Once a college girlfriend mistook him for being gay and used some harsh stereotypes against him, Sam began learning about gender, gender expression and gender identity.

'We all have a gender, we all have a sexuality, we all have a race and every other dimension of identity that we're talking about and talking about undoing oppression,' said Sam. 'What we're doing is working against or working to dismantle a system that is hurting all of us in different ways.'

A large part of Sam's discussion revolved around the cycle of oppression, which deals with how stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, oppression and internal oppression lead to the eventual oppression of certain people or their beliefs. Sam also discussed how positive standards for stereotypes can be just as harmful as negative ones because they are impossible to meet.

'Gender is one of the most easily recognized sources of oppression,' explained Sam. 'There is so much oppression centered on gender and now so many people think we're past it, and we're not. We haven't challenged this idea that it's not healthy to segregate based on gender or to challenge the idea of gender.'

By this point in the show, Sam then discussed the difference between the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule states 'Do unto others as you would have done onto you.' He urged people to disregard this since it calls for a person to treat someone the way the first person would want to be treated. This desire is ultimately selfish and not how the other person would necessarily wanted to be treated, per se. Instead, Sam asks that people follow the Platinum Rule, which states 'Do unto others as they would have others do unto them.' In contrast, this asks for people to treat others exactly how they would want to be treated instead of how the original person would want. Sam reminded us that everyone has different ways in which they want to be handled and we should be more aware of these wishes.

'Help make people feel unashamed of who they are,' urged Sam. 'Choose not to act on snap judgments. You can have a genuine lifesaving impact on people and even yourself. Care for one another.'

By the end of the discussion, Sam hoped that everyone takes away some lessons from his messages and urgings.

'One goal I hope people retain is to challenge themselves not to make assumptions and to take a leap of faith,' explained Sam. 'They're taking this leap of faith, and one of the big goals is to hope people will challenge the assumptions they make about other people in their lives in a meaningful way.

'I hope they also have a better understanding of oppression and the cycle of oppression,' continued Sam. 'I really do hope that folks after this show are better to other people. In pushing against harmful ideas of gender or harmful ideas of sexuality, I'm hopefully creating space where others are able to feel more healthy or more understood,' Sam explained. 'I'm also, in turn, advocating for a world where I can feel more healthy and more understood.'