Sasheer Zamata: "Women Are Fighting for Equal Treatment, Not Superior Treatment"

Sasheer Zamata - H 2015
Courtesy of ACLU

"I hope everyone takes time to think about their privilege."

Sasheer Zamata was recently named ACLU's newest celebrity ambassador on women's rights. The Saturday Night Live comedian speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about her new role.

Zamata said she decided to become an ACLU ambassador because she wanted to work with an organization fighting for the equal treatment of people in the U.S.

One of the challenges the modern day women's rights movement faces, said Zamata in an email exchange, is people outside the movement "misinterpreting its goals so they can refute the need for women's rights."

She added, "Not everyone understands that women are fighting for equal treatment, not superior treatment. Also some people forget that women's rights are human rights. We're not working on an agenda that only benefits women, it benefits everyone."

As part of ACLU's announcement that Zamata was becoming one of their ambassadors, the organization released a video created with Zamata, where she addresses the importance of women's rights.

When asked how comedy can be used as a tool to combat gender equality, Zamata said she thinks it can get more eyes on the issue and get people talking about something whether they agree with the joke or not. "Not everyone will want to read essays on privilege and systemic oppression, but they may want to watch a three minute video on it," she said. "And maybe they'll be inspired to do further research or discuss it with their friends afterward."

"Also comedy is analysis," said Zamata. "All I do as a comedian is analyze society. So, while people are listening, I may as well highlight subjects they may not regularly analyze on their own."

The comedian has a string of feminist role models: Sarah Silverman, Angela Davis, Wanda Sykes, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Nikki Giovanni, Beyoncé, and Nicki Minaj. She said she just started watching the series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and thinks it is "fantastic." Zamata said, "The main character is multi-dimensional and well, crazy, but she isn't a damsel in distress and is very much in control of her actions."

Here's more from THR's Q&A with Zamata:

On the ACLU video (above) she made about privilege:

"I hope everyone takes time to think about their privilege. The other character in the video is a white man, but he's not the only person who benefits from his position in society. I don't want people to watch this video and think I'm saying white men are the only ones with privilege. Most people benefit from some privilege. I'm privileged because I'm able-bodied, young, thin, I have money, I was able to get a college education, etc., and those things give me advantages that a lot of people don't have access to. But as the video points out, even those privileges don’t make me immune to bias or stereotyping. I hope everyone watches the video and thinks about how their lives may be at more of an advantage than others and instead of feeling guilty or defensive about it, use it to be an ally."

On whether she experienced backlash following the ACLU announcement:

"Of course I got backlash, but I don't think it's healthy to focus on it, nor do I want to give any haters the satisfaction of knowing that I saw their negativity. I'm more excited by the people who saw this video and are learning that they can use their privilege for good, instead of feeling guilty about it (or feeling like the world wants them to feel guilty about it). And I'm excited by the people who are sharing the video with others because they think it's a good way to teach, inform and discuss an issue they may not have discussed before. Those are responses I look forward to."

On intersectionality in feminism:

"To be honest, this is a complex term that I have to study further. What I do understand is that we shouldn't lump people into general groups to understand their experiences. Not all women experience the same oppression. If you are a woman who is poor, of color, or has a disability, you are going to be oppressed in different ways than a woman who does not fall into those categories. And when people better understand that, we can better understand how to specialize the help we give to people in those groups."