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Margaret Cho

Event Report: Margaret Cho

District 202 Benefit
Margaret Cho
Saturday February 17, 2007
8:00 PM
Part of the Alphabet Soup Conference
At Northrop Auditorium, U of M campus

Margaret Cho held a benefit for District 202, a local GLBT homeless youth center, on Saturday, February 17th. The performance was part of the Alphabet Soup Conference hosted by the University of Minnesota, specifically the QSCC and GLBT Programs Office. Northrop Auditorium was filled with eager fans, a large majority being student conference attendees.

The opening act was a transgender/queer comedian who spoke about being transgender and coming out along with the difficulties and challenges of transitioning. This was interesting to me because Margaret Cho has always been GLBT friendly, but has never specifically addressed any issues of gender and specifically transgender issues. The mere act of slating a transgendered person to open for her impressed me. One of the most interesting things about Cho is that she doesn’t identify or label her sexuality yet she is seen as an ally and a person directly within the community. Her unspoken refusal to categorize her identity is incredibly interesting and subconsciously aligns itself with the tenets of queer theory.

As an outspoken Korean, sexual, real-bodied immigrant woman, Cho addresses a wide-range of stereotypes and norms in her comedy acts. Cho questions why things are the way they are and states how she wants the world to be. She is also, however, forthcoming about her conditioning and how she sometimes succumbs to society and “norms? or expectations. The way Cho reveals her vulnerabilities makes her relatable and funny. For example, Cho spoke about her experience fad dieting, trying to lose weight. One of the diets she was on only allowed her to eat a certain vegetable, nothing else. Subsequently, she defecated in her car in a traffic jam. She explains that she was so preoccupied with becoming thin that she was now paying for it by sitting in a pile of shit. She also creates a safe space to think about our own relationships with these different issues and to question them but also not feel guilty for being human and following norms.

How she identifies as an ally with all issues seems like a “feminist, queer, intersectional analysis? of society and expected norms within daily life and identification. She challenges labels in all of their forms. She also makes fun of herself and what she knows, she picks it apart so we understand clearly and she’s not academic or pretentious, she’s relatable and lewd but compassionate.

Margaret Cho is an activist without buying into the activist culture. She does so much work without acknowledging it and without manipulative rhetoric or talking down to people. She isn’t selling anything; she’s just speaking her mind and views.

Here are some of the notes I took about the broad range of issues she discussed:

• racism
Specifically Asian stereotypes and Immigration issues, racism in entertainment industry and media
• sexism
Body image, eating disorders, not being oppressed by males, independence in straight relationship, strong sexual power within relationships- esp. with men but also talking about how she’s conditioned to, pro-choice
• homophobia
Gay marriage, coming out to parents, stereotypes of GLB community, unspoken pro-queer message – she doesn’t identify or label her sexuality
• sexuality
free expression without labeling or condemning, masturbation, sex toys- pleasing yourself, makes the taboo sounds natural, extremely GLBT friendly, she doesn’t talk about her sexuality – she’s an ally but she’s in it – a fight everyone should be fighting,
• political correctness
through language, shock factor with no apologies, states her views clearly, really opens discussion, anti-Bush, so many celebrities have their PR in mind (how it comes off) and she is an outspoken critic of everything – the Gwen Stefani example, she doesn’t hold back and doesn’t apologize for having a voice and an opinion
• religion and conservatives
When talks about Christians she talks about all Christians – but it is understood that she’s talking about fundamentalist Christians
• media
What’s happening now and deconstructs it, encourages people to question representation – esp. racial, sexual, body image and GLBT representation
• minority image
Asian, body weight has fluxuated, identifies with gay and straight communities – identifies with both binaries which ultimately destroys the binary – without championing one or the other, it’s not a war between the two, immigrant family, she’s forty, parents speak Korean, challenges of assimilation and cultural expectations, she’s married but still she can’t be read clearly, low-middle class family, she brings San Francisco culture into her comedy – where she is from effects her outlook