Feminism has been sneaking around. Don’t believe me? A recent New York profile of TV host Katie Nolan hailed the “woman bringing a sneaky feminism to Fox sports.” A few days later, the New York Times went long on Amy Schumer’s boisterous feminism, which it characterized as her “sneaky power.” Like Broad City (another purveyor of “sneak-attack feminism”), Schumer’s work is something of a trysting spot for furtive sisterhood; last year in Slate Willa Paskin declared Inside Amy Schumer the “most sneakily feminist show on TV.”
Psst! Do you know what else is “sneakily feminist?” Showtime’s The Affair. Meanwhile the Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal flick Hysteria is “slyly feminist,” as is Pixar’s fable Inside Out(which, according to a separate reviewon Slate, accomplishes a “subtle but surprisingly feminist” swerve). Plus, the show Trophy Wife has bloomed, like some nocturnal desert flower, into “secretly one of the most feminist shows on TV.” Sundance chose the “top ten secretly feminist films” of all time (with Thelma and Louise at the mist-shrouded apex). Spy is “secretly a feminist attack on the patriarchy.” Not even academic books prove immune from such subtlety, secrecy, surprise: In a chapter on Ursula Le Guin’s invented folklore, scholar Jarold Ramsey notes that the “slyly feminist … appropriation of the mystique of ‘Old Man Coyote’ can be illustrated by the beginning of a Kesh myth about a war between bears and humans.”
Let’s read that myth! Once upon a time, a lady Coyote tried to dissuade the King of the Bears from attacking humankind. “We should all live in peace and love each other,” the Coyote pleaded, and “all the while she was talking,” Le Guin writes, “Coyote was stealing Bear’s balls, cutting them off with an obsidian knife she had stolen from the Doctors Lodge, a knife so sharp he never felt it cutting.”
Katy Waldman on that verbal tic of an adjective that must precede the word feminist or feminism. Anyone referring to Amy Schumer as sneakily feminist must be an extreme feminist indeed.