How To Take Criticism Like a Champ; or, What Would Margaret Cho Do?

Confession time. There are some undeniable facts of life I’ve been, well, denying.

First of all, adulthood is nothing like Friends, Grey’s Anatomy or Sex and the City. It’s sometimes like The Office, but with fewer Jim Halperts and more photocopier malfunctions.

Second of all, Justin Timberlake might not ever make another album. We must accept this.

Finally, not everyone is going to like me. Or you. Or what we have to say, or what we look like, or how loudly we sing along to the Destiny’s Child Pandora station in public. (Just me? Alright then.)

You can’t please everyone. There might be a resounding “duh” echoing back at me, but this basic human truth is sometimes really tough to accept. And it smacked me in the face last week. Amid all the amazing support I received on my shaming article, there were a number of irate, even angry, comments, accusing me of being everything from a liberal (sometimes yes, sometimes no) to a feminazi (a term that, incidentally, makes a great addition to the list of words I wish we wouldn’t throw at women). When I sat down to write the piece, it never even crossed my mind that anyone could take issue with the topic. All I’d meant to convey was my disdain for hateful name-calling and public mockery, especially aimed at females.

But guess what? People have opinions. Strong ones. And it’s their damn right to express them, regardless of how they’ll make you feel. Which can be really sucky for those of us with paper-thin skin, a natural inclination for self-deprecation and an insatiable hunger for peer approval.

No one loves to be criticized (surely, this statement will incite outrage from passionate pro-censure advocates). But when I’m having a tough time coping with critique, I just ask myself, “What Would Margaret Cho Do (W.W.M.C.D.)?”

I’ve been fascinated with Margaret for a long time. Before I even knew the funny lady was born and raised in my native San Francisco and attended my high school, my whole family fell in love with her comedy. I even got to interview her once, but I don’t think my dumbstruck fangirling translated well on the phone. Her stand-up has always been so real and raw, and totally unapologetic. Whether she’s impersonating her parents, detailing her past drug addictions, or launching into a sexually explicit tirade, Margaret can find the funny in anything, and her trademark style commands attention.

But that attention hasn’t always been positive. Margaret’s been through the ringer as far as criticism goes. From school bullies to gossip columnists, everyone seems to have felt entitled to publicly pick apart Margaret’s brain, beauty, and body. And she’s been very open about how much those words have hurt. But she’s also stayed true to herself. And when the time’s been right, she’s fought back.

When Twitter followers were offended by photos of Margaret’s tattooed backside and took the opportunity to ridicule her body, she went off. “I fly my flag of self-esteem for all those who have been told they were ugly and fat and hurt and shamed and violated and abused for the way they look and told time and time again that they were ‘different’ and therefore unlovable,” she wrote in a blog post.

She wrote a lot of other, more colorful words too. She was pissed. And rightfully so. But she didn’t take the criticism lying down and she didn’t internalize it. She pushed the negativity off of her, refusing to let the hateful words infiltrate her cells. That’s awesome.

And Margaret’s not afraid to stand up for others in the face of criticism. When our old pal Karl Lagerfeld felt it his duty to size up Adele’s body, Margaret wasn’t having it. “When you say we are fat, you murder our grace, and we’ve already lost so much to begin with,” she wrote. “We’ve already lost everything, except weight. That we gain steadily, along with self hatred, and all you are doing is adding to our burden, pressing down on the scale with the long toe of your fine, elegantly tassled loafer.” Hell yeah.

I’m sure plenty of people will hate on Margaret and say she’s hostile, or oversensitive or stooping to her critics’ levels by brazenly bashing them. And people will hate on me for being a fan. But there will always be haters, and no matter how hard we all try to fall in line and please the masses, we’ll never be entirely immune to criticism. But what we do with that criticism is totally within our control. And personally, I hope to one day have the guts to cope the Margaret way.

Image via Schema Magazine.

  • Alexandra Coleman

    Love this! And loved your ‘shaming’ article as well. It is possible to stand up for yourself with grace and dignity while still not taking anyone’s bulls—. Thanks for reminding me of that!

  • Danielle Stevenson

    I for one loved your shaming article. It was inspiring. Those who took away from it you being a liberal feminazi and felt the need to label you with those terms are the very type of people the article was aimed at. I guess it hit too close to home for some and the only way they knew how to handle it was to lash out. Another great article. Thanks, u r amazing <3

  • Katy Kelly

    I think this is a great article! And, as a fellow Journalism Graduate Student (University of Nevada, Reno) just over the hill, I appreciate Margaret’s candor, and your shouting her praises!

  • Kelly Roach

    I’ve been facing a lot of criticism in my job recently, and I wish I had the guts to go off like that! Probably not appropriate for the workplace, but I would definitely feel a lot better! I need to stop internalising the criticism and just let the words roll on off me. Great article :)

  • Madison Zraick

    You just inspired me to write about my favorite comedian in a similar manner. Thank you!

  • Lauren Hollaway

    You and Margaret can talk about anything you’d like! I think both this article and your shaming article were great. Keep on Keeping on, just like Margaret does!

  • Julia Jafari

    I’m so proud to have you as a member of my gene pool.

    • Michelle Konstantinovsky

      best comment ever. thanks, cuz. xo

  • Sharon Fletcher Spence

    Great article, very well written. I think Margaret Cho is awesome.

  • Julia Gazdag

    Oh, Karl Lagerfeld. It’s great how he criticizes women’s bodies. That wrinkled, sun-raped, non-vaginal man clearly should be listened to when it comes to women’s bodies, because he designs clothes. Maybe if he designed one for an actual female figure, I’d be more prone to caring what he has to say.

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