How do I review something that is so near and dear to my heart? How can I write about something that to me seems to be a new kind of Bible or a self-help book for the “I’m-not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman” college girl? How do I critique a book that causes its readers to look at themselves in the mirror and have a new outlook on life? How do I describe 329 pages of laughter, tears, introspection, more laughter, and love letters to Tina Fey? It is with these questions in mind that I attempt to describe Yes Please, a book by the incomparable Amy Meredith Poehler.
In the long tradition of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, and Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Yes Please is part memoir, part ode to feminism. But it is also something that the other books are not: an inspiration guide to life. Poehler’s inspirational messages have already spawned countless memes, a web-show for girls called, as well as an empowering persona.
The media portrays women as sex symbols, solely used for the purpose of pleasing men. Young girls used to have role models like the innocent Hilary Duff/Lizzie McGuire to look up to. Hilary Duff did not stray from the path and change herself for the purpose of showing society that she had something inappropriate to prove **cough cough Miley Cyrus cough cough**. Are the female role models in our society supposed to be Nicki Minaj and her “anaconda?” Are these girls learning that they can only be of use to society by waving their bare behinds at a camera? Poehler proves otherwise. Young girls can learn how to be smart and independent women who make substantial contributions to society without the need to depend on men.
Comedy is a field that appears sexist. Despite this notion, Tina Fey writes in Bossypants that the difference between men and women in comedy is men and women writers. She says that as children and adults, men and women understand different social norms and experience different processes of growing up. However, despite the difference in experience, women like Fey and Poehler show that they can hold their own in a room full of testosterone, something that the women of today need to understand.
Poehler provides a memorable piece of advice: “girls, if boys say something that’s not funny, you don’t have to laugh.” I believe that these are the values that need to be taught to the young women of America. There is no written law that dictates, “men are superior to women.” In a world where it seems only the so-called “radical feminists” have argued against this notion, we finally have strong women in pop culture to look up to and who hold their own against men. Poehler is a divorced working mother of two in addition to being a comedy icon in her own right, and is still well respected in the business.
By reading Poehler’s book, women and young girls can learn that being a woman is not just about periods and relationships. In fact, Yes Please DOES NOT CONTAIN A FIRST PERIOD STORY. If that doesn’t say something about how society has evolved, I don’t know what does. Poehler’s book is broken up into sections with pieces of advice that carry you through with funny pictures of Poehler being herself. Part One is entitled, “Say whatever you want.” Part Two is entitled, “Do whatever you like.” One section is called, “Like who likes you.” Part Three is entitled, “Be whoever you are.” And my personal favorite is, “No one looks stupid when they are having fun.”
I had the opportunity to be on Poehler’s web show Smart Girls at the Party when I was thirteen. I was an awkward seventh grader with braces. I didn’t like my hair because it frizzed all the time and I had just gotten over the fateful “bangs” stage. I went to a studio to filmed the interview portion. The interview was really fun to do and and before long I started to loosen up. Each segment ended with these words, “one, two, three, DANCE PARTY!” and the whole crew would get up and start dancing. I was MORTIFIED. I was way too embarrassed to dance alongside people I didn’t know. This was completely unlike me, the self proclaimed Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Queen of 2009. I never wanted to be late for a party and was always the first one on the dance floor. But this time was different.
A year went by, then another year. Then, one day in the summer of 2010, my brother told me the video was ready. I didn’t want to see it. I was going into 9th grade, I was ready to be a high schooler. The braces had come off and the hair had deflated (for the most part). I was ready to move to a new school and take on new challenges and make new friends. As I watched the video for the first time, I couldn’t help but think why I hadn’t been happy having a dance party with Poehler. It was because I thought I looked stupid. I was so ashamed, I didn’t show this video to a single soul.
But reading Poehler’s book, “No one looks stupid when they are having fun” taught me about self-confidence. It taught me that no matter what Poehler is doing on screen whether it is impersonating Michael Jackson, baby Christopher Walken or even a one legged model who farts when she walks, Poehler exudes genuine happiness and commits to the act 100 percent. We can all learn a lesson through this and walk through life not being ashamed of having fun with our lives, no matter how stupid it may seem to us.
A year after I had shot the web show, I went to my family friend’s Bat Mitzvah knowing that Poehler was going to be there. It was through this friend’s dad that I got to be on the show in the first place. I saw Amy from across the room and I did not think in a million years that she would remember me. I hesitantly went up to her and said, “Hi, I’m Anna and I was on your show—.” All of a sudden she interrupted me and said with a big smile on her face, “Anna!” and gave me a big hug. She is the real deal.