I’ve shared so many “think pieces” on sexual assault/harassment/misogyny in comedy that my fingers hurt. I’ve needed a few days to process the possible reality that just maybe male actions could begin to have *gasp* consequences. But mostly I’ve had to come to terms with my own enabling behavior when it comes to misogyny in comedy. For a woman who has written a blog dissertation about being a woman in comedy it’s appalling to me how much I have tolerated.
Comedy is where I learned that the rage and hatred of women is real. That we are in danger, spiritually, if not physically (though, apparently that, too). The abuse I’ve withstood has been relegated to what I’ve sat and listened to. I’ve sat in mics where men told jokes about beating up prostitutes, abusing their girlfriends with a curling iron, yeast infections, how women talk too much in movies (not in theaters, AS ACTORS IN THE ACTUAL MOVIE), and my favorite, how women can’t be friends with each other. (If that were true, all women would be dead). I have ended up outside of shows in tears or in a rage. I wanted to be tough. A “real comic” (whatever that is). But I gave that charade up after my mom died. No woman can or should tolerate the open season hate and misogyny that comedy delivers to women. And, in my opinion, no woman who toughs it out is “winning.”
But I do have a shared responsibility in this dynamic, and not because I choose to be in comedy. Strangely, I have not always severed connection with guys who tell misogynist jokes. I think some sick part of me felt sorry for them. The same part of me that would like to “forgive” Louis CK’s thinly veiled last-stand-at-masturbation-disguised-as-an-apology. (I have never been assaulted by an apology before). I sometimes joke that misogynist comics don’t support my “heroine’s journey”…unless they gives me stage time..in which case: “Under his eye…under his eyes” *eyes cast down*(It’s a “Handmaid’s Tale” reference, which I think it’s funny, but it doesn’t do great on stage…).
I don’t have any good reason for not calling out or confronting misogynist comics more. Sometimes they were “nice” off stage, even supportive. I told myself that their jokes were like a stream of bad blood that needs to be exorcised. I have the same relationship with male friends whose frustration with their last girlfriend goes a little too far, and I have to tell myself, this is the same guy who supports me and listens to me. It’s not always so clear who the enemy is, if there is one. We all absorb the poison of misogyny, to some degree.
One night I sat at an intimate mic when a “comedy friend” on stage made a joke about how women aren’t friends with each other. I sat there, amongst my female comedy friends, all gorgeous and hilarious and said aloud, “That’s simply not true.” It just came out of my mouth. I couldn’t help it. This did not go over well, as it is assumed that other comics, especially women, should sit silently because somehow a constitutional law that protects individuals from being sued or imprisoned by the government applies to an audience member at a comedy show. After that, I started speaking my mind more at mics. I became rude, a bad comedy person, “not a real comic.” Who cares? I will always be a woman first. And having a voice helps me. Why tolerate all the horror of comedy if you’re going to stay silent when your sex and gender is openly insulted and demeaned IN FRONT OF YOU. Speak out, ladies. Self-respect lasts longer than laughs. Plus, most male comics, are not rooting for you anyway.
“Women can’t be friends” is such a dated, obviously patriarchal myth propagated by a system to control women, it didn’t register as relevant in 2014 Santa Monica and it doesn’t now. Sure, women still compete, but if you regularly ingest feminism you start to understand that women don’t win. Hilary Clinton did not win. Angelina Jolie did not win. And thousands of beautiful, talented, smart rich women in Hollywood are not winning. So long as you are a woman in 2017, you are in a world that preys and abuses and assaults and rapes women all over the world . There are millions of Harvey Weinsteins’ and Louis CK’s, they are everywhere…in all pockets of the work force; in corporate offices, classrooms, libraries, dentist offices. And no matter if you’re white or rich, you can always find the local Harvey Weinstein to remind you, that a woman is a lower caste.
I do expect the pendulum to swing back. I do believe that Louis CK will have a career comeback, filled with part-real part-fake humility and “aw shucks” I’m-such-a-perv hang dog mannerisms, and stories about his 12-step sexual addiction recovery program, and whatever he encounters as he tries to embark on a journey somewhere resembling health. He might help some guys, but he has and will always creep me out