“We need to reclaim the word 'feminism'. We need the word 'feminism' back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist - and only 42% of British women - I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of 'liberation for women' is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? 'Vogue' by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
That's a quote from the very excellent "How To Be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran. It's a book I read a while ago and have recently been thinking about more than any other book. I'd never considered myself a feminist before reading that book. It's embarrassing to stand up for women isn't it? Highlights that it needs doing in the first place.
Being described as girly was never as cool as being a tomboy growing up. Why can't these mouthy kinds of women just see that things are fine?
Just recently there's been a revival of articles such as "I see nothing funny about vaginas" and "Where are all the women in comedy?"
We're here, we're plowing on same as a lot of men. We're doing it and we're doing it well. I don't think I feel any less likely to succeed in comedy because of my gender. If I fail miserably on a stage I do it because my jokes and performance weren't strong enough for the audience.
I don't often come against much that reminds me I'm a girl. I feel like a comedian when I'm on stage, I don't feel like either gender. Weirdly though, after a good few years of not really believing any of the hype about what a male orientated industry I'm in, this week has suddenly brought with it a shit storm of individuals who have dismissed me on the grounds of me being a woman before I'd even stepped on to the stage.
Firstly I dealt with two men who, upon hearing the MC say "she's a great act", responded with "Oh for fuck's sake" and then held their own conversation throughout the majority of my set. Whilst this was a bit of an irritation and annoyed me, I don't think it fussed the rest of the audience. There was no real way for me to deal with it humorously and concisely during my 15 minute set so I continued, had a good set and left the club with the promoter happy. More fool the only two arseholes in the room that missed out on a good time.
Later on in the week I arrived at a gig and was greeted warmly by the promoter and the other acts. Then, another man came into the room and looked at me and my friend (also female) and asked us which one was the act. I said I was, he pulled a face. I called him on it and asked what the problem was,
"Oh nothing love, I don't mean to be rude but we used to book women as novelty acts at my last club, so..."
So what? So, just because you used to book some shoddy ass line ups, you think I'm going to be awful? Go choke on your own power trip.
I had a lovely gig, a really pleasant country pub style gig. Some of the audience came up to me afterwards to congratulate me and the promoter was as pleased as the pub owner. Yet still this guy thought it was up to him to come over to me and say "Feel free to come back when you know what you're doing."
Excuse me? You weren't even in the audience, you sat next door and talked to other people yet still felt superior enough to come over and make me feel bad. Arguably, because I am a young woman. But I am a young woman who is good at her job - if someone spoke to me like that in an office there would be systems in place to make sure I didn't have to deal with it. It doesn't exist in comedy.
My favourite gig of the week, however, was the one where I was brought on to the stage with the words "And now we've got a fucking woman on" after having berated for having my hair cut because I was somehow now "not the act booked". Even my hearty reassurances that none of my hair based jokes would be affected did nothing to remedy the situation. Sigh.
Obviously, none of this has measurably stood in the way of my career, none of it affected my ability to tell my jokes and write new material. None of it will stop me being a success. But it did make me feel like shit. Why should I have to go to work feeling like shit because of small minded people? There are always going to be ass holes, I know this. I deal with this. But I'm looking forward to the day that I don't have to deal with them while they think they're better than me. And if that day comes quicker because more people consider themselves feminists and learn to treat everyone with a bit of respect then woohoo for feminism.