Thursday, 30 October 2014


It's 2014 but I think it was said best back in 1971 by the late Marvin Gaye: "What the fuck is going on?".

I liked the last couple of years. They were fun. Everyone seemed so excited by feminism. Bridget Christie made it funny and terrifying and it felt like something important was happening as we gathered together to laugh at how horrible the world we exist in is. I mean, that hasn't happened in comedy in a really long time. A comedian tackling a huge subject - a huge, terrible, frightening subject - and made people laugh at how ridiculous "normal" life is and perhaps how ridiculous, terrible and frightening we are too. It wasn't just Bridget that brought this to our attention, of course. There was EverydaySexism, there was Caitlin Moran (who I don't like because I think she's unfunny and often wrong but at least I think she's an unfunny wrong person and not an unfunny wrong woman and she got people talking about feminism so she's completely necessary. Maybe I do like her? Well, that's a revelation already), there was Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and every single person in the world coming together to post articles, share opinions, point fingers at inequality and, more importantly, celebrate equality. The last couple of years have felt positive. It felt like we were getting somewhere. So why is this year so very, very awful?

Obviously, I get it. I'm not that stupid. If something happens that people like then sooner or later there has to be a backlash. We did it with Bros, Pictionary and New Zealand so why not do it with decency and respect?

But it doesn't feel like a backlash. It feels more like a people's rights movement. People uniting and rising up to make sure other people have fewer and fewer rights as human beings. Were we too happy and too positive? Is that why Dapper Laughs came along to show us that respect was boring and probably queer or something? Is that why so many people immediately took to him? Is that why so many comedians that I work with support and defend Dapper Laughs? We wallowed in our selflessness and therefore something had to be done about it. We liked feminism too much for some people and we made an uncomfortable noise about it with our happiness so The Others had to fight back. I mean, it's freedom of speech, isn't it? Dapper's not doing any harm, is he? And if you don't like it then you've every right to say so. And The Others have every right to call you a slut and threaten to rape you. It's freedom of speech.

I've always thought of comedy as a very progressive place to work in. Luckily, it generally is. But there is definitely a rise in rape jokes just as their is a rise in women not being seen as equals on a bill. A venue dropping a woman from the comedy bill because "there are too many women" already performing is probably the funniest comedy story I've heard this year. Yes, it's horrible but, my God, that is some proud, proud sexism you're getting right there. No shame. Head held high. Say it loud! I'm a cunt and I'm proud!

And that's my big question: Why aren't people more ashamed of themselves? I'm ashamed of all my many, many faults. I'm unhealthy, I get angry at the most insignificant things (noise, litter, Kasabian) and I'm 46 with an in-order-of-broadcast complete Doctor Who DVD collection. I'm horrified at myself but, you know, at least I don't openly hate women. Unlike comedians (and others but it's the comedians that I feel most upset by) online who post their sexism with the same "normality" that we use to post pictures of our dinner. What I wouldn't give to see a photo of spaghetti hoops on Facebook again. Over the last few weeks I've spent far too much time arguing with comedians posting "Fucking feminism again" and "You shouldn't be on a panel show just because you're a woman". I don't want to argue with these people. There was a time when you might see one or two posts like that a week. Now it's every day. So, I guess, recently I snapped. In two weeks there hasn't been a day without arguing, capitalising the word cunt and blocking idiots.

It seems obvious (not to everyone, clearly) but... FEMINISM IS NOT ABOUT WOMEN GETTING MORE THAN MEN. IT'S ABOUT US BEING EQUAL.

God, I just never wanted to get into these boring and horrible arguments but in the last two weeks I've argued with comedians posting "I'm sick of people saying 'Violence against women'. What about the violence against men?" and "I'm on Dapper Laugh's side" and... it goes on. Luckily, one of these comedians describes himself as "The Dark Knight of Comedy" so his opinion on any subject is significantly less than worthless.

Sometimes I actually regret inventing online anger, especially when I see what some people have done with it.

Complaining about the worthiness of Malala Yousafzai's Nobel win (seriously, if you haven't seen these idiots online, then please look them up now. "How is getting shot and then still campaigning for rights peaceful?" Brilliant!), Gamergate supporters and the NotAllMen bullshit. It's EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And for those people who think Dapper Laughs and his cheeky, misogynistic antics are harmless then please check out Shoshana Roberts film of her walking down streets in New York and the subsequent rape threats she received on Twitter. #SheKnows you're a dick.

I'm trying not to think about all this and not get upset by it, despite it being a constant in our online (and therefore real) lives. Believe it or not, I don't like being angry. Andrew Lawrence's stupidity made me sigh and laugh in equal measure. He's an idiot. After all the support of Dapper, the "What about violence against men?"and the general "fucking feminism again"... I still didn't blog about it. I stopped blogging. Why have all that grumpiness all the time? But then I saw Sofie Hagen's recent Facebook post about her experience on the comedy circuit. A compere saying "Ladies and gentlemen, give it up one more time for Sofie Hagen. I would never rape her" made me want to punch him. I don't know who he is but I hate him. But if there's one good thing that's come from all of this, it's got me thinking of things I've said in the past and I'm ashamed. I've not said anything that awful but I'm not innocent either.

And maybe a few other people could change their attitudes too. At a recent gig, a woman entered the dressing room to give an act some food. When she left, the comedian said "Who ordered the escort?". Then I overheard another comedian say to the showmanager "Yeah, but you're supposed to be hot. I'm not saying I'd kick you out of bed because I wouldn't but a woman should wear heels".

Why aren't people more ashamed of themselves?

A backlash against decency and respect. But it doesn't feel the same as it did with Bros. We accepted When Will I Be Famous and I Owe You Nothing. Everything about them was on the up. Then we heard Cat Among The Pigeons and we called time. We united to end something before it went too far. You know what though? I'm starting to think reactions to Bros and reactions to feminism are very different things. People got bored with Bros but this feels like... fear.

What's to be scared of? I can't answer. I can't answer that.

I'm not expecting anyone to read this really, I'm certainly not expecting anyone who disagrees with my very obvious point will read it. If they do, they'll no doubt say it's whiny, unfunny and boring. But that's their fault, not mine.


Chris Kehoe said...

I agree with everything you say here(except that it was Chocolate Box that did it for me with Bros). It's not just feminism that is getting a backlash but the general acceptance of others and civility. It's all fuelled by fear. I'm only a beginner in the comedy world but am noticing a creeping misogyny and a reluctance to "punch up", which is actually making the comedy on offer lazy and predictable as much as anything else.

Michael Legge said...

Thank you, Chris. Quite right.

George Gissing said...

Michael, Feminism is an identity politics movement. You can say it is about US being equal but then why isn't it called Marxism or Socialism for example? Of course these too have their limitations but what they do have that feminism doesn't is a clearly defined base text.

Feminism by its nature of being the political aspirations of women has a wide theoretical basis and many different movements. Indeed you could argue that you and I can never be feminists because that would be introducing patriachy into feminism and feminism is split on this so I attempted to avoid the issue by saying I'd read about it and learned nothing etc ...

Identity Politics is popular because it is simple. I am a woman therefore I am a feminist, I am a black person therefore I am a black rights activist ... but within these movements there is always a spectrum. And at the end of these spectrums are outliers. You can't pretend that the Andrea Dworkins of the world or the NOI dont exist. They do.

Dworkins split the feminist movement over the issue of pornography. Not all feminists think it is ALL bad. Some think it is good. Some like Laurie Penny think it is bad but dont want to ban it. There is a divergence of opinion.

I dont agree with Andrea Dworkins philosophy but if I'd had her life I'd probably have come to the same conclusions because her life was horrific. But that doesn't mean the conclusions she reached are sensible. Censorship is a blunt tool of social control. It can only do so much. You need other tools to fight tyranny.

In an ideal world movements of oppression would create movements of logically thought out counter-oppression but the world is not logical, people aren't and indeed by the nature of being oppressed minority groups often come up with illogical theories because they are formed in social isolation. Bad ideas are thrown up as well as good ones and these need to be challenged ...

Another problem with identity politics movement is their binary structure creates theoretical problems at the boundaries. For example the basic theory of feminism is that so long as the patriachy (men) oppress women then women have a right, indeed one might say duty to attack men. This creates a problem which is how hard do you attack men? Collectively or individually
Then there's the problem of who's in your oppressed group. For ethnic identity politics groups this can become very complicated very fast. For Feminism this used to be simple there were MEN and WOMEN. Then we had trans people and Julie Birchill and Julie Bindel and Co go into mental breakdown over whether they can call themselves feminists or not. This is because their existence creates problems that do not fit into the binary feminist model of MEN (patriachy) and WOMEN (oppressed by patriachy). Of course most englightened feminists dont hate trans people but if you're a feminist who does hate men rather than just being angry with the patriachy trans people are a major psycological challenge to your model of the world.

George Gissing said...

To try and sort out these problems Katz, Bidol and Krenshaw and Co came up with theories like Intersectionality which postulates a hierachy of oppressions and how they interact...

When I say I've learnt nothing from feminism I'm joking. It’s more a case of I read it, felt hated, got depressed. What many third wave feminist believe is that if you’re not constantly fighting to end oppression you’re one of the enemy. Stuff that – I’m lazy. Of course we'd all like to think that we change because people reasonably ask us but perhaps some of us do need to be kicked to some extent. But still I just think some people are miseries. Whatever my view is censorship of any kind is a BIG DEAL and I'm not doing any on the basis of a hyperbolic rant like Kern’s. I mean the man also thinks Gok Wan is evil… he’s not insincere but he’s got some agenda …and you know us promoters get asked to censor a lot. My view is it’s the job of people who want censorship to build their case. And then I might do something.


Anthony Miller

BLaCKouT said...

People are largely awful, Michael.
I'm not saying we have to accept that, but I've certainly begun to expect it.

Anyway, thank you for being angry about the right things; you inspire me. Seriously.

Gabriela said...

Very well put.

Oh my god, that compere. Someone should have punched him where it matters.

George Gissing said...

Years ago there was an act I used to book a lot to MC called Sabrina George. People used to say to me “how can you book her? She’s a horrible person”. Well, it’s very simple. I don’t listen to other people. She was fairly reliable and she filled stage time and she was about as unfunny as I was but she really used to put people’s backs up. After a while I realised. She disapproved of everyone’s act. She would tell us that this act was racist and that act was sexist and blah … indeed it got to the point that we’d take bets on if she’d say something positive about anyone this week. If you were to write Sabrina as a character in a novel people would say you’d made her up. She was a lesbian caricature – always wore black with red make up. Anyway always had plenty to say about everyone else’s act. People used to think that this was because she hated everyone. This was true but on the other hand she was into all this identity politics stuff long before it became mainstream. The problem was that she wasn’t Bridget Christie. Whereas acts like Jerry Sadowitz and Alexei Sayle can harness their hate and direct it through their acts she couldn’t. She’d go off stage and force her political opinions on other acts … she alienated everybody and eventually she gave up. But in a way she was ahead of her time. She was just too radical. She said to Ava Alexis once “you’re not very political, are you?”. Well actually she is …she doesn’t share YOUR politics.
Anyway, Shoshana Roberts video. That’s just normal when Ava Alexis walks down the street. But then she’s a beautiful woman … to an extent she hasn’t and I don’t have a problem with people showing sexual interest in her or saying “hello beautiful”. She’s always polite and takes their numbers and puts them into a jar that sits on the mantelpiece and there they sit – thousands of phone numbers from random men. I mean in the workplace I think it’s wrong for men to express their interest in women by calling out or saying “hello beautiful” but not in public places. I mean yes some of those men are creepy but ... If you want to see what a world without Feminism would look like go to Barbados it’s The Land That Feminism Forgot. Homosexuality is still illegal and there really are adverts in the papers saying “Buy your girlfriend a new hoover for Valentine’s day”. Honestly it’s hilarious we crack up reading the papers. But in terms of men catcalling women I don’t think it’s actually any worse than the Whitgift centre. It’s interesting isn’t it many of the people calling out Shoshana are black … there’s a culture gap thing going on too there and part of it is racial too. Where Kern is wrong is that people are telling him it’s a class and maybe a race issue too and he thinks “oh well all these people are looking for excuses to be sexist”. It’s a bit more complicated than that. There’s a reason Feminism has a lot of run ins with Hip Hop. You see Kern may come from a working class family but his parents clearly had middle class aspirations for him. There are a lot of acts who come from a working class background where there are no cultural aspirations. What am I supposed to do with the Lenny Shermans of the world when they come down the first time say “sorry you’re racist and sexist we can’t rebook you”? Some of them work out where they’re going wrong change and move forward and some of them dont.
Reactions. Well Shaggers is a direct reaction to the Book Club. Coppin, Belgrave and some of the others who feel excluded from the Book Club world because they don’t or didn’t have a University education sat down together and thought “what can we do that’s the Inverse of the book club – let’s do a show about sex”. And I know this because they told me it. And yes, I think some of Feminism is just about sexual repression. I mean I was a brought up a Catholic –it’s interesting that Stuart Lee’s wife is both a practicing Catholic and a Feminist. Hum ... Gok Wan

George Gissing said...

I mean Gok Wan. Well, I know what the problem there is. If you believe that all sexual objectification is bad or evil then fashion designers and fine artists are going to be the epitome of evil. This has always been a problem for me with feminism. My mum was a designer (wallpaper not clothes) and I know the absolute loathing some feminist have for the fashion industry so if feminists are coming round Pear Shaped playing their violin that they don’t get enough respect you’ll forgive me if I have a huge volume of cynicism to get over. The nadir of this hatred was, of course, when Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol and attempted to shoot his manager Fed Hughes. Of course she was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but that’s never stopped anyone going round claiming her deranged SCUM manifesto was actually a very clever piece of satire rather than the deranged ramblings that a mad woman actually thought. On top of this grudge against the feminists I have a grudge against them for Pat Bidol’s redefinition of racism as privilege + power rather than racial hatred. Now all these views are the result of extreme society tensions such as the abolition of the Jim Crow laws but never the less when you’re listened to them and their adherents enough you do start to wonder if for example the real problem of people who bang on about white privilege isn’t just with inter-racial sex. Anyway I find it hugely amusing that feminism is now reduced to asking fashion designers to design it a tee shirt and trying to get coverage in glossy magazines and is still moaning and divided on whether this constitutes objectification. Of course the great problem with feminism is not that it doesn’t have anything worth fighting for it’s that it’s not a political priority for many people. Where I depart from the Kerns and Coltranes of the world is that I don’t think that all isms are of equal danger to society. I think for example racism is a uniquely destructive force in society. Sexism hasn’t historically been as directly destructive as racism because …put in the most simple terms …it was technically impossible for most societies to kill all their women. Although some had a good go… as the great misogynist Kerr Avon once said “You can have war between races, war between cultures, war between planets. But once you have war between the sexes, you eventually run out of people” …unless of course you actually implement the SCUM. I’ve got a long memory when it comes to the nasty side of political movements. Not that feminism is particularly more nasty than most other mainstream movements. Caroline Bird who popularised/coined the word sexism said it is intended to rhyme with racism but the problem is that no matter how hard they try to equate the two it isn’t quite because while women might still get a very bad deal in society they unfortunately can’t claim to be a minority. Rape jokes. No I don’t see an explosion of them. Actually I’ve been vaguely counting them since Sarah Bennetto went on a rant in the Guardian about "horrible open mic hate filled rooms." I can’t think who she means… But no in pure statistical terms I don’t think I’ve seen that many and I don’t think there’s an increase… .what’s changed is society’s view of what it is and isn’t okay to say. I’m sure what she said did happen but while I see oodles of misogyny actually I think rape jokes are just statistically a very small part of it. I suppose the thing is they’re misogyny without a mask. Rather than misogyny with a mask. Not that I’m totally against censorship I applaud the way that the BBC has implemented rigorous standards in the area of political correct censorship on British comedy programs and then filled the shortfall by buying up Seth Macfarlane politically incorrect back catalogue from the land where there are no hate speech laws which ironically is also the land that invented political correctness. Almost as if...

Michael Legge said...

Dear Anthony or George Gissing,

Thank you for writing in length. Sadly, all you've done is miss the point. You've thought about how to wriggle out of equality and you've done it with a lot of work and effort put in. It stands for nothing though as you're incredibly transparent. There is one, and only one, reason you have problems with feminism and that's simply because you don't like women or you're actually scared of them. That's fine. You're only one man. Luckily, not everyone is like you.

It's amazing that you put this amount of effort into arguing at nothing (you remind me of my dog when she goes to the garden to bark at a fox that isn't there) and yet you put no effort into the simple understanding of having respect for your fellow human beings. My blog is very simple: treat women equally. Don't objectify them (lots of designers don't). Have respect.

Why you've complicated this incredibly simple message by saying nothing (in 4 posts, no less!) is embarrassing.

And I meant what I said on Twitter. Talk to someone.

George Gissing said...

"There is one, and only one, reason you have problems with feminism and that's simply because you don't like women or you're actually scared of them"

Michael that is an interesting observation but I would point out in the interests of rational dialectic that the observation that men are afraid of or hate women is a main theme of Greer's the Female Eunuch. So really that shouldn't be a shock to anyone because that is its self feminist theory ..... perhaps then the difference between us is that I know that I am afraid of women.

Then again the Female Eunuch purported that men and women's brains were the same - a fact which we now know scientifically not to be true.

Then again the problem with many of the rambling polemics which make up feminism is that they are theoretical political constructs which remain unprovable. But then if all political thought was constrained by what we actually know to be true that would be as silly as all theoretical physics being constrained by what practical physics knows, wouldn't it?

Theories like the effect of female objectification remain open to intellectual curiosity because they are theories. I simply am not convinced that all sexual objectification is wrong... and never have been. And even if it is the abolition of all sexual objectification from the public sphere seems to me to be an impossible standard to hold people to. I may not have women falling all over me but in my youth I seemed to be hit upon by a lot of gay men for some reason ... in fact I like to think I'm still a pin up for the Paul Shinas of the world. I just dont understand why any of this is wrong. It seems innocent to me. Of course persistant unwanted sexual advances are wrong but a world where people cant say how they feel sexually without dressing it up in a load of fake circumlocution sounds awful. To me anyway ... but then I'm terribly old fashioned.

Michael Legge said...

Being old fashioned should never be confused with being a sociopath.

George Gissing said...

“Don't objectify them (lots of designers don't)”
See the thing is I don’t believe this … I think they all do but to different degrees …the problem is it isn’t that simple. It isn’t Objectify or Don’t Objectify. All clothing is sexual in nature – even the boring stuff. After all one of the reasons we ware it is it is illegal to walk round naked. The cut of clothing – not just women’s but men’s – is designed to accentuate the body shapes and the patters are designed to highlight the cut … sexuality and clothing is intimately intertwined. Half the problem the fashion industry has with feminism is that it is to some extent beyond their control. That isn’t to say that there aren’t clothes that are designed purely for sexual objectification but designing clothes is like telling a joke you cant tell how people will react to something until they see or hear it.

What’s socially acceptable is a sliding scale which its self moves with political fashion. Of course there are rules you shouldn't break ... but ... In many ways it’s a no win. There isn’t a binary point or a line in the sand where you can say this does and that doesn’t objectify someone. Half the problem is it is not something that can be measured.

Yes, I know I’m a Sociopath but it’s better than having your clothes designed by a political committee.

George Gissing said...

See the thing is this Michael. I see feminism as a lobby group made by women for women. Nothing wrong in that. That’s all part of the democratic process. But obviously I’m not a woman so why would I sign up and why would I sign up when half of them can’t decide if I should join? And there’s a reason half of them can’t decide if I can join it’s a systemic problem to their identity politics concept – if we all joined then they wouldn’t be a woman’s lobby group any more. So my position is I am neither pro or anti them. They’re just there. But my view is that’s because they exist to do what a fully inclusive political movement couldn’t. I mean it is actually a logical argument advanced by some feminists themselves that if all the men become feminists that would just turn feminism into another broad spectrum political movement. After all what do I know about what women want – I’m not Mel Gibson? It’s also worth pointing out that while you and Mr Kern might all be completely sold to the idea of all sexual objectification being very very naughty indeed there isn’t actually a full or complete consensus within feminism its self on the issue of objectification …which leads us back to the primary problem with feminism – it has no political consensus. It was never intended to be a monolith of ideology but a spread or ideologies.

And no I'm not saying I believe in no sexual represssion at all. All I'm saying is it is to some extent still an open question ...

George Gissing said...

Seriously Michael ... I do respect your stand but censorship is just a bigger issue for me than feminism. For example here's me having it out with the RCC over their attempts to censor the vagina monolgues from Universities in October 2013...

...eventually the Deacon ran out of real enemies of Catholicism and started attacking everyone randomly and went bonkers and was silenced by the powers that be

The Scottish SSPX had a hilarious blog once where they tried to ban the entire Fringe Festival but it has sadly been since deleted.

Whatever if you really want to do this censorship thing at least join Mediawatch or something - most people who are censors end up being driven insane in the end if they do it alone ... including me.

Natalie said...

Oh my goodness. Who is this George Gissing? And why should clothes that show or compliment the body shape therefore also be sexual? Surely, the sexualisation comes from the person looking at them, not from the person designing or wearing them. Isn't it a case of beauty (or in this case sexuality!) being in the eyes of the beholder? To say that something or someone is sexual or that clothing is sexual just because it shows someone's shape is ridiculous. George or Anthony takes ages to completely miss Michael's point.