I am starting to wonder if comedy has changed who I am as a person. I am around it at least once weekly, am friendly with some of the talent (many of them), and...well okay I live and breathe comedy. I am also a feminist: loud, proud, and continue to work towards equality for all marginalized people in society. The two have not always mixed so well!
Last night at an open mic in comedy, a local comic, Skip Phillips told a joke that basically ended with "i was looking for used cars, and all I ended up with was used whores". Skip and I are buds, but let me tell you a year ago my response would have been "what an ass. I can't stand it when men casually refer to women forced to the streets to sell their bodies because of their tragic life circumstances and objectify them and their life circumstances for the point of a joke". Last night my response was "hmm, I've got a good tag for that joke.".
I literally went from horrified to helpful in one year. Am I less of a feminist now that I am ingrained in comedy? One year ago I would not even swear on stage, and now part of my act is hitting on a young man telling him I am not sure if I want to adopt him or F!@K him. Who the hell am I?
First, yes there is a certain desensitizing that occurs when around something all the time. Young men and women are less sensitized to violence due to violent content on video games and movies. Am I now less sensitized to misogyny? Do I now find the objectification of women in comedy form acceptable? Have I changed????
The answer to his is no. I am not less sensitized to any of the above. If anything, I am more sensitized to bad jokes! (not saying Skip's joke was bad, better make that clear here) I have discussed topics such as bigotry and dark and dirty comedy in past blogs, but today this is a very specific issue. I still deplore jokes that objectify women without a point. Stop. Read that again. Without a point. Like comedy featuring some degree of cultural insensitivity I will always support comedy that may be using objectifying women as a point to discuss how bad objectifying women is. If Skip had gone that extra mile and added something to the end of his joke to make a point about what exactly is a "new" whore? He could have done as Josh Williams has done to discuss racism and made a social commentary while entertaining.
Maybe I am asking too much from comedy. Maybe I am asking comedy to do more than entertain. I know my comedy does not have much social relevance, but then again, I am not taking many chances in comedy; I talk about myself, my life, my upbringing etc. I am not making generalized statements about women and using derogatory words.
Skip is not alone, and did nothing wrong. (remember folks, we are buds and discussed this at length) Men dominate the comedy scene, and half of them think nothing of calling women whores, cunts, sluts, slags etc. All I can say is if you are going to do it, do it right. If your intention is to be a jerk and alienate your audience, then go ahead and do it. I will not support you and will be up in arms, but I think there is a place for genderized comedy, as long as that comedy has a point. Without a point it is nothing more than speech of a hatred nature. The line between pornography and art is very thin, and the same can be said for comedy.
I still work as a feminist in my job, as a mother, partner to my husband, business owner and member of society. I have changed since I started in comedy for sure. I am more neurotic with less self-confidence, but I am also aware that most of the men out there doing comedy objectifying women and marginalized societies are doing so because they think the masses will like it. What does that then say about the masses?
Let's use comedy to provide some degree of social change. Let's use comedy to bring attention to the fact that women and children are forced all over the world into trafficking their bodies. Let's use comedy to discuss the high rape (sexual assault) rates that are STILL prevalent in today's society. Let's use comedy to entertain first and foremost, but if you stray into the darker material, do it right or don't do it at all. I look forward to seeing Skip's joke again, to see if he can take his premise, and turn a one line groaner into something more, something that will make the audience think and challenge their perceptions.
I started this blog asking if I had changed? The answer is yes, just a little bit. I have grown to understand and comprehend that the comics are working out their material, and as a reviewer/lover of comedy, I hope they work it out to make the world a little better.
I have to jump on another soapbox, so for now get your ass to a comedy club and support local comedy. That's an order from this feminist bitch!