By Kayla Avery
Originally posted on BoredWhiteGirl
I find it interesting what the different reactions people have towards anything gender related. More recently, the discussion of women in comedy has been swirling over the past year in the media and in local comedy communities. There’s no denying that the world of stand-up comedy has long been “a boys club,” and female stand-ups weren’t always welcomed in the beginning of the comedy boom. Obviously, women have come a long way in comedy thanks to the likes of Joan Rivers, Ellen Degeneres, Tiny Fey, Amy Poehler, and Chelsea Handler, But does that mean it’s an equal playing field? This is where things start to get interesting for me.
I’ve noticed that there are two very different ways to look at the issue of gender in comedy, some believe there is still a long way to travel before there is equality among the sexes. Then there are some that respond to the question of gender inequality with “just be funny and it won’t matter.” The second point of view puzzles me for many reasons, because when has the solution to any social issue been “just be…?” Just be funny, or just worry about yourself, or just ignore it. None of that “just” way of thinking addresses the actual problem in anyway, it only says “ignore confrontation and it won’t exist.” I also hear this rationale from both men and women which is slightly depressing to think about. I get why a male would think that “just being funny” is enough when trying to break into comedy, male comics will never understand that a funny female comic doesn’t make a club booker any less sexist, or prejudice. When I hear other women say “just be funny,” it shocks me that there are individuals willing to accept gender discrimination.
Look, I know it sounds blown out of proportion to say “gender discrimination,” but if you put that same response about women in comedy towards any other professional career, it would sound a lot different.
Think about it, if a female working in an office building repeatedly got looked over for a job promotion to a male and was given feedback by a manager “I just don’t think a woman is a right fit for a new office position.” Well that type of behavior is illegal and considered gender discrimination. That same woman who gets turned away from a job tells her fellow male coworkers she feels unfairly critiqued because she is a woman, and her male coworkers respond only with “just be better at your job.” Does that sound like the type of response and advice a person should be given? Of course not, because telling someone “just be _____,” does not solve anything, nor does it make any sense. To tell someone who is already working and putting in an honest effort, to work harder is insulting and suggesting they weren’t already working.
So why does anyone accept that response in comedy? Why are any women accepting that response in comedy? Why is it when the question of gender inequality arrises people are ridiculed for mentioning it while others refuse to believe it is a real problem in the media? A female saying she is not okay with something or a situation does not make her weak nor does it dilute the definition of feminism. Telling a comic to work harder doesn’t alleviate the hurdles of sexism, it doesn’t help the situation of sexism at all in. If an individual does speak up against something they are not comfortable with and another person tells them they are overreacting and were not negatively affected enough is absurd. I’ve been witnessed to that before. I hear someone talking about a specific situation that brought them to their breaking point and immediately being told they have nothing to complain about.
Media has molded our society to place the blame everywhere other than it belongs. In comedy, the blame is on women not working hard enough. The blame couldn’t possibly be on the fact that women working in media only make up 30%, which is only 5% clout, and 90th in the world in terms of women legislatives. In 2013, Forbes posted a list of the top earning comedians, not a single woman on that list. Even with all the statistical evidence spelling out where exactly all the gender inequalities lie, the media still spins the propaganda that if you work hard that will be enough. But what does facts prove? I mean funny is funny right? Even if funny is denied stage time because of their gender, she’s still funny.[divider] [/divider]
Kayla Avery is a New England based stand up comedian & writer. Follow her on Twitter so her mom doesn’t have too @averykayla.