Similar requests came from women and non-binary comedians in the UK after the final round of #MeToo revelations this summer. Mae Martin, London Hughes, Eleanor Tiernan, Sofie Hagen, and others asked men to take over the conversation about sexism and sexual harassment. If most of the stories involve a male abuser, surely it must be men who make changes?
Some men have offered solidarity on social media. When the Hollywood Reporter published rape allegations against British comedian James Veitch, Nish Kumar tweeted, “Another day to greet brave women […] Damn guys we have to change and we have to do it now. David O’Doherty added on Twitter, “We all – the industry, but male comedians in particular – need to act more decisively when you hear about a problem.” Veitch declined to comment, but a source close to him denied, according to the Hollywood Reporter all allegations.
For those who have experienced sexism and harassment from male colleagues, it is by no means a given that men want to see change. Ed Night, whose 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Show An Aesthetic tackles harassment in comedy, says men shouldn’t hesitate to speak out against abuse and sexism. “A man recently told me that if someone thought they had an ulterior motive, they were worried about talking about feminism,” he says. “But it’s like ‘breaking culture’: it’s a deliberate barrier to talking about the things we should be talking about.”
Beware of “virtues” is not the only barrier. The night had to temper his material to avoid legal repercussions. Others fear career damage, prioritize their friendship with the accused, or just don’t know what to do. Many women in the comedy I spoke to earlier this year reported being molested or belittled while other men in attendance did nothing. For her, the inactivity of her colleagues was unforgettable.
Daniel Sloss asked the men to shake this paralysis on his stand-up show X, in which he remembers being confronted with a male friend who has been accused of rape: “Don’t make the same mistake I did I’ve been doing for years. He sat back and said, ‘I’m not part of the problem, so I have to be part of the solution. ‚”
While the men I spoke to agree that there is a serious problem, others have yet to convince. “It’s mostly the old guard who seem to be deliberately ignorant or genuinely clueless,” says Pope Lonergan. One-on-one conversations between men could change your mind.
But the first step is to listen to women. The night says, “Believe people and see that people can be nice to you and horrible to others. If you’re a cis man, these things are likely not being forced on you or you are seeing these things and not realizing what is happening. ”
Men need to prepare to hear allegations against men they know and like – and respond in the same way as they would if they were accused of a stranger. Lonergan says: “Most of the names didn’t surprise me, [but] Some of them – people I admire – have let me down quite a bit. ”
Sean Morley, stand-up comedian and co-host of the Mandatory Redistribution Party’s podcast, agrees, “You hear from people you’ve known for years and you say, ‘Wow, I don’t have a radar for this stuff … it could be someone’.”
Women and non-binary comedians have long relied on the “whisper network”. During the summer, male comics and producers asked women to share the whisper, but Lonergan says men are not entitled to this information: “I was guilty of automatically assuming that I was considered a benign, approachable person. But … the perpetrators do not wear badges that say “I am a rapist,” so women are rightly conditioned to be careful. ”
For men trying to avoid working with potential abusers, the information they trust is crucial. “The Whispering Network’s job isn’t telling me who to work with, it’s protecting women,” says Morley. “But sometimes I’ve found out that I’ve already signed a contract that this person you’re going to be working with is bad. I feel trapped at this point. ”
In situations like this, Morley says, you can at least avoid working with them in the future. As many women have learned, this can mean the loss of incomes and openings – a fact that ensures the protection of abusive men who control job opportunities.
Thinking about the effects of complicity is part of a self-examination process for Lonergan. While challenging men to joke rape jokes in green rooms, in conversations with comedian friends he overheard how his own “ironic” sexist jokes caused discomfort. That was hard to hear. “However, we have a duty to have these conversations and initiate them by men. I know women are tired of leading men through this thing. We can have these conversations with one another without seeking forgiveness and redirecting this behavior. ”
Morley agrees that all men need to think: “It is important to move beyond the ‘bad egg’ mindset because no one will admit that this applies to them. Society is misogynistic. You have to accept that somewhere, some of it has crept in. ”
Part of this may be trying to notice language and behavior that are less obviously part of the rape culture: “Every man sees himself as, ‘I’m one of the good guys, and when I get into one of those black and white situations I would jump on it. ‘But what you get are subtle things the way it is: is that a little different? People have to put their oar in if they think someone is wrong. ”
One tactic used to combat sexual harassment on US university campuses is by spectator intervention. Julie Dennis, director of diversity and inclusion in the counseling, mediation and arbitration service, says male viewers can play a critical role. There are three key actions: spread a situation, empathize with survivors, and address the perpetrators.
Just showing disapproval can be effective. Dennis suggests, “’What you just said made me feel uncomfortable’ or ‘I don’t think it’s funny’. People think everyone agrees with them. So if you have a man who is sexist and other men say, “You are out of order,” they will reevaluate. ”
Night says group efforts to make change are vital in comedy, where most work alone: ”Self-reflective individual change must coincide with collective efforts to oust people who have done bad things.” In the absence of an industry union or staff structures, comics can help each other “hold on to your guns when that means not working for someone, and talking to other people about it when you feel that it is not contradicting the wishes of others and thinking Always remember that when you see this you will be shouting out this stuff. “In the meantime, agents, producers, and people running festivals can make sure that the performers can travel and sleep safely when performing.
When Night began writing An Aesthetic in January 2018, he was certain that the actions of one of the men discussed would be public knowledge when the show debuted in August. Almost three years later, that is still not the case. Legally, he says, “There’s only so much to say.” But that shouldn’t stop men from joining the fight for safer jobs.
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