How Men in Comedy Can Support Women in Comedy
Women shouldn't have to do all the work in the fight for equality, but they are.
Women are speaking out and calling out men for bad behavior while men stay silent, laugh off stories of sexual abuse and misconduct, and or argue about it.
It is time for abuse to stop. It's time for "the good guys" to stop sitting on the sidelines while abuse and misconduct exists around them. It's time men stop turning a blind eye to their friends treating women differently than men in comedy clubs .
Stop saying "the right things," while not doing the right things. It's time for men to step up.
If you're (finally) ready to to be an ally to women in the comedy scene then the tips below are a starting point to being on the right side of this problem that has lasted far too long.
Women have been very open for years about mistreatment in the comedy world. They didn't start talking about it during the Me Too movement. Time and time again their complaints have been ignored. Stop arguing and start listening to women share their perspective and experience.
You can't sufficiently be an ally if you have limited understanding of what women go through. Know what they feel like they're walking into when they are at the same mics you're at or classrooms you're in. Understand boundaries and what other people consider safe. There are plenty of articles sharing how you can be a better listener to victims of abuse. Google is your friend, but here's a great place to start your education: ihollaback.org
Don't wait for women to tell you about the mistreatment they've experienced at your club, open mic, or theater because that's too late. You aren't cultivating a safe space for women if you let problems arise before you do anything about them. Part of equality for women is not having to be unsafe as soon as they walk through your doors. Weed out the problematic people and behavior immediately. Set policies at your club/room/mic/theater that protect women from mistreatment and make it abundantly clear that harassment and misconduct will not be allowed.
If you book stand-up or run a room/mic then you should step in when someone behaves inappropriately. A class setting is a great opportunity for teachable moments. If you're an impov instructor or coach, you probably already went over physical guidelines to insure people aren't touching people without consent. Your role as a(n) coach or instructor is to make the classroom a safe space for your students. If a student says or does something inappropriate in a scene, address it in a way that educates the entire class.
If you're a comic or performer at a club, mic, or theater and see someone cross a line, separate the aggressor from the aggrieved party. You should focus most of your attention on the aggrieved party. Yelling at the aggressor just makes you feel tough and can be a bit performative. Meanwhile, the victim, who is emotionally compromised, is being ignored. Take these useful tips on how to talk to someone you see being abused in a public space. It's about racist attacks and is solid advice that can apply to sexual harassment in comedy clubs/theaters.
And yes, stepping in might involve banning your buddy from a mic because women keep telling you he is harassing them. It also means calling out a host who you know makes women jump through hoops that you don't have to or worse, even if it means you won't get a good spot anymore. The right thing is the better thing to do. Always.
The comedy scene thrives on vouchers. Tell a booker about women they should book. Suggest some women as hosts at a club. If someone asks you to go on the road with them, suggest women who would be great to add to lineup. NOTE: Make sure those clubs and rooms and other comics are safe. Do your due diligence and find this out before putting women in that space.
You have to consider how you have been part of the problem. You have to reflect on your own behavior, material, and how you cast sketches or label people in improv scenes because you might be perpetuating stigmas or mistreating women when you do it. You have to do some soul searching to realize the mistakes you have made and are making. Take this to heart so that you can change your perspective. Then rewrite or retire some jokes; keep your hands to yourself; stop saying women aren't funny; stop turning a blind eye; stop arguing with women about their experience; stop being passive-aggressive; and for all the love - stop bringing women on stage by saying, "Next we have a lady comic," like women are some kind of novelty. They make up half the damn population!
Being an ally doesn't stop at helping one group. How can you take these actions and apply them to being an ally to Trans people, Black people, Latinx people, Muslims, and other marginalized groups? Knowing more about how different kinds of people experience the world will inform you on how to be a better ally to others. For instance, racism will absolutely play a role in how a misogynist White male might treat a Black woman. Knowing more about what Black women face will help in effectively being an ally to them.
Women are doing all the work in the fight for equality. Women shouldn't have to do any of the work. Men created this atmosphere and allow it to exist. So the onus is on men to tear it down.
Sources Used to Develop These Tips:
Common damn sense