Monday, 24 January 2011
Women Aren't Funny? - You Can't Prove a Negative
On the way to work this morning I saw a giant poster for new topical comedy, The 10 O' Clock Show.
In the poster for this comedy show, there was funnyman Charlie Brooker, funnyman Jimmy Carr, funnyman David Mitchell, and...Lauren Laverne.
Lauren Laverne; occasional TV presenter.
If you're going to have a token female on a comedy show, why not at least have a token female comedian?
It's not like there's a lack of choice. There are countless brilliant female comics currently gracing the stand-up circuit. Have been for years.
But nobody believes they exist, precisely because nobody ever uses them.
And then comes the familiar chorus; "Women aren't funny...Channel 4 must have looked high and low for a funny woman and not been able to find one...name a female comedian other than Jo Brand, you won't be able to...you never see any on TV...if they were funny you'd have seen them, you'd have heard of them..."
It's the same argument that misogynists have used down the centuries to reinforce the idea that women are inferior; "What's a woman ever invented, eh?...all the biggest inventions have been by men...women can't be as intelligent as men, if they were, they would have, historically speaking, achieved more"
Conveniently forgetting that women were, for most of history, excluded from having an education and the resultant arenas of science, invention and literature.
It's hard to invent the telescope or discover gravity when you're not allowed to learn how to read.
Women in Ancient Greece weren't even allowed out of the house. Who knows, Plato's wife might have been feeding him his best ideas?
It's the same with comedy. Women don't get a platform, people conclude that this is because they don't deserve one, this idea becomes embedded, so women continue not to get a platform.
Repeat this process ad infinitum.
Once an idea is embedded, it's hard to shift it, even with positive proof.
The amount of times I came off stage during my time on the circuit, to be greeted by the words "That was good, for a woman. I don't like female comics, but you're alright"
Even though they'd seen a woman confound their prejudice, their prejudice remained in place.
Albeit it with the slightly weird caveat of 'except one woman who I saw with my own eyes but who must have been a freak of nature who fell into a vat of radioactive funny as a child'.
They're the opposite of racists who cite their one black friend. Racists do that to prove they're not racist. Misogynists weirdly use their one example to maintain their prejudice - "Ok, you've proved you're funny, but no other woman could conceivably be, I'll have to see them all individually"
Of course male comic after male comic can come out and die on their arse, but the audience's faith in men as natural comedians won't waver.
How very fair.
Remember when Charlotte Church won a best female comedy newcomer award?
As much as it upheld the myth, it wasn't proof that women aren't funny, it was proof that women aren't given the chance.
To beat women over the head with all the things they haven't had a chance to achieve adds insult to injury.