This morning my coworker linked me to an article on Hello Giggles written by Emma Gannon, a Londoner who is apparently a Lifestyle blogger. I have literally never heard of her before this morning, and now I’m wishing I never had.
This multi-paragraph monstrosity of condescension and tittering little-girl rhetoric began innocuously enough: comedians make Gannon uncomfortable sometimes. And that is totally cool — comedians make me uncomfortable sometimes, too. Comedy is a way to peel back the skin of society and expose the nerves underneath. It’s not always a 100% pleasant experience. I was skeptical, but on board.
At least, until this paragraph:
This brings me on to an act I saw on Friday who tried to be controversial but failed miserably in my eyes. This comedienne was Katherine Ryan. From the programme, I was intrigued by her, but her pretty, delicate face was no warning to what was about to come out of her mouth. I must admit here that I knew I was not going to find her funny. The reason being? Well, she was a girl.
I thought, she cannot possibly be serious. She cannot possibly be tasteless and thoughtless enough, in the wake of a week where no one who’s talking about comedy has been talking about anything other than Daniel Tosh and rape culture, to write a blog entry about how women aren’t funny on a website where young progressive women, who often ID as feminist (and I am thinking here of the teenage girls who frequent Hello Giggles), get some of their information about opinions in the world.
Oh, but she is! She is that thoughtless and tasteless! Because the article goes on to explain why girls aren’t funny (but just on stage, ladies, we’re better than men everywhere else!): girls only talk about weight problems or shoes or insecurities or like, WOMEN’S ISSUES, god, how BORING.
The main reason her stand-up act aggravated me (and pretty much everyone there, by amount of people leaving the tent) was that she spoke about ‘women’s issues’. Her introduction was launching into ripping apart women who have sex too much. Then onto pregnancy, then into divorce and back into taking the out of young girls in tiny shorts. All of her ‘funny’ material was just about women. Why do you female comedians HAVE to talk about these same topics? Every. Single. Time. It makes us women look like we have nothing else to talk about. That we moan all the time about being a woman. We not just baby-making machines that complain about shoes and diets. At least I don’t think so.
First and foremost: Nope. Sorry. You don’t get a pass just because you threw in some pro-feminist rah-rah anti-gender roles lip service there at the end of the paragraph. Because here’s what Gannon’s saying: women aren’t funny because women’s experiences aren’t universal. Men’s are. Ah, right. I’d forgotten that in a patriarchy, the only experiences that matter are men’s. Thanks for reminding me, Hello Giggles.
“Ripping apart women who have sex too much” aside (that is, absolutely, bullshit), what Gannon has done here is take her experience with one lackluster comedian and apply it to an entire gender. And what is that? Say it with me now: misogyny! Hooray!
I’m curious as to how Gannon has come to the conclusion that female comedians only slut-shame and talk about pregnancy, in her words, “Every. Single. Time.” Do you know how many female comedians I know who only talk about being a baby-making machine, or complain about shoes or diets? Zero. I know Z E R O female comedians who only talk about that shit, and when they do, it is ALWAYS in the context of “here’s my experience as a woman and isn’t it absurd that society makes it this way?”
Gannon has either a very limited understanding of how comedy works or only indulges in a very limited range of comedians if she thinks that women aren’t funny. Here are twenty women, both British and American, off the top of my head that are funny, on-stage and off (and please note that I know MANY of these women have said or done problematic things, but that is not the point of this blog):
- Wanda Sykes
- Sarah Silverman
- Amy Poehler
- Tina Fey
- Josie Long
- Margaret Cho
- Katie Halper
- Ellen Degeneres
- Samantha Bee
- Joy Behar
- Shappi Khorsandi
- Kristin Wiig
- Maya Rudolph
- Jo Brand
- Negin Farsad
- Marina Franklin
- Miranda Hart
- Comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates (whatever, technically they count as two)
- Sarah Millican
And the list goes on! Hell, if you Google “female comedians” the FIRST RESULT YOU GET is a list of 53 OF THEM ON HUFFPO. But y’all, Gannon says women aren’t funny because GOD, don’t they EVER shut UP? They’re not like men! Men know what’s funny!
Men don’t just talk about weight problems, or penis size, or diets, or how insecure they feel at the gym. They talk about objects, experiences, funny moments, observations. For the most part, their material remains gender neutral.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t. It appears to be gender neutral observations because men’s observations (especially white, straight men’s observations) are taken to be The Norm, and anything that deviates from that is “women’s observations” or “gay observations” or “black observations.”
And frankly? Many male comedians have material that is also totally gendered! They talk about their girlfriends and how “crazy” they are, how funny rape is, and stereotypically “manly” shit like hunting and sports and drinking beer at some bar while ogling hot girls in short shorts. They talk about how disgusting fat women are, how stupid blonde women are, how awful it is when women won’t sleep with them. And this gendered material is balanced with talking about being a parent, or talking about dogs or something — in the same way that women do.
What I cannot get over, aside from the internalized misogyny bleeding out of every line of this entry, is that Emma Gannon has probably been paid to publish this tripe. Someone gave her money to publish her thoughtless, tasteless, and utterly incorrect treatise on how “girls aren’t funny” on a website frequented mainly by girls — some of whom, I am absolutely sure, want to be stand-up comedians — in the wake of a solid week of feminists (Gannon IDs as a feminist, by the by) discussing the cultural repercussions of male-dominated comedy.
That’s responsible, intelligent, intersectional feminism, right there.