Earlier this month NYC based comedian Aaron Glaser was banned from UCB after several women anonymously accused him of rape. It incited wider outrage within the comedy community when Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger offered his two cents regarding the controversy, posting this to his personal Facebook page.
Unfortunately, much of the outrage and criticism wound up being directed at Amy Schumer herself, who even after announcing on Twitter that she did “not agree with Metzger’s actions” is being criticized. This confuses me. How did this become a conversation about cursing Schumer’s name? Wasn’t the conversation we were having about the rape? Or does rape only exist within the context of a joke about women?
Women in comedy know how sketchy it feels to spend their nights in basements surrounded by men who will say whatever they want for the expense of a joke, because it’s “comedy.” Women are objectified on and off stage, given unwanted advice about the comedy business, as well as unwanted advances. I myself have felt unsafe; I’ve had male comedians come up to me and tell me how cute I look and that I smell good. I’ve even had a guy tell me he “was here for the gangbang,” when I asked if he was here for the same show I was. He immediately followed up by saying “Come on, it’s a joke, you should know it’s comedy.” It almost feels as if men are trying to give us a reason to leave the scene and have the boy’s club all to themselves. In comedy, rape is made to be a joke, and we are made to feel we need to accept it. We don’t, and that’s where we run into trouble.
After UCB’s announcement that Glaser had been banned, my newsfeed was flooded with fellow women and men in the comedy community sharing their own sexual assault stories along others just expressing their immense support for the women affected by Glaser’s alleged actions. Messages empowering all women. Messages declaring war against anyone who refuses to consider a woman’s safety a priority! Private DMs between friends thanking each other for speaking up and letting their voice be known.
When a comedian is on stage, you are seeing and hearing their most vulnerable thoughts, often underlined with deep seated anger and insecurity. This is what makes the community so important for women to be apart of. It gives us a platform to discuss our fears and concerns with humor. It’s also great for women because women are funny as hell! Unfortunately there are double standards. If a man gets on stage telling a joke about sleeping with several different partners he will be celebrated for his sexual prowess, but a woman would be called a slut. If a man gets on stage declaring that all women are crazy he will be considered down to earth, but if a woman declares that men are abusive, she is shunned for being too sensitive. A man can say “You look like you’ve never had a dick in your face” on stage, and get a laugh. A woman can say “He didn’t know how to eat me out” and get booed for being too crass.
“This entire controversy reminds me so much of the whole ‘PC Culture’ controversy that’s been going on for the past few years,” comedian Jourdain Searles of the Shady Lady Podcast told me. “The problem is that rape culture, like racism and sexism in mainstream media, has always been a problem. The only difference is now the marginalized are ready to speak up. As it often happens in social justice, we are blamed for creating the problem by simply bringing attention to the problem.”
In this case, bringing attention to the issue has shed light on how society views rape victims, more specifically how male comedians view them. People have already been joking about the legitimacy of these women’s accusations.
“To speak to the women defending the men, I think they do it because they have trouble accepting that men are as bad as they seem,” Ms. Searles adds.
I can definitely respect the need to know all the facts, like when you’re voting for a politician or ordering a new item off the menu, but when a woman says she has been raped or assaulted chances are it is true. It is true because rape is the most horrific way to demean a woman, to take her strength away, and humiliate her. It’s about control and disrespect.
“What they don’t understand is that this isn’t about ‘bad’ and ‘good’,” Searles says. “It’s about the societal structure and patterns of behavior that have been accepted for so long… Times have changed.”
The fact that male comedians are just referred to as “comedians” whereas female comedians are referred to as “female comedians” is a problem. We are constantly pushing for recognition and respect. We are undermined and not taken seriously. We are seen as the girlfriends, not the main character. We are the butt of the joke. We’re denied agency. As Searles says, “It really is so ingrained that men deserve access to our bodies. I wish there was a way to create a dialogue where men can investigate their actions towards women and hold themselves accountable”
The events this week have shown that there is a clear imbalance in the comedy world. A male comedian has made it publicly known that he thinks women are liars and attempted to silence us. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Men are constantly trying to silence us and prove that we are less than them. They make us out to be crazy and unstable. They make us trust them and then rip it all from under us and somehow it is still our fault that we weren’t more careful. We are blamed for another person not willing to respect us.
Yes, there is a lot of heartbreak and anger that leads a woman to get into comedy. Being a woman is a lot to deal with and we are dealing with it everyday. We’ve been forced to fight silently for centuries, for every right we’ve won, and are currently fighting for our voices to be heard again. As we can see from the last two weeks, women in comedy are no longer willing to be seen but not heard. Women in comedy now know that in this fight, they have an army of support behind them.
Becca Beberaggi is a NYC based freelance writer who has written for online publications like Elite Daily and XOJane. As a comedian she performers regularly through the city and produces a monthly show at The Experiment Comedy Gallery called “Pint Sized Comedy”. She is an active napper. You can follow her on twitter at @beberagg.