WWhen US comedian Kelly Bachman found herself performing in front of Harvey Weinstein in custody at a New York show in October 2019, she confronted him from the stage. But she was the only one who did, and later wrote in the New York Times: “Much of the work in recalling rape, rapists and the rape culture, sadly, still falls on the survivors … I want other people to speak for us so we don’t have to. “
Similar appeals have come from women and non-binary comedians in the UK following the latest round of #MeToo revelations this summer. Mae Martin, London Hughes, Eleanor Tiernan, Sofie Hagen, and others asked the men to lead the conversation about sexism and sexual harassment. When most stories involve a male author, surely men have to be the ones making the changes?
On social media, some men offered solidarity. When the Hollywood Reporter published rape allegations against British comedian James Veitch, Nish Kumar tweeted: “Another day to greet brave women. […] Guys, fuck, we have to change and we have to do it now. “David O’Doherty added on Twitter,” All of us – the industry, but especially male comedians – need to act more decisively when you hear about any issue. “Veitch declined to comment, but a source told him. neighbor said she denied all allegations, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
For those who have experienced sexism and harassment at the hands of male colleagues, it is not a given that men want to see change. Ed Night, whose 2018 Edinburgh Fringe show An Aesthetic tackled harassment in comedy, says men shouldn’t hesitate to speak out about abuse and sexism. “A man recently told me they were worried about talking about feminism in case someone thought they had an ulterior motive,” she says. “But it’s like ‘wiping out culture’: it’s a deliberate impediment to talking about the things we should be talking about.”
Distrust of the “sign of virtue” is not the only barrier. Night had to temper his material to avoid legal repercussions. Others fear career damage, prioritize their friendship with the accused, or simply don’t know what action to take. Many women in the play I spoke to this year reported being harassed or belittled while other men in attendance did nothing. For them the inaction of their colleagues was unforgettable.
Daniel Sloss asked men to shake off this paralysis in his X show, in which he remembers confronting a male friend accused of rape: “Don’t make the same mistake I’ve been making for years, who sat and said, ‘I’m it’s not part of the problem, so I have to be part of the solution. ‘”
While the men I’ve talked to all agree that there is a serious problem, others still need to be convincing. “It is above all the old guard who appear to be intentionally ignorant or genuinely ignorant,” says standup Pope Lonergan. One-to-one conversations between men could change your mind.
But the first step is to listen to women. The night says, “Believe people and realize that people can be lovely to you and horrible to someone else. Chances are, if you are a cis man, you are not being forced into these things or you are seeing these things and you don’t realize what is going on. “
Men must prepare to hear accusations against men they know and like and respond in the same way they would to accusations about a stranger. Lonergan says, “Most of the names didn’t come as a surprise to me, [but] Some of them upset me, the people I admire. “
Sean Morley, stand-up comedian and co-host of the Mandatory Redistribution Party podcast, agrees: “You’ve heard of people you’ve known for years and you say, ‘Wow, I don’t have any radar for this … it could be anyone.’
Women and non-binary actors have long relied on the “web of whispers”. Over the summer, comics and male producers asked women to share the whispers but, Lonergan says, men are not entitled to this information: “I was guilty of automatically assuming that I will be seen as a benign and approachable person. But. .. the perpetrators don’t wear the “I’m a rapist” badge, so women are legitimately conditioned to be wary “.
For men trying to avoid working with potential abusers, the information they trust is vital. “The whisper network’s job isn’t to tell me who to work with, but to protect women,” says Morley. “But there are times when I’ve discovered, when I’ve already signed a contract, that this person you’re going to work with is bad. I feel trapped at that point. “
In those situations, Morley says, you can at least avoid working with them in the future. As many women have experienced, this can mean losing earnings and job opportunities, a fact that guarantees protection for abusive men who control job opportunities.
Reflecting on the impact of complicity is part of a self-examination process for Lonergan. While she challenged men by making rape jokes in green rooms, in conversations with comedic friends she felt her own “ironic” sexist jokes cause discomfort. It was hard to hear. However, “We have a duty to have those conversations and for men to initiate them. I know women are tired of having to walk men through this. We can have these conversations among ourselves, without seeking forgiveness, trying to redirect that behavior. “
Morley agrees that all men should reflect: “It is important to go beyond the ‘bad egg’ way of thinking, because no one wants to admit that this applies to them. Society is misogynist. You have to accept that somewhere, some of those things have crept in. “
Part of this may be making an effort to notice language and behavior that are less obviously part of rape culture: “Every man considers himself: ‘I’m one of the good ones and if I saw one of these situations in black and white, there I’d jump over. ‘But what you get are subtle things where it’s like: Is that a little weird? People need to stick the oar if they think someone is wrong.’
One tactic that has been used to address sexual harassment on US college campuses is bystander intervention. Julie Dennis, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, says male viewers can play a crucial role. There are three key actions: spreading a situation, empathizing with survivors, and reaching out to those responsible.
Simply showing disapproval can be effective. Dennis suggests: “’What you just said made me feel uncomfortable’ or ‘I don’t find it funny.’ People think everyone agrees with them, so if you have a sexist man and other men who say, “You’re off duty”, they’ll reevaluate it. “
Night says group efforts to effect change are vital in comedy, where most work alone: ”Self-reflective individual change must occur in conjunction with collective efforts to oust people who have done bad things.” In the absence of an industrial union or human resource structures, comics can collectively support each other in “sticking to their guns if it means not working for someone, talking to other people if you feel you are not challenging anyone’s wishes in this way. and keep in mind that you’ll recall this stuff when you see it. “Meanwhile, agents, producers, and people running festivals can ensure artists travel and sleep safely when attending concerts.
When Night started writing An Aesthetic in January 2018, he was confident that when the show debuted in August, the actions of one of the men discussed would be in the public domain. Almost three years later, this is still not the case. Legally, it says, “There is only so much you can say.” But that shouldn’t stop men from joining the fight for a safer job.