This weekend, social media erupted as brave women from the Irish circuit called out abuse by comedian Davey Reilly, and we all reeled at footage of US comics Joe Rogan and Joey Diaz laughing about the latter forcing women to give him oral sex to secure spots at the Comedy Store in LA.
It has forced a general conversation about the level of abuse within comedy, and why it is such ripe ground for this kind of behaviour.
For my part, as a middle-aged woman I feel blessed to be pretty insulated from the worst of this kind of thing. Being sexually non-viable to young men sometimes feels like a superpower. But even I, with my dried up ovaries and low-buoyancy breasts, have had to deal with the kind of low-end creepy behaviour that can be the bottom rungs of a ladder of abuse.
For some men, it’s difficult to see where the line is between flirty chat and behaviour that makes women feel uncomfortable.
This open letter to the Men of Comedy, first written last year and posted on a couple of industry groups, was a way to clarify things for those men, and to help them to nip themselves in the bud before they become another big star with a slew of distressed and broken women in their wake:
Dear Men in Comedy
Like men, women have a right to pursue their creative passions, hobbies and work without being harassed, sexualised or made to feel uncomfortable.
In addition to obvious sexual assault and touching of “danger” areas, here are some of the behaviours that have made women in the comedy scene feel unsafe because they are the bottom rungs of a ladder that can lead to real violence and danger:
- Making personal and sexual remarks about a woman’s body, appearance or mode of dress, in real life and on social media.
- DMing women with “flirtatious”, but actually inappropriately sexual tones in the late night after gigs
- Making inappropriately sexual remarks during car shares or at gigs.
- Unnecessary touching or stroking of waists, arms, knees in a way you would not touch a fellow straight male.
- Praising, supporting and encouraging other men who are behaving like this.
Please do not repeat these behaviours, either as a promoter, or as a colleague. They would not be acceptable in an office or factory setting and there is no reason for comedy to be less professional.
If you are behaving this way, women will not feel safe to gig with/for you, and particularly to car-share.
Please be aware that there are men who will resort to violence if confronted about these “low level” inappropriate actions. Many women have encountered this, and won’t feel safe to talk directly to you about it.
However, women talk to each other about these instances, and to sympathetic men.
If you are behaving inappropriately, it will not be kept secret.
If you think you may have inadvertently behaved badly in the past and understand why it is wrong, do what you can to make up for it; you may have to work hard to rehabilitate yourself.
If you know of anyone who is behaving inappropriately around women and/or other minorities, please don’t keep it to yourself. These things can only stop when they are brought to light.