Funny Women 'reacted like bullies'

by Taylor Glenn

The rebuttal Funny Women unleashed against critics of its £15 ‘pay-to-play’ entry fee –  which has now been removed from its website due to the backlash –  reveals an unfortunate side to the competition.

Rather than simply defending the cost of entry on the basis of administration costs (which is what they are saying the £15 is for), they attacked anyone who disagrees with their policy, including Jo Caulfield and Shappi Khorsandi.

And they attacked them by using the same bullying tactics that people in power sometimes use to put both men and women in their place: by saying that if you disagree with them, and speak up about it, then you are effectively ‘bitchy, gossipy, and whiny.’ Go against us, and we’ll shun and insult you for becoming the enemy? Never mind that they missed the point of Shappi’s ironic retort. . .nay, twisted it to suit their message.

Funny enough, until I read that response, I felt a bit of intimidation in speaking up too loudly against Funny Women. After all, as a female comic, I’m supposed to respect and defer to their authority. And until now, I’d have had no reason to criticise them. Having competed in their competition last year, I was honoured to be named as ‘One to watch’.

I was considering re-entering this year to see if I could take things further. So by speaking up, am I at risk of being alienated and blacklisted by the female powers that be? Could it harm my career in the long run? Maybe I should keep quiet, I thought.

Then I read their response today. And I realised that they weren’t speaking to the public with the kind of respect I felt compelled to give them – but rather, with the kind of manipulation and power tactics I used to encounter when I was a psychotherapist and would deal with bullying cases in the workplaces. By accusing dissenters as ‘stereotype perpetuators,’ we are supposed to be scared into submission. It’s rather ironic, as this is a competition which is supposed to empower women and celebrate them as equals in the comedy world, not make them feel scared to speak their minds as they see fit.

A few months ago I wrote an article on here discussing my mixed feelings about the ideas of women in comedy, the pros and cons of being a female comic, and the way that both men and women can be enemies to a sense of fairness and equality when it comes to the issue.

What I can say on the back of these events with the Funny Women Awards, is that sometimes it’s not about men vs. women – it’s about the powers that be exerting power in inappropriate ways, and how we choose defer to them or stand our ground as hopeful comics.

If anything, this event has galvanised the men and women in comedy to stand for fairness in the industry, when a section of that industry has taken things too far with a bullying message. Ironically, Funny Women – although you have now apologised for that initial response – you seem to have spread that message through your missteps.

I’ll eagerly await the tweet from you that says, ‘Only joking, it was a social experiment – and it worked! See you at the free competition, ladies.’

Taylor Glenn is an American comic based in the UK. Website.

Published: 21 Apr 2011

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