Yours sincerely...

Mike Sheer explains the article that caused such a storm

So now that I have everyone’s attention, I’ll just say it:

Frequent visitors to sites like this are constantly bombarded with various articles debating whether or not women are funny. Like many others, I’m bored and disgusted by the legitimacy this gives the question.

Asking if women are funny is a hangover from our male-centric history, and echoes a primitive attitude that still pops up in communities deeply ingrained with social flaws. As a comedian and promoter I have always refused to acknowledge this whole blatantly misogynist issue. When someone asks: 'Are women funny?', they should really ask: 'Why do I feel the need to perpetuate hatred of women?' We’re all funny, no matter who we are. Unless you’re me obviously, depending who you ask right now.

It’s as careless and destructive to demand there shouldn’t be jokes about rape as it is to actually pen them. Instead let’s focus on what’s behind our attitudes. Until we stop internalising power hierarchies we will continue to destroy the Earth and each other. We will continue to develop the internet as a commercial frontier filled with stupid articles like the kind I was intending to parody, ones ridiculous and brutal in their views, just so we can spread abuse and divide ourselves. We will continue to perpetuate the war between genders, treat animals as edible slaves, and work to invent political pecking orders in our office jobs.

The scariest attitudes are the ones no one likes to identify within themselves, because they are so hard to change. Such is the case with many people’s attitudes towards sexual violence. When it is joked about, we see glimpses of society’s true colours.

Because it’s normal for sex to be used as a tool to manipulate us into buying things is another reason why trivialising sexual violence is so frightening. It’s the daily objectification of women on the sides of busses and highway billboards that makes communities at home with misogyny. It really does feel like society condones being driven to mania by lust, and for something as stupid & destructive as driving the capitalist machine.

Furthermore, as it’s standard for us to treat animals as subservient minions we can casually brutalise, control, milk, and dine on – we’re being told unfair and unnecessary power structures are okay. With the internet, not to mention the current obsession with comedy, we have the opportunity to create something more enlightened.

What I was presenting to you in the article is a combination of the sneaky banter I’ve heard since these topics became considered worthy of discussion plus what female comic friends tell me they are subjected to regularly.

My article has only one directly spoken truth in it: when you take the humour element out of comedy it becomes something quite horrible –  especially when accompanied by a photo of a smugly grinning young man. For lots of you, this has been the case when reading the piece. It was my hope that it would be taken in the spirit it was intended, which, on retrospect, is a very big ask if you don’t already know me.

Those of you who found it crossed the line: if you are really passionate about these matters, and not just keen for a witch hunt, I think you should keep your momentum and direct it at the appropriate targets.

To all of you strangers: Hello, I empathise with your anger. I spend my life trying to develop a live act I’m proud of and that addresses issues I believe in.

  • Mike Sheer runs comedy nights and solo shows at festivals and venues in the UK, Canada, and Australia. He is on Twitter and Facebook
    • Published: 4 Oct 2012

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