Let's not misuse #MeToo | Janet Bettesworth urges the comedy world to pause for thought

Let's not misuse #MeToo

Janet Bettesworth urges the comedy world to pause for thought

#MeToo has been an amazing revolution and I have every faith that it’ll sort out the deeply endemic sexual exploitation in the entertainment world, of which I had personal experience in the 1960s.

As an impoverished art student, I auditioned a number of times for jobs on the fringes of show-biz, but quickly realised that a blow-job, universally, was the password. Non-compliance was received with only a ‘don’t waste my time’ shrug. I was lucky, I think.

Now, in the wake of Time’s Up and #MeToo, women can’t put a foot wrong. Whatever the conversation, the default mode now is: we’re the good guys. And men are the bad.

 Here, I want to suggest how desperately sad it would be if we, as women, were to abuse this new power and gradually lose credibility.

For example, on a comedy forum a few days ago a young female comedian called for a young male one to be banned from the circuit, on the basis of alluding to a completely unsubstantiated rumour of something he was supposed to have done, not to her, but to an unnamed other. 

He had, more plausibly, (because he admitted to it) once posted a nude picture of the comedian herself, but this had been forgiven by her.

Instantly, more than 100 people connected to the comedy world rallied with support, congratulations on her courage, and vows of never booking the man again. There were about four people who expressed reservations, including me. By the way, I’ve never met the guy in question.

Do not express a divergent opinion on such a thread, unless you want to end up feeling like you’ve been bashed over the head. You will quickly realise that it’s not a ‘forum’ after all.

By suggesting that an alternative to instant condemnation and excommunication of the man might be to pause until his ghostly crimes took on ANY substance, I was recommended to spend the rest of my life apologising to the female comedian who put up the post. This then escalated into my being responsible (via my internalised misogyny) for the unspecified predation upon the unspecified victims.

You might say that all this was nothing, just social media, but it was having real repercussions in the real world for the man’s career.

 I think that it would be a good idea for the comedy world, as has been suggested, to become self-cleansing, but only after some PROOF of misdemeanour, for heaven’s sake!

 We rush to join the circle jerk (a virtual lynch mob in this case), in our eagerness to demonstrate our own right-thinking caringness, without stopping to think  what’s at stake.

A person is being thrown away.

In conclusion – we should try to avoid the possibility of #MeToo being just a flash in the pan: by making sure that its integrity is not eroded.


• The comedian at the centre of this story has subsequently written a strong rebuke of the points raised. Read it here.

• Chortle would like to apologise for the publication of this article, which should not have appeared in this form. While all opinion pieces reflect the views of their author and not necessarily this website, that article did not go through the levels of editorial scrutiny we aim for. We have kept it online for the time being to give context to the response.

Published: 26 Jun 2018

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