This Is NOT Okay.
I'm writing this with a great amount of hesitation. Things I want to make clear.
- I am only posting this because I have video evidence of SOME (not all) of it happening. This sort of heckling is not unusual. Ask any female comic.
- I never was in any danger. It is a well run comedy night. There were bouncers in the room.
- I didn't shut them down because as a host of a comedy night, it would be unprofessional. Keeping the night, upbeat, moving and light is my job.
- One of the group bothered to look me up, and wrote to me the next day to apologize. Which is decent of him and makes me think I'm not exaggerating when I say the behaviour was nasty.
It was nasty.
I felt a little scared. I felt that cold creepy feeling you get like your heart is dropping. I also felt angry.
On Saturday I was MCing a club that caters for stag and hens and birthday parties. It can be raucous, it often is a lot of fun. This time a stag do in the front row decided to make it not fun. About 2 mins into the show one of their number heckled to tell me another one of their number was a rapist.
What am I supposed to do with that information?! It isn't exactly a funny starting point. Although I thought I did a good job, it isn't easy to make light of. See for yourself.
I was trying out a bit of camera equipment and happened to get some (not all) of the heckling on film.
Heckling about rape makes me angry. He'd've never said that to a male comedian. Never. To me, it is less about the threat and more about that man looking at me and thinking 'woman is for fucking not talking'. It is about them trying to dominate me by pointing out that because they are male, they will always have a physical advantage over me. It doesn't matter what I say, I am meat. They will always win.
(NOT THIS TYPE OF BIGGY)
If I saw the video, I'd say, "meh, no biggy". It isn't a biggy. I've been followed offstage and groped before. That's a biggy. I've been actually threatened. I've had people call from the back of the room that I'm a fat cunt and they are going to rape me in the parking lot. They even followed me out into the parking lot. No rape occured. Biggy. However, I don't have video evidence of this. In comparison, this video seems like fluff.
And in reality no harm was done. Other than making me feel bad. These guys were in their 40s, they were trying to have a laugh, they misjudged and I tried to get us all out of the awkward situation. They were disruptive to everyone that night, and while everyone got heckled by them, I believe the rape heckles were targeted primarily at me. (The headliner, brilliantly responded to one heckle with 'you sir are making want to use the hashtag #metoo' but other than that, I got the majority of the rape talk).
Why am I posting this? Just to underline the point that Rape Culture really exists. It is pervasive enough that a group of middle class middle aged men feel it is okay to act this way to a younger female in a very male heavy room. You can see by the email I got the next day, they WERE good guys. Yet they still laughed along. They didn't shut him up. They went with the crowd. (Just as I tried to through gritted teeth.)
I don't know how we are going to overcome this bullshit. As an MC of a comedy night you can't go and ruin everyone's night because it would look like you 'can't handle' a situation. That is part of what being a professional is. Trouble is, as a woman, what you have to handle is a lot more than men do.
To reiterate my points at the top:
- I was never in any danger.
- It is a well run comedy night and I wouldn't hesitate to go back there
- I do not think these blokes (minus maybe one) are in anyway evil or even bad. This is a cultural problem.
- I do not think male comedians have to put up with this shit as much as we do.