As seen is Wom*news #9: Myths!
She charges on stage, a beleaguered veteran of comedy, and launches into a set that tends to leave a stinging sensation.
“I was in the valley the other day and I heard some guys talking about chasing some pussy. They said they were going to chase some pussy. Let’s go chase some pussy. I felt like saying if you have to chase pussy that means pussy is literally fleeing from you. I don’t know about you guys, but being chased is my least favourite form of foreplay. A little game of tiggy isn’t going to negate the fact that you are wearing white leather shoes and have red rapey faces.”
Her name is Becky Lucas, a rising star in the Brisbane comedy scene. Next month will see her in a run of shows during the Melbourne Comedy Festival with Corey White and Dan Rath, titled Undiagnosed. I was fortunate enough to chat to Becky about her time as a comic, what makes her laugh, and the myth that women aren’t funny.
Mitchell: How did you get your start in comedy?
Becky: I told this really good comic that I was thinking of doing it and he booked my first gig for me at the New Market Hotel. Looking back it was such poor quality humour; I thought it was really good. It was fine for my first go. I look at it now and I just know I would have hated me as a comic.
M: What were some of your jokes?
B: I had a joke about the bikes Campbell Newman set up and apparently people would hire out a bike and get to their destination and there was no space, no one had taken any at the other and so they had to go back. Nothing says convenience like a round trip. That’s my punch line, that wouldn’t even get laughs in a conversation. People think on stage that things are heightened, that they are funnier. But it is the exact opposite.
M: How would you describe your comedy voice or style now?
B: I think I am still finding my voice. I have recently become aware that I am quite mean. I don’t want to be, but when I look over my material it is very ‘this is this’ and I kind of attack. I’d like to think of it as satirical and observational, just mean things that I try to give a punch line so people don’t hate me. A friend of mine always calls me an acid tongue orator.
M: Where do you draw a lot of you inspiration and influences from?
B: I really like Louis C.K, Maria Bamford, Dylan Moran, and Bob Saget which might seem ridiculous. I love Jerry Seinfeld, I would probably feel like I am Seinfeldish, but meaner. Like I’m the unlovable Seinfeld. I’m Jenny Seinfeld.
M: Do you have a favourite joke that is not one of yours?
B: It’s this local comic named Dan Rath and it’s his joke about how old white guys a rarely on the fence when it comes to Asians. They either hate them or they are married to one.
M: What do you think about the article by Christopher Hitchens that proposes that women aren’t funny?
B: It sounds really bad, I know funny women. I know myself. There are funny women. There are funny women out there. But it is hard, because the article talks about how women don’t need to be funny and that is the depressing thing that biologically a man will go out with you because you might be beautiful or smart or you provide and then they can go off with their friends and be funny with their friends. But I think it kind of depends on what kind of woman you are, I mean I am quite independent, I have always been.
I think men aren’t really willing to listen to a girl being funny. They just don’t want to. They go up and say something funny and instead of laughing and processing it the way they would if a guy said it they have to give a quick scan of what she looks like. Even to this gig I was wearing this dress that is kind of short and with skin showing. I have to change into a dress where I can be a mole underneath it. It is about how you appear and whether that affects humour. I think we are hardwired to think of humour as a fat, down and out guy, or someone that is a little askew. But women aren’t taught to be pathetic. You are taught to wash your hair and do your hair and be reasonable and trot off and be independent and don’t be a fuck up. Whereas guys can be a fuck up and people will go ‘what a larrikin’. He is one of the boys and there is none of that leniency for girls.
M: He makes the comment at one point that the only women who are funny take on a masculine voice and are ‘dykes’. Do you think this is true?
B: I completely disagree with that. I think they are maybe the ones men are comfortable with listening to because they can place them into a category. I will never fuck you so I will laugh at you. I don’t think men like women who can do it all, you can’t be pretty and funny. That’s a man’s job. You don’t need to be funny. It is such bullshit. Anyone can be funny. I have met funny people who don’t even speak English, we don’t even speak the same language, and they are just charismatic
M: Germaine Greer wrote an article in response and she says that it is not true that women aren’t funny. It is just because they are less competitive. The joker is always looking for acceptance and women just don’t really care about that. What do you think about this?
B: I agree with that. I have had boyfriends where I would be sitting in a group of his friends and I will be zinging hard and later he will be like, ‘you are just trying so hard.’ And I will say, ‘That is because I want to be a part of it and it is so easy to not be’. Competiveness in a woman isn’t seen as an attractive trait and because we are conditioned so early to be attractive often women won’t pursue it. That is why women can be funny together and then separate them into a group of men and they get withdrawn. I still have that underlying urge to be liked or to be considered a woman.
M: Thank you for your time, it was great to an insight into your mind!
“Undiagnosed” can be seen at the Ball and Bear Bar in Melbourne from the 27th of March to the 20th of April. Tickets are $15.
~ Mitchell Firman
As some of you might be aware, we’ve had a bit of trouble printing the latest issue of our zine Wom*news due to …timing and geographical hurdles? Emily and Emma printed a bunch of the Myths issue for the Collectives Hang last Tuesday at the uni printing hub – Holy Sylvia Plath, it was a nightmare – but we didn’t have big enough staples! We ended up solving the problem by holding the zines together with purple pegs. Very kitch!
In addition to being put in the University of Queensland Library catalogue earlier this month, Wom*news and the UQ Women’s Collective have some other great things happening!
Trigger warning for misogynist, homophobic language, discussion of sexual assault.
“Grow some balls!”/”That takes balls.”
Having balls is a compliment or an insult, depending on how it’s used, but it comes back to the idea that being courageous/brave/forward is a male thing. I’m sure no one doubts that these traits are certainly present in women as well, however the problem here is linking such traits with cis-male genitalia. There’s also a bit of an irony to this saying. Testicles seem to be the most sensitive part on a male body. And yet, ironically, they’ve come to represent toughness.
So far, there’s no problem, really. Where’s the sexism?
The problem is when it’s used to describe a woman. And there are two issues with this. First, cis-women don’t have balls. So substitute balls for ovaries? It doesn’t quite have the same ring. We don’t even have a colloquial word for ovaries in english (in common usage, anyway, Urban Dictionary informs me that the kids are calling them “Os” these days), and yet I can think of numerous slang words for testicles off the top of my head. Balls, nuts, bollocks, crown jewels.
The second problem with this saying is when someone says to a woman “grow some balls”. Meaning get some nerve/drive/courage. It’s reductive because, in light of the fact that women don’t have them, it implies that courage/nerve/the go-getting attitude is A Male Thing. This insult’s close relative, calling someone a “pussy”, perfectly compliments this idea by saying that if you don’t have these things, you are female genitalia.
Finally, this is pretty trans* phobic language. The expression totally adheres to the gender binary, and in doing so, defines internal gender characteristics by reference to physical (external) gender. In this way, gender is represented as a dichotomy rather than a spectrum, and physical and mental manifestations of gender are wrongly conflated.
“You’re such a girl!”
Being a girl in this context is synonymous with being weak, submissive, and crying easily. Of course these traits are feminine, and therefore negative (according to this insult’s logic). The female gender is reduced to an insult. Like it’s the last thing anyone would want to be.
I’ve also noticed people employing this gender essentialist language to describe themselves or others in a positive way. Well in a retro-sexist positive way. Take this for example. “I just love crocheting and baking sponge cakes, I’m such a girl” or this, “my boyfriend eats soo much, he’s such a boy”. In other words “I do [insert gender-essential trait here], therefore I’m such a [insert gender here]“.
Like the “you’re such a girl” line, these expressions reek of gender essentialism. In the world of these expressions all girls wear pink dresses with little bows and like to knit or flower-arrange in their spare time. Likewise, the “boys” don’t show any sort of complex emotion, like “big” things like cars and trucks, and of course have enormous appetites.
“Take it as a compliment!”/”Have a sense of humour”/”Don’t be so serious.”
You know that person who says you look cute when you get angry, or that person who says they’re a feminist and then proceeds to completely objectify you (by being overtly sexual, asking you for naked photos – true story!)? This is one of their favourites.
People like to pull this one out when someone makes a sexist/homophobic joke and you don’t let it slide. If only you’d just stop being such a humourless feminist and appreciate some good old humour! Go on, take those sleazy construction worker catcalls as a compliment! You should like receiving that attention; it means you’re attractive, right?
The idea of someone who “wears the pants” in a relationship.
This saying manages to be astoundingly heteronormative, with a generous helping of tired gender roles and gender essentialism.
Re: gender essentialism, first. It’s underscored by the idea that the person who wears the pants is a man (even though women wear pants. Indeed, I’m wearing pants right now). And that this pants-wearing man is the one who wields the power and authority in a relationship. It’s premised on the idea that it’s not fathomable that two people in a relationship, irrespective of their gender, could simply be equal, and that there may actually not be either particular person calling the shots. To think that someone has to be “the one in charge” is just really…weird and paternalistic.
Moving on to the heteronormativity of this. Just…wow. If the saying is based on the idea that one person in a relationship must either be or resemble a man, then what of a relationship where there are no men, more than one party is a man, neither party is a cis-gendered man?
It also assumes that everyone is in a monogamous relationship between two people.
The thing about this saying is that it’s usually aimed at relationships that don’t, or appear not to conform to narrow conceptions of how gender roles should be. Lesbian relationships are frequently targeted by absolutely hilar observers with these sorts of sayings. But even heterosexual relationships, where the female party might be noticeably forward or self-assured, can be targeted. Observers will wryly note, “well she really wears the pants in that relationship”.
“That sucks dick”/”Go suck a dick”.
This saying seems to be underpinned by the conception that fellatio is fundamentally degrading/debasing. Like “sucking a dick” is a really crappy thing to do and should only be reserved for crappy people. Which confuses me because receiving fellatio is like proof that someone’s A Real Man, or just generally awesome. So…it’s a shit thing to do, but if you get it you’re awesome?
Raping/being raped by things.
I’m going to keep writing about this until rape stops being funny to people. But first, let’s go back to a definition of rape, shall we? So (my non-dictionary) definition of rape is non-consensual sexual activity with someone. But it’s more than that. It’s an expression of power over someone, enacted by sexual means.
Rape isn’t just having sex with someone when they weren’t really into it. It goes far deeper than that. So, again, that really difficult exam? That long day at work? That nauseating hangover? That person hacking into your facebook and changing your status? Not rape. Next time you think about using ‘rape’ to describe any of those things, (or basically anything that isn’t non-consensual sexual activity with someone) think about all those sexual assault survivors whose experiences you’re dismissing.
~ Rosie Cuppaidge
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous” – Coco
Thanks, Coco, for that inspiring bit of wisdom. I want to have a chat about femininity and its place in my life and the struggles it has invited and the joys it has delivered.
The thought about femininity struck me as I was painting my nails a beautiful shade of turquoise and mulling over the concept of myths in relation to feminism. No doubt, these ideologies have stumped many a woman the world over, but indulge me for just a bit while I have a rant about how “femininity” (because scare quotes are actually really needed here, and I’ll explain why in just a sec) has impacted my life (how very out-of-the-ordinary of me, I know!).
So basically, “femininity” is a social construct, put in place yonks ago by someone random (I’m sure I could research this and find plenty of fun facts that probably relate back to religion, but whatever) and since then, it has bewildered, frustrated, and delighted the masses. The ideology goes something like this:
Girls/femininity = PINK!!!, sugar, dresses, make-up, softness, silence, grace, beauty, infantilisation, shallowness et cetera
Boys/masculinity = BLUE!!!, getting dirty, trucks and soldiers, boldness, loudness, action, effortlessness et cetera
Obviously these ideologies are way more complex, but I’ve just simplified that because it’s almost 11 PM on a Monday night and I couldn’t be arsed to write anything eloquently. Heaps more have just popped into my mind, but I’m sure you get the drift. The whole thing is bullshit. Now, let me get reflective here. I am the first-born girl in my family; I have two younger sisters. Being the typical “first girl”, I got dressed entirely in pink and ribbons and adornments, essentially rendering me a glorified marshmallow for the first five years of my life. This isn’t really anyone’s fault in particular. This is just how ideologies work in our society (see: Girls/femininity = PINK!!!). I’m sure I wore shorts from time to time, and obviously must have worn different colours, but the majority of photos show me dressed in something classy and fabulous and behaving very well indeed. A lot of that has to do with my mother raising me with civility and manners (something that every child should be raised with, just FYI), but I wonder if I would have been allowed to go outside and get dirty more often had I been born a male? If screaming fits and temper tantrums would have been received with obvious frustration, but also an underlying sense of pride at baby boy’s strong voice and rambunctiousness, instead of the scorn at wee little girl’s spoilt brat antics?
My sisters did not receive such stark femininity thrust upon them. My middle sister was paraded in purple, always mischievous and up to no good, which was a delight to many (and still is). The boxes were slowly being ticked off: my parents had the proper, bookworm, princess, as well as the witty, adorable, mischief-maker. And then along comes my youngest sister. Who was, for some unknown reason, dressed in blue and given relatively gender-neutral toys to play with. Was this because my parents understood that Girls/femininity = PINK!!! was utter bullshit? Or was it just because they had exhausted all of their preconceived notions of what being a girl was all about on the first two? Regardless, my youngest sister was always more action-packed, dirty, unruly, and just plain boy-ish as a child — the complete opposite of what I was like.
Some may argue that that is just our personalities. That’s just who we are. And I guess to some extent that is true, because we still are different to this day, and that’s beautiful because we’re unique, adult women who have forged our own identities separate from what was dumped on us as infants. But what if the way we were dressed and presented to the world as children deeply impacted our personalities and how we see ourselves? Maybe I am more insecure and shy than my youngest sister because I was brought up to be more quiet, more sensible, more bookish, more ‘feminine’, as opposed to loud, and dirty, and active, and confident.
I went through a huge identity crisis around the age of 12. For a few years, I refused to wear skirts or dresses. I refused to wear pink, and totally abhorred any colour close to it in the spectrum as well. I wanted to be a boy. I wanted to defy my boundaries. I wanted to change.
In actual fact, I love pink. I love dresses. I love make-up. I love accessorising. I love making myself feel good with external additions and adornments. This is not vapid. Or shallow. Or vain. People (women) have been led to think this about “girly-girls” in order to discredit what it means to be “feminine” in today’s society. Ariel Levy says it best in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.
“Attacking femaleness, deriding ‘girly stuff’ and rolling your eyes at ‘women’s issues’, declaring yourself a ‘tomboy’ who gets along better with men because women are silly or pretty or whatever — these are expressions of internalized sexism. If that’s the way you feel about your own sex you’ll be doomed to feel inferior no matter what you achieve in life.”
Basically, for years I rejected what I genuinely liked in order to break free from an image that I was forced to grow up with. Somewhere along the line, I learnt that femininity = bad and I wanted out. It took me a long time to accept that being “feminine” and being not-so-“feminine” is okay. We are all just people (oooh profound!). If I want to wear something ridiculously frilly and curl my hair and wear tonnes of make-up because it makes me feel good, that is fucking spectacular. If I want to not wash my hair for a week, rock a pair of track pants and a clean (but slightly blemished) face because it makes me feel good, that is also fucking spectacular. And it isn’t my place to judge anyone on the way they look, or how they dress. Jafeel?
So, in summary, Coco, girls should be whatever the fuck they want to be because they are all beautiful, fantastic creatures who deserve love and the freedom to discover their own unique femininity or femaleness or masculinity or maleness or whatever. And for the record, I am classy and fabulous, just the way I am.
~ Sarah Groundwater