The universe has been handing us some real doozies recently, making it hard to figure out which stories in our newsfeed are real and which are satire. Take for instance the recent partnership between the Susan G. Koman foundation and Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oil and fracking companies, to create pink drill bits. Or when a University in Norwich, England announced this week their campaign called “Go with the Flow,” which encourages students to pee in the shower in order to save water. Seems real life is giving funny a run for it’s money as even The Onion couldn’t make this stuff up. In further news of the “WHAT THE,” for the first time in it’s three years, Portland, Oregon’s all-women comedy fest, All Jane No Dick, found out their promotional materials were being destroyed by a men’s rights activist group.
It all started with a craigslist post posted late last week in which a gentleman named Matt put a call out for protesters (a journalists and a camera crew):
This seems like an apt time to list all the ways in which women are segregated, or how line-ups of all men at other comedy fests are called ‘line-ups’ while similar line-ups of women are called something cleverly Sapphic and kitchy but, instead, I’ll just point to the irony of why a festival like this is held in the first place. When asked about facing criticism of separating the women from men, Artist Director Stacey Hallal said simply, “My personal preference is to present the best—I’m focusing on women until they’re equally represented.”
There’ll always be the argument that highlighting the women of comedy further divides the gap that we’re trying so hard to close. That mentioning a comedian who happens to be a woman makes it about gender when it’s not, but that is not at all the intention of AJND.
“I just keep coming back to the statistics, women represent 17-19% of comedy industry,” Hallal said. “There are so many funny women, there is just no excuse for that. [With AJND] I concentrate on one goal, to raise the visibility of women. This is my dream, that I hope gets bigger with time.
Once Hallal found out about the protest, she wasn’t concerned. He seemed peaceful enough. That was until he started throwing around “feminazi.”
“Walking down Alberta Street, I saw the altered anti-All Jane posters,” Hallal explained. “While some of this is funny because it is SO ridiculous, the fact that he tore down our posters – wasting our time, money and energy – and undermined our ability to market our festival wasn’t as funny. Also, the use of the word “feminazi” in his poster was concerning to me as I associate it with people who are hateful toward women. It’s my responsibility to be sure the festival doesn’t get disrupted and more importantly, that everyone feels safe. How sad is it that I have to even think about these things when trying to produce a festival that celebrates all of these amazing women comedians! It’s distracting and frustrating.”
Comedy veteran and AJND performer Susan Rice is just surprised it took them this long. “Three years seems like the charm,” Rice said. “From where I stand this lovely festival is being performed by strong, intelligent, funny women. Hell, I don’t get some of their humor but it is anything but suppressive or critical of men. Do they speak out against violence and date rape and gender identity or rights for all? Yes, loud and clear, but somehow this young man got his knickers in a bunch by stereotyping all female comedians as “man” haters.”
Because obviously the only thing a group of hilarious women have to talk about when they gather for a comedy fest, is men. Now there are a few options here. Either Matt isn’t a comic and he’s staging a thoughtful protest of his rights as a man or, as his asking for video coverage and journalists suggests, he’s capitalizing on the land of Portlandia where everything can be used as fodder for skyrocketing himself into notoriety. As Rice pointed out, “All Jane No Dick is an easy target for someone who is feeling oppressed. What would surprise me is if Matt was a man of color and gay… THAT would surprise me!”
Rice goes on to say, “It would also surprise me if Matt had ever even set foot in a comedy club.”
Maybe Matt should step into a comedy club this weekend in order to see this weekend’s amazing line-up in action, whether they comment on his protest or not. Although, it is almost a shame that he’ll refrain from shouting any chants, but then again, it’d probably be tricky to find anything substantial to rhyme with dick.
Thus far, all Matt’s protest has created is more buzz for the fest, and a stronger need for everything the festival represented in the first place. According to Hallal, “we intend to join him in every way we can. Clearly he’s sad and scared, and could use all the company he can get. It’s crazy that women sharing their voices and points of view – even in a fun, welcoming comedy setting is still so threatening to some small-minded men. If he protests, we will join him with men carrying signs that say, “I’m scared” and “I feel vulnerable” and “Women who talk take up time I could be talking” and “Take back the Mic!”
You can check out the lineup and can witness all the action this weekend, October 15- 19th, in Portland, Oregon.