On social networks, some men offered their solidarity. When the Hollywood Reporter published rape allegations against British comedian James Veitch, Nish Kumar tweeted: “Another day to greet brave women […] Fuck guys, we have to change and we have to do it now. David O’Doherty added on Twitter: “All of us – the industry, but especially male comedians – need to act more decisively when you hear about a problem.” Veitch declined to comment, but a source close to him said he denied all the allegations, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
For those who have experienced sexism and harassment from male colleagues, it is not obvious that men want to see change. Ed Night, whose 2018 Edinburgh Fringe show An Aesthetic addressed harassment in comedy, says men shouldn’t be shy about speaking out against abuse and sexism. “A man recently told me he was afraid to talk about feminism in case someone thought he had an ulterior motive,” he says. “But it’s like ‘canceling the culture’: it’s a deliberate obstacle to talking about the things we should be talking about.”
Mistrust of the “signaling of virtue” is not the only obstacle. Night had to temper his material to avoid legal repercussions. Others fear that their career will be damaged, prioritize their friendship with the accused, or simply do not know what action to take. Many women in comedy I spoke to this year said they were harassed or belittled while the other men in attendance were doing nothing. For them, the inaction of colleagues was unforgettable.
Daniel Sloss asked men to shake off this paralysis on his stand-up show X, where he recalls confronting a male friend accused of rape: “Don’t make the same mistake I’ve made for years, which was sat down and was like: not part of the problem, so I have to be part of the solution. ”
While the men I’ve spoken to all agree that there is a serious problem, others have yet to be convinced. “It’s mostly the old guards who seem willfully ignorant or genuinely oblivious,” Pope Lonergan says. One-on-one conversations between men might change your mind.
But the first step is to listen to women. Night says, “Believe people and realize that people can be nice to you and horrible to someone else. Chances are, if you are a cis man, you either don’t get imposed on these things or you see these things and realize what’s going on.
Men should prepare to hear allegations against men they know and love – and respond the same way they would to allegations about a stranger. Lonergan says, “Most of the names didn’t surprise me, [but] I was quite suffocated by some of them – people that I admire.
Sean Morley, comedian and co-host of the Mandatory Redistribution Party podcast, agrees: “You hear about people you’ve known for years and you’re like, ‘Wow, I don’t have a radar for that kind of thing. things… it could be anyone ‘. ”
Women and non-binary actors have long relied on the “whisper network”. Over the summer, comic book men and producers asked the women to share the whispers, but, Lonergan says, the men are not entitled to this information: “I was guilty of automatically assuming that I would be considered a benign and accessible person. But… abusers don’t wear the “I am a rapist” badge, so women are legitimately conditioned to be suspicious.
For men who are trying to avoid working with potential abusers, the information entrusted to them is vital. “The Whisper Network’s job isn’t to tell me who to work with, it’s to keep women safe,” Morley says. “But there are times when I’ve found out, when I’ve already signed a contract, that the person you’re going to work with is bad. I feel trapped at this point.
In these situations, says Morley, you can at least avoid working with them in the future. As many women have experienced, this can mean loss of income and opportunity – a fact that ensures protection for the violent men who control work opportunities.
Thinking about the impact of complicity is part of a self-examination process for Lonergan. As he challenged men making rape jokes in green rooms, in conversations with female actress friends, he heard how his own “tongue-in-cheek” sexist jokes caused him discomfort. It was hard to hear. However, “We have a duty to have these conversations and for men to engage them. I know women are tired of having to walk men through this. We can have these conversations among ourselves, without seeking forgiveness, seeking to redirect that behavior. “
Morley agrees that all men need to think, “It’s important to go beyond the ‘bad egg’ way of thinking because no one wants to admit that this applies to them. Society is misogynist. You have to accept that somewhere some of these things got in. ”
Part of it may be making an effort to notice language and behavior that is less obviously part of rape culture: “Every man considers himself: ‘I’m one of the good ones and if I were to see the one. of these black and white situations, I’d jump on them. But what you get are subtle stuff where it is: is that a little weird? People have to put their oars in if they think someone is wrong.
One tactic that has been used to combat sexual harassment on US college campuses is bystander intervention. Julie Dennis, head of diversity and inclusion in the advisory, conciliation and arbitration department, says male spectators can play a crucial role. There are three key actions: publicizing a situation, empathizing with survivors, and addressing perpetrators.
Just showing disapproval can be effective. Dennis suggests, “‘What you just said made me uncomfortable’ or ‘I don’t find that funny’. People think everyone agrees with them, so where you have a sexist man and other men saying, “You’re irrelevant,” they’re going to reassess.
Night says that group efforts to bring about change are vital in comedy, where most work solo: “Self-reflective individual change has to happen alongside collective efforts to oust people who have done bad things. ” In the absence of an industry union or HR structures, comics can help each other collectively to ‘stick to your guns if that means not working for someone, telling other people if. you feel that you are not defying anyone’s wishes by doing it. , and keep in mind that you are going to call these things when you see them. Meanwhile, agents, producers, and people who organize festivals can ensure that performers have safe transportation and sleep when attending concerts.
When Night started writing An Aesthetic in January 2018, he was convinced that by the start of the show in August, the actions of one of the men discussed would be common knowledge. Almost three years later, that is still not the case. From a legal standpoint, he says, “You can’t say much”. But that shouldn’t stop men from joining the fight for a safer workplace.