Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”
― Sheng Wang
I was 13 when first made acutely aware I’d joined the global brigade of male chauvinism. It was 1983 and we were in Modern Studies class. My tutor Ms Purvis…And yes I’m aware even describing her like that is sexist. However, that’s how we had to describe female teachers in those days. An unnecessary labelling of marital status of which I’m sure this incredibly smart woman was fully aware …anyhow… she was conducting a survey with the class. Unbeknown to us the survey was designed to expose the underlying sexism prevalent among not just the boys but the entire class. And it worked a treat.
Here’s the question I’d failed, “Who are better drivers women or men?”
“That’s an easy one miss…It’s men.”
“And where’s your evidence for this John?”
“Well…everybody just knows that. It’s just…errr….a fact”
I remember being genuinely surprised once the figures had been explained to me that women were not just better but safer drivers than men. I’ve no excuse for such thinking. I do have a reason for it though. That’s just what men had been telling us all through my formative decade of the 70s. Did this improve my attitudes towards women. In some ways yes…but in other ways I went on to become even more misguided.
So before we continue this blog I should maybe explain where I am today. You may or not be aware that in this country a “comedy character” called Dapper Laughs has caused no little amount of moral outrage around his TV show and live work. The reason for the outrage is his comedy revolves around an uber bloke persona and misogynist who’s catchphrase appears to be “show us your gash” His show has now been pulled. There was a petition out to have him taken off screen. Rather than sign the petition a fellow comedian urged us to write as (comedi) mens about our views on feminism. So here we are.
My own relationship with Dapper Laughs is a fleeting one. I was aware it was out there, was aware of the pain it was causing and chose not to look at it as I knew I wouldn’t like it. To write this piece I’ve researched him a bit. I’ve also waited for the dust to settle a bit as I’ve already been accused by other shit heads of jumping on bandwagons for speaking about such stuff….but yup… he’s not very nice.
So anyhoo, back to me the sexist. I started in the world of stand up in 1999 after doing a free comedy workshop run by the Stand comedy club in Edinburgh. The workshop was led by Jane Mackay. She was the business co owner and major driving force behind the clubs fiercely independent stance. Her general opinion of my formative comedy fumbling was, “Well Mr Scott you’re obviously quite a complex person. Some of your comedy is a tad misogynistic…but we like you.” That was genuinely the first time I’d heard the word misogynist. I looked it up in the dictionary…Definition given….”Man that hates women” That’s a bit strong I thought.
Jane Mackay is an ardent feminist, an ardent socialist and a genuine defender of the working classes. At the time I entered her and her then husband Tommy’s newly established club they struck me as being a bit like the Malcolm McLaren and Vivien Westwood of the comedy world. They strove to give working class comics a voice. For a few years under Jane’s leadership the Scottish comedy scene was proper punk. Frankie Boyle was one of the main products of this environment so that should give you a wee idea of the artistic freedoms that were being encouraged.
Jane is a big personality. Under her tutelage I became one too. Then at some point our working relationship soured….many reasons…too many to go into here.
One night I was sat in a café getting ready to go on at the Stand when a routine formed in my mind. Not only did I think it could be funny I also knew if it worked it would annoy the life out of Jane. Revenge would be mine. Here it is.
” You know there’s much evidence that proves in certain ways women are superior to men. For an example they can multi task.” ( TURNS TO WOMAN IN AUDIENCE)
” Can you multi task madam?”
“Oh good and are you enjoying the show?”
“Oh good, well while you’re doing that can you make me a cup of tea.”
Errr…yeah that’s not the worse bit…then came this…
“So do you know that 95% of violent crime in this world is committed by men? So there’s are theory out there that says if women were in charge of the world there might be no more wars…which I would say technically means women are superior to men. Would you agree with me sisters? ”
YES! (Shouts the audience.)
“Ah that’s gullible…That’s how you end up with spunk in your eye!”
Yup that second bit is awful. Worse still it became the biggest laugh of my set. One night a close comedian friend said I had to get rid of it. Although originally against the idea I knew what he was saying. So it off it went. Haven’t ever said it live for years now. The point is I made a choice. A choice that on the shallower level of things might have looked detrimental…obviously it wasn’t.
And that’s all it’s about…choices. Step forward again to now. I run a topical panel show at the Stand called Sod the Tories And Have a Nice Week. I think that title pretty much explains its opus operandi. The panel always consisted of 3 male comedians and one female. I thought I was doing good with that. Considering only 5% of stand ups were women I thought I was doing it right. One night I had to apologise, “I’m, sorry there isn’t a woman on tonight. The one we had booked had to pull out a week ago and I couldn’t find a replacement”
To this my fellow panellist John Whale replied, “Oh right…so you only had a WEEK…and you couldn’t find one.”
I was furious with him. He’d exposed me live in front of an audience packed with feminist activists. I also realised he was right. Last month we did the same show with 3 female comedians and a token man. From here on in I will strive to make the panel two men plus two women. The point is I made a choice.
There are comedians I love that do misogynist comedy. But it’s always made very clear within their context it’s an obvious joke and they are the idiot. With Dapper Laughs it wasn’t.
I’ll finish this with telling you a wee bit about the pivotal things women have done in my life.
When I was seven I was on the bus with my mum one day. The conversation went thus.
“What do you want to do when you’re older?”
“I’d like to be like an actor or even better a comedian”
My mum replies after a pause for thought, ” You should do that when you’re older. When you get older the world will be a harder place for people to live in…so they’ll need people like you to cheer them up. ”
Thank you for that mum and the endless non conditional love you’ve given me.
I had a headmistress at my school called Dorothy Munroe. She got to know me after I got in trouble for taking on a bunch of bullies with a dogs choke chain. She defended me and even became a friend into adult hood. One day she said,
“It’s all about breaking the chain John. Break the chain of what they’ve got laid out for you.”
Thank you for that Dorothy. I know you’re gone but I think of you most times.
Then there’s my sister in law Monica. Another extremely literate, intelligent and informed feminist. She’s never had to give me any advice. What she did do was tolerate me when I was that uninformed misogynist comedian. Hopefully having faith I’d change. I hope I have. Her friendship means everything to me.
Then there was Jane Mackay. Without her support I would not be doing the job I do. She said.
” Well look you’re a talentless, retarded cunt from the country…but we like you.”
Thanks for tapping into that need to be loved.
And finally there’s my wife Lesley. She got asked to make some pretty big commitments. And she said “I do”
Anybody so much as ruffles a hair on her head and I’ll gut you. (Actually I wont need to she’d already be wearing your balls for jewellery)
I mentioned somewhere that 95% of violent crime is committed by men. It’s obvious isn’t it. Until women are fully on an equal par beside us things will never change. As I said…It’s all about choices. I’m embarrassed it’s taken so long, embarrassed I got caught up in that 1990s new laddish bull. But I’ve made a choice…and that’s all you need to do.