[See update at end.]
Ah yes – this again. If you make it explicit that you’re attempting to correct the lazy habit of inviting only men (only white men, only straight white men, etcetera) to do something then that’s tokenism, shock horror, so you shouldn’t do that, you should instead just stick with the lazy habit of inviting only men. It’s better all around. No one will use the word “token” and everything will be in every way better and more emollient.
The Mock the Week presenter criticised the decision, arguing that stand-up by nature has a larger share of male comics.
Ok wait, that could be just the Independent’s paraphrase. Maybe he didn’t say anything quite that dumb.
“It would have been better if it had evolved without showing your workings, if you know what I mean. Legislating for token woman isn’t much help.
“A certain number of women want to go into comedy and they should be cherished and nurtured, but you’re not going to shift the fact that loads more men want to do it.”
All right, that amounts to the same thing. If you’re not going to shift the fact, that must be because it’s “by nature,” also known as “it’s more of a guy thing.”
To go over the old ground yet again: nobody knows it’s “by nature” or “more of a guy thing” or a “fact” that you’re not going to shift. Why does nobody know that? Because there hasn’t been a careful test yet. The “tests” have all been done in a context where men are already expected to be the ones who do the talking, which includes the performing and the being funny. In a context like that it’s not possible to know that loads more men want to do it. The tests have also all been done in a context where women’s offerings get overlooked or dismissed or forgotten; a context where people just casually say “oh not many women want to do that” without pausing to realize that years of discouragement and extra-high hurdles could have something to do with their inability to think of many women who do stand-up.
O’Briain went on to argue that tackling gender inequalities in other areas such as computer coding would be a more effective use of time than dwelling on the representation of women in comedy.
“I wish a tenth of the energy that was put into the women-on-panel-shows debate was put into women in computer coding, in which there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe and 11 per cent of them are done by women,” he said. “It seems a more sensible challenge than these 300 people (in stand-up comedy) and how they are represented.["]
Tech jobs are also important; of course they are. But you know what else is important? The culture. The discourse. The public conversation. Why is it important? Because it shapes our perceptions of the world and ourselves and each other, and the interactions among them. If women are scarce or totally absent in big chunks of that, that matters.
Update: O’Briain says he was misquoted. On Twitter he said
To clarify, yet again. I have no problem with a policy of no all-male panel shows. I just wouldn’t have announced it.
Fair enough. I still disagree with the “you’re not going to shift the fact” claim, but that’s less annoying without the misquoted part.
Thanks to Malachite for the correction.