Reasons » « Yup

Kate’s version

So now there’s a lot of bullshit and ass-covering about the cancellation of Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show at Goldsmiths. So Kate has presented the documentation.

The media have written a lot about my show at Goldsmith College being cancelled tonight and of course social media is now abuzz with people calling me a liar and claiming I’ve made the whole thing up. So here’s my version. With screenshots to prove it. My apologies for releasing shots of what was obviously intended to be a private conversation, I wanted very much to avoid this but I’m not going to put up with being called a liar repeatedly. I have blurred out identifying details of the representative from Goldsmiths Comedy Society because I know from personal experience how the internet can over-react otherwise.

I was booked to do a show at Goldsmiths College, in south London. I’ve performed there many times before. The show was a joint event for the Comedy Society and the Feminist Society – members of which could come for free – and we then agreed that they would put up a ticket page for anyone else – such as local residents who fancied coming. As a way to cover costs or raise a few extra quid.

The day before the show (Sunday) I was getting a lot of hassle on Twitter because I had dared to suggest that cutting the opening hours of Spearmint Rhino strip club was a good thing.

So she thought it only right to inform the organisers that there might be some protesty disruption at the show.

But they already knew…

…needless to say I was more bothered by the apparent low ticket sales – I hadn’t realised (this would be clarified later) that this referred to tickets bought online, not to members of the Comedy Society and Feminist Society who would be just showing up on the night as they didn’t have to pay. So I queried this…

She wanted to do the show. People are saying she was trying to get out of doing the show. Nope.

Also, it wasn’t about the ticket sales.

Also note that after the media got hold of the story Goldsmiths Comedy Society responded suggesting the show had been cut due to poor sales. A few points on that:

1. The show was never set up for tickets to be sold – it was a free event for students from the relevant societies. The tickets sold were extras on top of the expected crowd.
2. They were still expecting 50 people when hey pulled the event.
3. The show has been very popular elsewhere. In Edinburgh we had to cut the show slightly short to allow extra time to get the crowds in and out on weekends. It had all 4 and 5 star reviews. For example:
4. If you’re going to pull a show over sales, you could save a lot of effort by just doing that rather than trying to call me a bad person!
5. Wow – isn’t it petty and mean to refuse to accept that you screwed up and try instead to damage my professional reputation by undermining me with misleading data like that?

Yes, it fucking is.

I’ve seen one of her shows. I’m that lucky. I sat two or three yards from her when she did a show at a Dublin pub in July 2013. It was brilliant. Ab-muscle hurtingly funny and brilliant. Ask PZ, ask Sili – they were there.

Then the organizer says some nonsense about supporting the sex industry. Kate says she supports the women in the industry, but “can hardly perform at a pro-pimp event.”

So then bam, it was canceled, just like that, for no real reason.

She doesn’t, and neither do I.

And then, somehow, it became about Kate’s offenses against the burqa.

I’ve already seen some of my feminist Muslim friends commenting on Kate’s Facebook post about this, disgusted on her behalf. Tehmina Kazi is one.

…I wasn’t shown the other complaints – I have asked for them.  I do feel bad that one individual has beens stuck in the middle of clearly a lot of conflicting angry voices (including mine). But on the other hand (philosophy mode now, strap in!) that’s the responsibility that free speech gives us. People can say things, others can complain, someone needs to assess those complaints and see if they’re worth acting on. Obviously I think I should have been allowed to perform. Especially as my show – which is not in any way about the sex industry or the burqa – is about free speech. Actually there is no better time to heckle than halfway through a show about free speech!

And yes – we probably will put it on somewhere else in London soon. It will be part of the Leicester Comedy Festival and hopefully the Brighton Fringe. I won’t post links or I’ll be accused of shamelessly using the incident to promote my work. But anyone who had a ticket for Goldsmiths – yes all eight of you!! – can drop me a line and be guest-listed and served free drinks by me personally at an upcoming performance.

I’ve quoted very extensively because Kate wants this to get out there, but read the whole thing to get every detail. And don’t be deceived by the bullshitters.

Reasons » « Yup


  1. Morgan says

    Bizarre. Was the concern over the students’ safety, such as security might be interested in? Or about whether the event would be a safe space, which I wouldn’t think a comedy night would normally be expected to be (and which seems like something with fairly stringent requirements such that you’d want to tell people right from the start what the expectations were)? The Comedy Society rep seems to be jumping all over the place trying to spin the cancellation. Can’t get a sense of who was actually saying what to them, and why.

  2. iknklast says

    “Safety” is a line that campuses love to throw around when they have a show they don’t want to host. I once had Dan Barker on campus, and they wouldn’t allow me to advertise the event – safety, they said. We don’t have the security if students from other colleges show up and cause trouble (students from the other college in town are not likely to cause trouble; they have equally controversial speakers there). Our students were never at any risk, but you know, atheist = scary. Though I have to admit, I find it difficult seeing Dan Barker as scary.

  3. says

    I think one of the laws of the universe is “never mess with a comedian” It’s right up there with “never get in a battle of passive/aggressive with a cat” and “don’t fight a land war in Asia”

  4. says

    Um, “The Full Story”? From her original statement >

    However the losing minority announced they were going to form a picket line anyway and used Twitter to invite others from around the UK to join.

    Nothing she posted supports this claim, only some tweets about *if* some people wanted to protest, unrelated to the FemSoc people at all. Not as reported that there were tweets flying around and people being dragged in from outside to protest her. Seems the organiser is at fault for taking “the risk of a picket line” and security making that a reason to stop the show. But who suggested there would be a picket line in the first place?

    In a message from the organiser at Goldsmiths Comedy Society, who arranged the show, Kate was told “I asked you because I obviously admire you and enjoy your politics and comedy, but I have already had aggressive messages from the FemSoc and meeting with their ‘leader’ about it all.”

    Given the quotes there it would be really nice if she had included that in her screencaps, any particular reason she didn’t? Or have I missed it – read this post and hers really closely I think! That seems to be the source for the “feminist threats” that are being reported in the media, so pretty ridiculous either way, oh noes aggressive messages, from feminists!

    Seems to me the organiser and the security were to blame, if we accept her view, so why have sex workers been put in the crosshairs for just talking about possibly protesting? I checked Twitter and that is another hole, no discussion of a picket or pulling in people from elsewhere to protest. In fact the convo she highlights on her blog went nowhere – LSESU FemSoc didn’t get back to … What she says seems to back up the people on Twitter, Smurthwaite is the one who suggested there would be a picket line. The organiser says –

    Have you had picket lines outside your gigs before?

    Why does the organiser ask her if people have picketed her shows out of the blue, what was the line just before that of hers that is cut out? Seems a weird way to tell her that there is talk of picket lines.

    The view on Twitter is that she suggested there would be picket lines and that is the reason it was cancelled, she then went on to use that to blame sex workers. I don’t see much to refute that view here.

  5. says

    I don’t know, oolon, I haven’t gone searching for all Kate’s tweets and replies over the last 72 hours. I’m not responsible for what’s in the media. Don’t ask me, ask Kate.

  6. latsot says

    The idea of protests not being allowed at universities (especially because of ‘safety’) is incredible. When I was a student, protests were practically compulsory.

    Kate does great work. She’s been particularly ferocious on the Sunday morning god show we get here in the UK and has provoked a lot of excellent spluttering from religious types. This is probably her most famous example of gleefully upsetting foolish people on that show:

  7. latsot says

    Sorry, I can’t resist posting another link to Kate having fun upsetting people on the Sunday god show.

    The angry spluttering bishop is a regular on the BBC’s flagship morning news show, where – for some reason – he is allowed to smugly pick out news stories he likes and make blithering remarks about them. A couple of weeks ago, a retiring MP said that he was relieved he could finally admit he was an atheist because to do so before retirement would be political and career suicide. The bishop found it hilarious that a political figure might be wary of admitting atheism. A bishop. Who is unquestioningly granted an audience of millions on a regular basis for no other reason than wearing a bit of cardboard on his shirt. You could cut the irony with a fork.

  8. says

    Sorry, I can’t resist posting another link to Kate having fun upsetting people on the Sunday god show.

    That was nice. I particularly like how she didn’t fall for the typical silencing attempts.

  9. DK says

    Citation required. Where/when/how did she “blame sex workers” for anything?

    She’s certainly happy enough blaming sex workers for rape, and using that as a shaming and derailing tactic against people who challenge her claims.

    Then there are her comments in this Guardian article:

    “They are under a lot of pressure from members of the femsoc but also from the sex industry itself,” she said. “They’re afraid of the sex industry lobby. There are a lot of members of Goldsmiths femsoc who have been duped by the rhetoric of the sex industry.”

    Bear in mind that Smurthwaite dismisses sex worker activists and sex worker run organisations as the “sex industry lobby”. In fact, on Twitter, she usually uses the term “pimp lobby”, and smears them with wild claims about them supporting forced prostitution and human trafficking. In that article she makes it sound like the small group of angry sex workers she’s insulted and attacked online, along with their femsoc allies, are some kind of powerful force that’s duping and intimidating other feminists.

  10. says

    DK: Thanks for the cite — but that source only cites to ONE comment of hers, which is admittedly stupid at best, and leaves the rest of the allegations unsupported. Can you find something more credible? I ask because if she’s really as transphobic, whorephobic, and Islamophobic as alleged, that might have been a good reason for a college SU to avoid her.

    Also, Smurthwaite’s comment about the “sex industry lobby” being powerful enough to curtail criticism in colleges is kind of wild, especially given the fact that only a minority of one group’s voting members actually made any noises about taking action against her.

  11. DK says

    Here’s another example of how she uses the claim that sex workers and their allies don’t care about other women being raped as a debate tactic:

    “but you’re happy to see my friend gang-raped for years of it means your friends can afford another latte?”
    “people arguing for your friends are what perpetuates what happens to my friends.”

    It doesn’t take much digging through her blog and twitter feed to find examples of her ranting about the pimp lobby, or mockingly comparing the whole idea of sex worker rights to assassin rights or drug dealer rights. Right now I haven’t got the time or stomach to dig them up. If you still want the citations I’ll try to provide them later.

  12. says

    That blog post is disgusting. The person who wrote it was tweeting disgusting comments about Kate yesterday. I don’t consider that any kind of reliable or legitimate source. It’s basically just a hail of abuse.

  13. says

    If the tweets cited by DK @15 are really by Smurthwaite, then she’s no better than all those reich-wing Meese Commission “feminists” who automatically equated all forms of porn and sex work with violence against women, and advocated blanket bans on all of it without regard for the known or likely consequences of such criminalization. She’s clearly denying any form of agency to sex-workers, and treating them as children who can’t be trusted to make the choices their “betters” expect them to make.

  14. DK says

    I don’t consider that any kind of reliable or legitimate source. It’s basically just a hail of abuse.

    It links to Smurthwaite’s own comment on twitter. I think it’s fair to say that her own twitter feed is a reliable and legitimate source for the things she’s said on twitter.

    To me what Smurthwaite has said is far more disgusting and hateful than any response she’s received from sex workers. They may have called her some nasty names, but they haven’t been accusing her of causing rape, or compared her to someone who sells drugs to children. I think their angry reaction is understandable in the face of that kind of bigotry, especially when they’re a group of people who already face a great deal of stigma in society.


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