Imagine you worked at a company that manufactured cars. But every day when you showed up to work, there were new employees and then people who were working there yesterday had quit or gone on vacation. But the new employees weren’t hired or anything, this company has no HR or recruiters, they were just guys walking down the street who looked over and said, “Yeah, I want to build cars too.” You worked there for five or six years and every day when you showed up, you just had to go pitch in somewhere in the office - today you’re building carburetors, tomorrow you’re making coffee, next week you’ll be working in Marketing - you just went where there was an opening today and you may or may not get paid this week. Sometimes you’d just stand around fumbling with head gaskets that would never even go in a car.
There are managers at this company, but not enough of them for the vast and shifting numbers of employees. Some of them used to build cars themselves, but were really bad at it; some of them never worked on a car a day in their life; and some of them didn’t give a shit about cars at all. So sometimes, you’d actually get a manager who showed up and told you where he wanted you to work for the week and made sure you got your pay. But the managers were just as random and shifting as the employees, so next week you might come in and your manager is gone or he’s picked the new guy to join his team and you’re back on your own.
There’s job titles that give the appearance of promotions and seniority, but one week being Line Foreman might mean you were set for life with a contract and a guaranteed pension and health insurance and everything and then next week being Line Foreman got you laughed at in the break room.
The Upper Management is crazy too. There's no CEO or Board of Directors, just a bunch of SVPs who also own really profitable dry cleaning businesses and really only come to the plant to find people to go work there. They don’t care if you’re any good at building cars and don’t really understand how cars work anyway, but they think that for some reason really attractive people who come in to try and build cars should really be working as dry cleaners. And for some other weird reason, if you get transferred to the dry cleaners, you can come back to the car place any time you want and get a boat load of money whether you do good work or fuck up the entire assembly line over and over. Then there's the guys who show up in suits, looking like SVPs and telling gullible new employees they can get them steady pay and dental if they just go sell 10 Skodas to their friends and family.
So basically you have a job where there's no authority, clear path to success or stability, but dozens of people offering a glimpse of hope that may ultimately prove to fleeting, illusory or be pure snake oil.
And that's why an unimportant festival offering gimmicky 77 cents on the dollar entry fees to women can make everybody lose their minds.
The correct response to the announcement is "Oh, good for them" or "That's cute" or even "That's dumb" followed by either "Whatever, I'm gonna go write more jokes now" or "Great, let me get my tape and $25 together"
Instead, it set off a shitstorm of grandstanding and overreaction that it was most certainly designed to do. Which seems insane and irrational. Because it is. Because comedy is insane and irrational. This business is so non-sensical and capricious, it's easy to want to grab on to any and every tiny sign or accomplishment that makes you feel like you're advancing. Or more likely, since we're riddled with insecurity, self-hatred, various neuroses and assorted mental illnesses, any sign you're falling behind or getting screwed.
Now let's add another layer of cray cray. Remember the part about no HR? Hooo is that not a metaphor. That is literally the case in comedy. So when your Big Deal boyfriend beats you up on the reg or the entire upper echelon of your craft is riddled with serial sexual harassers or some jerk running a garbage festival says it's not his fault he only booked men, there are no official channels to turn to for redress. So you turn to public shaming in the pig pile that is social media.
As you might expect, that system works out pretty good for the predators and abusers and pretty awfully for the victims. Unfortunately, it also works out pretty terribly for everybody else. Without any formal authority (not that the real authorities ever do a good job of this) to sort out The Guy Who Assaults Every Waitress At Every Club from The Creep Who Makes You Go Out With Him For Spots from The Guy Who Is a Weird Jerk But Doesn’t Actually Assault, Abuse or Harass Anyone or The Guy Who Just Said The Wrong Thing to a Crazy Person Willing To Resort To The Nuclear Option, the environment gets real toxic, real fast. So, what any reasonable, normal person would see an act of either cunning media strategy and/or a genuine attempt at earnest and open hearted inclusion, now just seems like ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF HOW THESE HARPIES ARE OUT TO GET EVERYONE AND WHITE MEN ARE TOTALLY FUCKED.
Which is stupid. A bunch of women with too much time on their hands gossiping in a secret facebook group is not the reason you’re fucked as a straight, white guy in comedy. Other straight white guys are the reason you’re fucked in comedy. There’s so many of you! And there’s so many of you who are all really talented and even more that are not there yet but clearly show promise. And there’s so few opportunities to be the lead or showrunner on a sitcom and only so many weekends at the ComedyWorks in a year and ok, there’s like a MILLION spots at the Cellar every week, but you feel me. And here’s the rub, a teeny tiny fraction of those opportunities are starting to go to a few more people of color, women and queer folks. Teeny. Few. Sure, one of the roles on every new TV show is set aside for a light skinned, non-threatening black nerd or a guy you can kind of only tell is latino by his last name and once in a while they actually let four whole women helm a major motion picture. But the vast, vast, VAST majority of all the everythings still go to white males by default. Your problem isn’t that Kaytlin or Joel Kim or Jordan suddenly kind of has a chance at some of the opportunities out there, it’s all the Mike/Kenny/Steve’s who even I get constantly confused, so how’s a casting agent who doesn’t know or care about that brilliant joke you told that one midnight at The Creek supposed to you’re really competing against.
But also, guys (and by guys, I mean women guys), let’s not act like we’re all surprised by this reaction and it wasn’t exactly what you saw coming and planned on. That just escalates the rhetoric and widens the divide. As fun and gratifying as it is to take the teeny tiny smidgen of power and small amount of control over our own destiny we’re steadily gaining and run rampant with it, it’s super unhelpful long term. When we force the group who are still by all standards the majority and who hold most of the power into a defensive corner and allow them the space to claim victimhood, we lose a lot of potential allies who would happily be on our side (or at least not in opposition). I know that’s not the “correct” feminist position, but it’s the pragmatic and realistic one.
So basically, everyone shut up and either submit to the festival already or ignore it because it doesn’t have to be important in your life if you don’t let it.