Jen Kirkman would like people to stop telling her to shut up.
Specifically, on the internet. In the past couple of days, she's been speaking up on her blog about how she's generally had it with the way women are treated on the Internet. So have I! Have you been a woman on the Internet lately? It's the pits! There's nothing like a little anonymity to bring out the worst in people, and while Twitter has made it easier for us to communicate with one another, it's also made it easier for some people to really let their dick sides shine.
(Real quick: if you are unfamiliar with Jen's work, she is one of the funniest and smartest comedians working. Go watch her stuff. Later. We have important things to discuss.)
Jen's tired of the misogyny on Twitter and the fact that men in her community don't seem to care about it. While male comics are essentially given free rein to discuss whatever the hell they want (pizza, Jesus, Joe Biden, butts, Joe Biden's butt, pizza Jesus) on the internet, women generally get some variation of "shut up and be funny" or "shut up and be pretty." (Don't worry, this is not another "are women funny?" thing, because ZZZZZ. This is something else entirely. )
While male comics sometimes get static for being political, they rarely get told to "shut up" in the charged and borderline violent way that women do. Sometimes there's nothing borderline about it -- see Jenny Johnson getting death threats for having the audacity to make fun of nightmare toilet person Chris Brown.
As Jen noted on her Tumblr, most of this is coming from young men and the culture of anonymous harassment that continues to make the Internet an unsafe place to be female or "other." So, she's calling on guys in the comedy world to stand up for women. She's created a Tumblr called "MA'AM" (that's "Men Against Assholes and Misogyny") for men to contribute and speak up about sexism, racism, and homophobia on the internet and to teach young dumbasses to be decent human beings in a culture that makes it increasingly easy to be inhuman.
Unfortunately, not many of men are biting. Today she told me that a lot of men she's spoken to have declined because they don't want to get involved in troll feeding or politics, which is kind of a bummer. With Jen's permission, I'm republishing her post about MA'AM and her self-imposed Twitter blackout below.
I hope you read it, and I hope the guys in the comedy community sack up and write some stuff so Jen gets back on Twitter and can be funny and talk about whatever the hell she wants again.
"I’m on a Twitter strike. I am so sick of the way men on Twitter treat lady comics. And my male friends always DM me or text me or email me or talk to me about how they hate it too but they never speak up. Let me be perfectly clear -- this has nothing to do with the “women aren’t funny” argument. I am talking about on the web, when I write things about the plight of women in Saudi Arabia or how the ERA never passed, dudes write back that I should be funny, stop being political, shut up, stop complaining and all that. THAT is what this is about mostly.
I am constantly tweeting about gay rights (I’m straight) and racism (I’m white) -- it takes two seconds and it’s part of who I am. My male comedy friends show support by suggesting that I just let it slide, “These people are idiots/trolls.” But I don’t see it as “trolls” -- these are actual men who are showing me that their opinion is that a woman is acting “hysterical” when she reacts to being treated unfairly. Suddenly I am not funny or fun. My male comedy friends sometimes lament that they want to support and that they hate how they see their women friends being treated on line but “but don’t know what to say.”
Well, a lot of people who aren’t “political” necessarily or policy wonk experts wrote their feelings quite well on why they wanted Obama re-elected.
Maybe some comic guys who are funny writers and have a huge presence online can start a blog similar to that -- and each one of them can tackle, from their heart, what they want men to know about how it affects ALL OF US -- men & women when their sisters are constantly dealing with this shit on the Internet.
Am I dreaming? Asking for too much? I’m holding out hope that I see a blog started called “MA’AM” -- Men Against Assholes and Misogyny and it’s a bunch of articles on this issue written by men and we can link to it anytime an online guy harasses.
When I tweet about women’s rights -- I am often shouted down by (usually younger) guys on the web and told to shut up and calm down and “I used to think you’re funny but you’re acting hysterical and like a bummer.” My guy friends in comedy rarely get as much backlash about their gender. Maybe their comedy -- (which is fair game, annoying that it is but….heckling is a fact of life online and that’s not what I’m speaking of. I can take the heat. I’ve been a comedian for 15 years. I do the road alone a lot and play tough clubs. I make people laugh in spite of themselves and I handle my shit when heckled. I also moved to NYC and LA completely on my own having no idea how to navigate either city. I’m a fucking badass and there’s no heat I can’t take. Speaking up is not “caving to the heat” -- it’s facing it HEAD ON.)
Here’s some examples of tweets I get EVERY DAY. (I didn’t cull these over a week. I got all these tweets just so far TODAY (11/29) See if the Internet wouldn’t be less fun for you if you got this shit.
@aut0br0 .@JenKirkman “you should stop being hot and start being funny. then maybe this is in the realm of possibility.”
@BarberSquires @JenKirkman Not everyone gets spoken to the way they want in life.”
@BarberSquires @JenKirkman “Grow up”
@DamianR1970 @JenKirkman “You’re unhappy with the way people talk on Twitter? Stay off Twitter.”
@drunk_economist “SOMEONE SHOULD TELL @JenKirkman TO MAN UP …. Uh wait. Breaking my own rule there… BREAKING IT WITH FUNNY”
@hollywoodkote said: You’re going to get venom if you’re a comedian spouting political views regardless of sex. Don’t do it if you can’t take the heat:
@mebpm @JenKirkman “Um..,seriously? You’re boring.You don’t see dilemma? An uber serious “comedian”..,who wants to be taken seriously?Liberal logi”
@shaun311 @JenKirkman YOU ARE WAY TOO SENSTIVE TO BE ON TWITTER. TRUE. HOW OLD ARE YOU 20?”
“@Will_Surb @JenKirkman “srry im stupid i meant why rnt u in Playboy.”
“@RobbieSTL: @JenKirkman I’d do ya.”
Then I will come back to Twitter when I feel like I’m not the only voice constantly using her feed to interrupt her regularly scheduled funniness to try to teach young guys not to objectify women, tell them to shut up, correct their jokes, mansplain to them, etc.
I’m often told that women’s rights are not in any danger and I have the vote and we don’t need feminism anymore for “big issues” -- (that’s a whole other issue) But the small issue of feeling part of the global web community is still a new frontier for women and we are starting at square one. I would love the support of my male friends in comedy -- OUT LOUD and as part of their daily lives. The way we all do with gay rights and racism.
I think dudes sometimes feel like, “What am I gonna do -- just agree with my lady friends? They don’t need to hear it from me.”
We do. AND the civil rights movement and gay rights didn’t move forward just because suddenly one day people started taking black or gay people seriously -- it was the white and straight people that stood by, too. Sadly, sometimes a man only can hear about women’s issues from a man. We need all voices!
And to the woman who wrote me that this is “Seriously a First World Problem…” Well, I AM in the first world and speech shapes our culture. Oppressing women in the Third World starts with a thought and an attitude and I’m proud to use my privilege to speak about it here. And I use my other spare time and money to support women in the Third World get their much needed rights too.
And to the people who say “Don’t go anywhere!” I will be back when I see male comedians speaking up. And specifically that group. It’s not JUST up to my followers -- it’s up to my peers. (and just retweeting doesn’t count -- though it helps)
And when I feel I am not the only voice out there, I’ll come back to Twitter. And trust me, I want to. I have things to promote.