Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Since I'm ranting on subjective subjects, I thought I would have a bitch about a particularly annoying behaviour that I've only just discovered a name for.

My dear sweet friend Bryce has been highly influential in my thinking on this matter for uttering something about Australian music, when I was complaining about the station he ran have a dedicated Australian music program - in the breakfast slot.

"I don't think Australian music should be celebrated for being Australian, it should be celebrated for being good."

So at one point or another I had a job which was not the job I had now in a workplace where there were perceptions and certainly I would attest evidence of sexism going on. What annoyed me though, were the women. Hear me out.

Thus thusly, imagine thus: a woman goes away on holiday and their duties are taken on by a male collegue, the male collegue is a ball of stress, a pain to deal with, disorganised, incommunicative and although they get the job done, they make it a dramatic and ineffecient nightmare until their female supervisor goes away.

I would suggest the social norm would be some manager saying 'and let's all thank Steven for taking on a very difficult task on top of his usual duties.' followed by polite clapping. And then behind Steven's back everyone would say things to the effect of 'he was crap, thank god Lafawnda is back.'

Reverse the genders though (keeping the job performance the same), and at the same briefing where the manager says 'let's all thank Juliet for taking on Charlton's job while he was on a sex tour of thailand.' and then a well meaning female colleague would pipe up 'she did a fantastic job, she kicked arse!' and drums everybody up into a socially mandatory rousing applause.

What has just happened?

Everybody has condescendingly just applauded somebody for doing a crap job, because they are female. I can't recall the specific context of these behaviours, but they were recurring and frankly sad.

I believe though this is called minoritisation.

Put simply, I think in everything there's going to be a global benchmark, comedy, music, management, public speaking, sport etc. and any individual's goal is to live up to that benchmark in whatever field of excellence they are pursuing.

Of course gender, race and ethnicity issues exist, and some counterbalance needs to be taken to overcome the discouragement present in society due to sexism and racism. All change has to start with what we have, and what we have is sexist and racist.

To me though this looks like Jenny getting up and making a speech that is nervous and badly delivered with low eye-contact, awkward stance, too much reading etc. and instead of an encouraging round of applause and saying 'good job Jenny!' you say 'Jenny that was poorly done, you are going to have to do more speeches in the future and we will train you up.'

I must admit, I don't know what affirmative action is. Minoritisation though concerns me. It's allowing people to succeed when they should have failed. It will result in nothing but ultimately cementing sexist stereotypes.

If you are watching a female comedian and she is dying on stage. Walk out. Don't force your laughter, you will just fuck them up for life. But by no means do I advocate, not letting women take the mic to deliver a comedy act.

What I'm saying is that denying people the opportunity to fail is the same as denying people the opportunity to succeed.

You are organising a comedy gala, and you have 10 spots to fill, you notice that with the 8 spots you have filled thus far they are all male. What to do?

If you can find 10 good female comics, put on 10 good female comics, but I would suggest that having 8 good male comics and 2 mediocre female comics is a deceptive step backwards. The affirmative action only serves to reinforce 'women aren't funny'.

Whereas if you held off and waited for those world class acts - Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Judith Lucy, Hannah Gadsby, Ronni Ancona etc. you eliminate the one true advantage all Male comics have - the shitty male comics don't get on TV.

Yes, minoritisation. If you are a man in this world and you don't belong to a 'minority' then you are held to a global standard of comedy, the ability to put people into that empathic place where they laugh with surprise and delight, and not a fierce loyalty to the local boy.

Once you identify a different standard for yourself, or worse, for somebody you identify with, you are doing them a disservice.

It annoys the living fuck out of me.


John said...

Yeah, but that ignores the fundamental biases against, say, female comics. You might think it's crap for someone to put on 8 mediocre female comics, but these 8 female comics need the practise just as much as any mediocre male comic out there, and they have many less chances to get it because "women aren't funny".

Same argument holds for affirmative action, etc.

ohminous_t said...

yeah, sorry, I was going to write a post on the quandry of withdrawing from the whole gender debate alltogether since it gets so compicated and riddled with bias, and I can't be bothered doing the research.

What I failed to convey is that the compensation/affirmative action needs to be at the grass roots level, where there is disproportionate discouragement to keep trying till you get good.

But for the big league I suspect you wind up reversing the desired effect, because you have a survivorship bias - eg. male comics look better than they are because you only see an unrepresentative sample on the teevee, so 8 male comics may represent less than 1% of the gene pool of male comics in town, but 2 female comics may represent 5% of the gene pool available.

see what I'm saying? I don't.

John said...

I don't see an obvious cap for affirmative action in the workplace because white male privelege goes all the way to the top. Why should comedy be any different?

ohminous_t said...

Do you really think I have the answers for these?

So to generalise the point, if you affirmatively appoint somebody based on the possession of 'XX' chromosomes, or being Greek in Australia, or Australian in Greece etc. to overcome bias, the lower in the heirarchy that bias is corrected the better off you are.

Conversely, the higher in the heirarchy the correction takes place, the greater the likelihood (I intuit) for it to have the reverse effect and reinforce the existing bias.

So I'd say it isn't different for comedy, and it's the same for corporate, political.

If you elect the first female prime minister, and that prime minister is unpopular it's the same as including an unfunny comedian that happens to be female.

If an executive is appointed by a board, and that executive happens to be female and incompetent, it's the same as including an unfunny comedian that happens to be female.

If you still can't see what I'm saying, I give up.