British newspaper the Guardian’s online “Culture” page is on my daily blog roundup (for lack of a better name for my news-mongering internet habit) as the stop I make to get a more global view of the arts. If I feel something’s been a cultural trend in the U.S. for several days, weeks or months, I can check the Guardian for a broader and decidedly more British perspective on the topic. I clicked ahead to the “Stage” section of the “Culture” page today, looking for a theatre-specific bit of news that piqued my interest to respond to on this DramaLit blog. I scrolled down the page, noting pieces about a dearth of soccer-centric plays and a new London production called One Man, Two Guvnors – all awfully, unapologetically British. Not bad or uninteresting by any means, but difficult to draw parallels to as a student of the American theatre and arts. Then I came across a seemingly author-less piece jammed into the middle of the web page, titled “The lack of female comics is no joke” – I vociferously seconded that and clicked on the linked title to read the article. You can get to it by clicking here.
I arrived at a short article by one Jane Martinson, but not on the Guardian’s “Culture” page or “Stage” blog: the article is apparently part of the Guardian’s “Life & Style” section, and is posted in “The Women’s Blog.” Yes, this article about female comedians and actresses is actually separated from all other pieces of the Guardian’s reporting on culture, and is actually posted on a separate hidden-away blog that is actually called “The Women’s Blog.” Well jeez, forget whatever else the article was about! How are any of us supposed to have a meaningful discussion about the separation of women from men in comedy if the topics of debate are hidden away in places that only women are “meant” to look? Why can’t this blog posting be in the Guardian’s “Culture” section, with all the other articles about theatre, acting, and every other art in between? All the other recent articles/blog postings about comedy that I could find link directly to their own pages which are still listed as being a part of the “Culture” and “Stage” sections of the Guardian. Apparently, the lack of female comics is some sort of joke – or, at the very least, one the Guardian feels only women will knowingly understand.
Jane Martinson’s brief article goes on to discuss the apparent recent upswing of funny women on stage and screen, while highlighting the fact that these women seem to be taking more hits than ever. An all-female stand-up comedy competition named Funny Women is also mentioned; the competition is in its eighth year, but has lost much of its monetary sponsorship and is floundering. Martinson asked questions that matter, but that seemingly have no definite and concrete answers. But, here’s one idea that the articles complete separation from the rest of the Guardian’s arts news brings to my mind – perhaps the issues facing female comedians today come from the fact that they are seen as female first: before anything else, they are women, and must be separated and given different attention than everyone else. Is this special treatment getting us women on stage and screen anywhere? Or is it just widening the gap between us and the male-centered comedy world?