“It’s not my job to dress for the audience I don’t want”

Another week, another twitter thread about “titty streamers”. Occasionally I find myself tagged in a group response that describes me as part of a “virtuous” group of crew neck devotees; “but these respectable ladies stream in wimples! They’re not like all those other girls.”

“Exactly: nun clothes – it’s for the fetishists! Such thottery does not belong on Twitch!” hisses the reply. (There’s just no pleasing some people.)

“Women on Twitch?! But girls don’t like games! Except Candy Crush, but that doesn’t count as a real game. Actual games have guns, or mana. Man-a. They’re just exploiting teenage boys.”

Twitch streamers are entertainers. On television, in cinema, onstage and in our social media, entertainers the world over perform in outfits that range from casual to skimpy. They sometimes draw outrage – Little Mix will be criticised for wearing crystal or pleather leotards, because the finger pointer found their debut single Wings empowering several years ago and doesn’t think the girl band’s output should change with their age.

But, for the most part, we don’t bat an eyelid at a person in the public eye wearing a low cut number as they host the National Lottery draw, or enter the Big Brother House – because these people are on camera and, understandably, they want to look their best. Being conventionally attractive is an asset – and woe betide anyone who doesn’t appeal to at least a sub section of society.

But when it comes to Twitch – a platform where “creators”, as the company calls them – broadcast gameplay, creative ventures or conversation – a vocal group has strong views on the presentation of female streamers. These women, who feel comfortable in their bodies and may feel at their best in a tank top, have been lumped into a group they did not volunteer for; the “titty streamers”. Meanwhile, women who wear jumpers are routinely set up in opposition, whether we like it or not. And let me be clear – as flattering as it is to have my channel recommended, I do not agree with being weaponised to attack other women. (And yes, I bite back.)

As a host, I can literally make a joke about my tit tape on an awards show broadcast and not be grouped in this “shameful” society – but appear in leggings and a “modest” top playing for high scores in Just Dance, and I become part of the gang. Because this isn’t about tits. Not really. This is about the unhappy voices feeling unheard; lacking self-esteem so much that they think an attractive woman’s content is being held in higher regard than their own. It is jealously that has blindsided detractors to the point that they can’t see why they have a problem.

People will watch who they want – and maybe people do watch me because they find me attractive – but they won’t stay if I don’t entertain them and cultivate a community that focuses not only on me, but the familiar usernames in chat and the people behind them; the moderators who maintain a sense of humour as they ban offenders, the updates from our respective lives, the cries as I cry out at a surprise frag and I accidentally blow a load of ear drums.

It’s not my job to dress for the audience I don’t want.

For all the arguments people have against streamers wearing what they want, every one can be shut down with a link to the Twitch community guidelines. Although Twitch Partners have an agreement in place to make money from streaming, we are self-employed; our bedrooms are our offices and we set the dress code. If it doesn’t fit your standards, switch off.

Let’s bust some myths about ‘female stand-ups’

Oh Guardian readers. Most of you are my kindred spirits. Some of you, however, are people who just want to write ungrounded, shortsighted comments that barely resemble a proper opinion, let alone a constructive one.

Predictably, Mark Logan’s favourable review of Bridget Christie’s highly anticipated return to The Stand, where she performed her Fosters Comedy Award-winning show A Bic for Her last year, has roused the ‘women aren’t funny’ brigade yet again – with the majority of these bemoaning the idea that feminism can be funny.

What these quick-to-judge figures don’t seem to understand, is that a huge part of the current feminism movement (or fourth wave, if you like), has spread on social media like wildfire for three particular reasons; feminism in this day and age is common, sexualised culture in the West and awareness of practices such as FGM outside of our more local bubble, and finally, humour – yes, feminists have found their voices, and we’ve been making each other laugh on the subject ever since.

(It’s tempting to say ‘women’s voices’ – and of course, that’s a large part of it – but actually there are some brilliant men who openly call themselves feminists, brilliant stand-ups among them including my boyfriend, musical double act Jonny & the Baptists and activist Chris Coltrane).

So let’s bust some of those FQAs (Frequently Quoted Assumptions) right now, shall we?

“Female comics’ topics are limited to hating men, periods and under-representation in comedy”

This year, if you make the wise decision to see the wickedly awesome, super duper, charismatic Lou Sanders in Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again, you’ll be treated to the sight of Sanders tap dancing with a vagina on a stick. The vagina is not having a period. Or at least, it wasn’t during the preview I saw anyway. In fact, guys, I’m going to come out and say it now. Why aren’t women talking about periods onstage? I’ve seen a couple of semen jokes onstage – why not a bit of menstrual blood eh? WAIT, COME BACK, I’LL GET TO THE BLOODY POINT (geddit).

I’ve seen a lot of female stand ups in my time, but I’ve never seen a women target all men, joke about their ‘monthly visit’ in excruciating detail or say their aren’t enough women on the circuit as a joke. I’ve definitely had conversations with people about women stand-ups (I’m kind of having a one-sided type right now) and line-ups, but one of the biggest is still panel shows – where many fill their ‘woman quota’ with a female non-comic – Rachel Riley, I’m definitely talking about you (sorry) – and don’t feature female regulars or hosts (there’s Celebrity Juice and Viral Tap, both ITV2 – and very niche!).

The Guardian (yes, them again) wrote an article about the presence of more female comedy performers than ever before at this year’s Fringe. Although it didn’t explore this, I believe that the reason more women are going is because of stand-ups like Christie, whose success means that the stigma around ‘women not being funny’ is thankfully fading – in other words, it’s more economically viable to be a women performing at the Fringe, because people are less likely to be put off by seeing a female face on the poster.

“All the women comedians I’ve seen have been rubbish. Isn’t that Jo Brand awful?”

Firstly, I feel sorry for this hypothetical commenter. Comedy is subjective, so if you don’t find Jo Brand funny, that’s fine – just look elsewhere. Brand’s subject matter can veer to the domestic side, but that’s not a bad thing – and it often sharply dissects those expectations of perfection in relationships. And if you’re going to call Sarah Millican talentless, rather than accepting her stand-up isn’t for you, then there’s probably no hope for you.

“The women they’ve featured on Mock the Week have been rubbish”

Have you seen Mock the Week recently? It’s not just the women!

“Haven’t seen any Bridget Christie she might be great she might be terrible but she can’t be worse than her husband”

Ok – I’ve probably made some grammatical errors myself, but as I copied this comment verbatim from everyone’s favourite left leaning digital news website (ok, just mine), I’m resisting adding commas to the above quote. (NOTE TO SELF: STOP PROCRASTINATING!)

This wasn’t the worst comment on Brian Logan’s article, but it encapsulates the issue Christie must face in nearly every review, interview or article that features her as its subject; her husband. Onstage Christie does not refer to her actual comedian husband, but an invented ‘stage’ one. I don’t know a huge deal about Christie’s personal relationships, but what I do know is this – she’s hugely talented, she writes her own material, her material is distinct from his and her career is of her own making. End of. She may have featured on a show with him, but she’s also at the top of her game – if he wasn’t part of the show, she would still be involved. She’s not married to Harry Hill, Kevin Eldon or Kerry Godliman, but she featured on their respective sitcoms (Harry Hill’s Little Internet Show, It’s Kevin and Kerry’s List). And Fred MacAulay featured on her award-winning Radio 4 series Bridget Christie Minds the Gap – but they don’t have a romantic relationship either.

The thing about comedy – and it’s something I love – is that it’s a community. An industry with a performing circuit at its core, many performers know each other, share the same bill, organise gigs with each other and perform in the many new act competitions held each year. Essentially they help each other out – and they watch and enjoy each others’ sets. It’s supportive and refreshing. So therefore the idea of a leading alternative comic who won the most iconic prize in stand-up comedy last year appearing on a show about alternative comedy? Not that surprising is it?

“Women can’t do proper jokes”

Challenge your perceptions at the Fringe this year; if you think women can’t do one-liners or puns,check out Bec Hill, who started the hugely popular Pun Run night in London. If you think they can’t do near-the-knuckle rudeness, book a ticket to Katherine Ryan. It’s ingenious, borderline bonkers ideas you want? Lou Sanders is your woman. Friendly, funny and joyous? Go see Hatty Ashdown (and look out for Aisling Bea back in London). Political comedy with heart? Josie Long. Characters and/or improv? Cariad Lloyd and Pippa Evans are both doing laugh a minute shows this year. In the mood to see a panel show? Look out for Grainne Maguire’s What Has the News Ever Done for Me? (Check out Danielle Ward hosting her podcast panel show alongside team captain Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Do the Right Thing if you’d like to cheer up your commute.) Sketch comedy? Lazy Susan, of course! Sharp, hilarious and personal stand-up? Sarah Campbell.

“Feminism isn’t funny”

Sites like The Vagenda and writers such as Caitlin Moran aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they inject irresistible humour into the subject. And the art of good comedy is to always ‘punch up’ – unless you’re playing a character, such as Rachel Parris’s nightmare diva singer Felice in her show, Rachel Parris: Live in Las Vegas. Therefore, feminism is ripe for comedy – just as left wing, alternative comedy thrived in the eighties, feminism is fighting a absurd battle that needs to be had – and that means there’s humour to be mined.

Even if Bridget Christie’s comedy isn’t to your taste, if you were to analyse it, you’d surely have to appreciate the structure, the purpose and the commitment to the performance. She sends-ups perceptions of feminists, brings the ridiculous double standards of sexism to the fore, critiques her own bubbling anger and she also opens up a debate that will last with the audience once they leave the venue – last year it was through playing an inspiring recording of Malala Yousafzai talking about surviving the attempt on the life by the Taliban and the aftermath, and this year she’s making her intention to make a stand against FGM known.

“I don’t like ‘female comedy’. It’s my least favourite genre”

Well, luckily for you, it doesn’t exist!

In conclusion…

If you think women aren’t funny, you’re simply not looking hard enough. We don’t see enough of a variety of female acts on the TV for everyone to see someone to their taste, but the spectrum of acts around is so broad yet they don’t all get showcased on TV. Go out into clubs, go to the Fringe, make some effort – go on YouTube, or Chortle, or follow-up on tips from – yes, you guessed it – the flipping’ Guardian.

But whatever you do, don’t believe what you read in the comments, ok?

 

#WonderWomen Volume One

What a week for women in the media!

I’m constantly in awe of other women and their achievements, and I’m kicking myself for not regularly giving them the praise that they deserve. So, here’s three women who’ve rocked the world this week…

Davina McCall

Anyone who knows me personally will know of my addiction to Davina’s workout DVDs (I have four). Since doing them I’ve been healthier, happier and in the best shape I’ve ever been. (I’m too much of a chocolate raisin fan to be ultra slim, ripped etc… but I’m far more confident than I was.)

Those of you who listen to Radio 1 may be aware that Davina’s been pushing her brain and her body to the limit in the name of Sport Relief. She’s run, cycled and swam 500 miles in a week and has been totally open about how tough the experience has been. Listening to her emotional updates on the radio has been equally inspiring and devastating – and everyone I know who has ever worked with Davina has absolutely sung her praises. She’s the genuine article. The focus of Davina’s Sport Relief fundraising has been to raise money for projects in the UK, but also to create opportunities for women and girls in Kenya to have a better life. She’s a woman for women.

Naturally, I sponsored her efforts: sportrelief.com/davina. Please give if you can.

Ellen Page

Ellen Page has always made awesome movies. X-Men, Super, Hard Candy, Juno and the totally brilliant Whip It are amongst my favourites. A few years ago I carried one of her observations on the perception of feminism in my wallet, having torn it from a magazine.

It read; “I call myself a feminist when people ask me if I am, and of course I am because it’s about equality, so I hope everyone is. You know you’re working in a patriarchal society when the word feminist has a weird connotation.”

I’ve had to highlight the second part of that quote because it succinctly sums up how I feel when people say feminism should be called ‘equalism’ or is purely about women.

And now, in another powerful move, Page has made the brave decision to come out as gay at a conference focused on the young LGBTQ community. Her speech moved me very much. You can watch it below:

Page, who I’ve always thought of being intelligent and bold in her choices – both in public speaking and her movie career – admits that her sexuality and the pressure to conceal it has caused her to suffer. That a woman who can be so together as to make the speech in the video above can be a victim of societal pressures says a lot about the world – and that we’re lucky that people like Page are prepared to speak out publicly so that they might change it for the better.

Lizzy Yarnold

I think it was when we were in year 9 (possibly 10) at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls (MGGS) that Lizzy joined my school. Instantly she became ‘the one that was good at athletics’ – particularly the javelin, which no one else had a clue about. In sixth form we were put in a form together and she became a Head Student (I was a House Captain). Lizzy was popular, pragmatic and intelligent. Although a shock to see someone I had shared a classroom with appear in the papers, it wasn’t a surprise that Lizzy would become an Olympian – that it should be for fearlessly throwing herself down an icy track, subjecting her body to mind-numbing G Force and terrifying turns wasn’t either!

Quoted on the BBC Sport website, ‘The Yarnold’ (her competing nickname) says; “If you’re committed and dedicate the time to need to, then you can achieve your dreams.” Having won the first gold medal of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Lizzy is going to have an epic year  – here’s I’m hoping to bump into her in Broadcasting House soon.

Is there someone you’d like to nominate as a #WonderWoman? Tweet me!