T.J. MILLER, HELEN WOOLLEY, AND THE END OF THE BULLSEYE CLUB

I’ve read the newest article where someone talks about women being funny or not. I get why there was pushback and I appreciate TJ Miller clarifying his point. I like the guy and think he's pretty funny.

I also agree with the point – culture on the whole doesn’t support in women what is required to create comedy. I couldn’t be a bigger champion of that premise. As a matter of fact, I’ve been talking about that and doing workshops with women about that very thing for over 5 years. GOOD GIRLS AREN’T FUNNY IS that issue explored and unpacked.

Here’s the bulk of the debate it if you missed it:

ORIGINAL PIECE:

As it turns out, Miller — tall, scruffy, and slightly antic — has positions on a great many things, most of which skew villainous or maybe just honest. He admires the comedians Pete Holmes and Patton Oswalt, but of Louis C.K., he says: “He doesn’t say anything surprising anymore.” On Aziz Ansari: “He’s very good at what he does … like Dane Cook.” And on why, in his view, women aren’t as funny as men: “They’re taught to suppress their sense of humor during their formative years.” He also, should you care to know, has positions on Nietzschean moral relativism (“Frustrating, because it’s so dangerous”) and Hollywood kingmaker Ari Emanuel (“He only cares about money, collecting chips. That’s why I defected from him and WME [William Morris Endeavor]”). And don’t forget New York City, where he and his wife, mixed-media artist Kate Gorney, just relocated from Los Angeles: “It can be very lonely,” he says, but it does have “transcendent pizza.” After a brief digression on the Stoic philosophers, Miller turns to his publicist, whose presence at the table was a condition of his doing this interview, and asks, “It’s entirely inappropriate to smoke marijuana, right?” She says it is. He frowns, then face-spritzes. I ask what the spray is, and he says, “It’s embarrassing for you that you don’t know.” (It is, according to the bottle, Evian Natural Mineral Water spray.)

 

HIS FOLLOW UP CLARIFICATION:

T.J. Miller clarified remarks that he made in a recent interview with Vulture that seemed to imply women aren’t as funny as men. “It’s becoming frustrating that if I confuse interviewers they trash me. I DO NOT LIKE IT,” the comedian tweeted on Monday, July 24. 

He explained in a series of tweets that he was trying to make a point about society. “Okay, I guess everyone and their parents missed the point— #feminist SOCIETY depresses humor in women bc it is a sign of intelligence,” he tweeted. “that is THREATENING to men, & so women are taught to suppress those intimidations. It is about SOCIETY’s ills, the misogyny of women’s humor. Don’t get it twisted. The world gets better the more we empower our literal better half. Women ARE FUNNY, against odds that men don’t face."

 

Great. So...here’s the rub, “why women aren’t as funny as men”. That’s the statement that makes your head explode.  First of all, let’s just put this part of the issue to bed - women ARE just as funny as men. Humor is not a gender issue. Humans are funny, we have developed the ability to create comedy. Comedic ability is not a gendered issue – it doesn’t live in men’s brains any more than in women’s. It’s INNATE. It’s a Venn diagram of so many things – including observation, objectivity, irony, timing, storytelling, empathy, point of view. And I’m sure I’m missing about 10 more things.

Humor has developed right alongside of culture, so much so that it’s hard to separate the two. They are inextricably linked. What was funny in 1418 may not be funny in 2018. Then there is timeless humor like Chaplin was able to capture – what clowning and mime taps into. That can strike a broader audience for longer periods because it’s more relatable. More honest and true.

What irks me and many women I think, it being TOLD what is funny and not funny. According to whom? A straight white man? Well SURE…they may not find everything women do funny. They may not find everything an Indian man does funny…or a gay Asian man. And on and on. But there is a UNIVERSE of difference in saying "I don't find that gay Asian man funny" and "I don't find gay Asian humor funny" and "Gay Asian men aren't funny." The implications are completely different -- horrifically different. Opinions versus decrees.

The red flag that goes up for me time and again around this topic, which has been going on for a VERY long time, around a LOT of areas, is that there is a NORM. A “right” way to be, look, feel, think. Opinions of the NORM become decrees...they are experienced as the same thing. "I think therefore it is." That’s the downside of culture where there is a NORM. A center of the bullseye so to speak and everything close to it is deemed acceptable, right, FUNNY. And everything far away is not. Period. Intersectionality at its most simplistic.

Well, the world is pushing back on that way of life. There IS no NORM. There is no center of the bullseye any more. Newsflash: there actually never HAS been, it's just a perception, an illusion. That’s the maddening piece. Being told you’re not hitting that sweet spot only to find out you were never supposed to or needed to. The SWEET SPOT had to go, not you.

Examples? The COOL GIRL.

THE COOL GIRL has been described beautifully in recent years – a phenomena of “the good girl” and how she has morphed to stay alive in our current culture. She was perfectly dissected in Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL (2014) which you can read here

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/13306276-gone-girl

It is a straight woman’s attempt to change to fit what many guys fantasize about. 100 years before she would have been stoned to death probably for behaving that way so it’s not an absolute, timeless description of attractiveness…it fits the mold of the moment. That’s what being the center of the bullseye buys you: you get to make the rules, decide what’s ‘hot’, ‘funny’, ‘acceptable’. Everyone else slides around to find that sweet spot. The COOL GIRL is just one of the newest ways we find acceptance and that sweet spot. So is the MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL. (can read about her here) Another accepted and therefore established role we gals can play to be accepted. We are chided for stepping outside that sweet spot by being called a bitch, dyke, cunt, whore, etc. Sometimes we are 'taught' with more than just words. These are our cues that somehow this imaginary line was moved once again and we are being too something. Too loud, too independent, too sexy, too assertive, too comfortable, too confident, too passive.

But that’s what it means to be outside the ‘norm’…Simone de Beauvoir coined the phrase in the 1940’s…she called it being OTHER. When you’re OTHER, you don’t rely on your internal GPS because it has been deemed wrong, it gets you in trouble or makes you feel lost, depressed, angry...(hmmmm, I wonder what culture would have done to women expressing any of this...?) OTHERNESS makes you dependent immediately and forever on getting external cues, approval, and acceptance that you’re “doing it right”. That you’re a “good girl”.

So you can understand why it might make some blood boil when once again, someone sitting in the bullseye just because they were born there – meaning they’ve never really had to examine what it means to be there…nor have done much to actually WIN that position – when someone is sitting there, holding court and decreeing who is funny. Again, according to WHOM??!?

HELEN THOMPSON WOOLLEY in 1910 was part of something very radical. She and many women like her were asking if the current model of psychology, which claimed there were normal behaviors, thoughts, and mental processes, were actually just saying these are normal FOR MEN. (and even straight men? Anglo-saxon men? Privileged men? American-born men? All questions unasked at the time, just assumed by the Bullseye Club.) And by putting those standards ONTO another group – in this case WOMEN, an entirely different GENDER – might you be making assumptions that ARE NOT EVEN BASED IN FACT OR REALITY? Well that question implies a LOT that even to this day, you can get a lot of pushback on. The assumption that there is a RIGHT way to behave, to argue, to lead, to debate. When you start saying to those holding down the Bullseye Fort, they hear it so it seems, like "your way isn’t BETTER. HIGHER. THE GOAL. You are one of MANY. Your security that everything revolves around you, the earth, is being questioned." (by the way, the dude that dared to say the earth is NOT the center was put to death….just to give you some context of how much position means to some people….and why threatening that leads to so much insecurity and loss of power and control that they’d rather kill you than consider it. Good thing that’s all in the past, amIright???? Oh shit…wait…) It took until the 60's for there to be an accepted model for women that was different than for men. In other words, women have higher emotional intelligences which is completely discarded in the earlier model that assumed straight men's psychology was "right". Hello lobotomy!!! 

I appreciate Mr Miller shedding light on how culture is asserting itself on women and our ability to express ourselves and hey, we need as many guys as we can get interested and willing to even HAVE that conversation. So very sincerely I do appreciate his clarification and where his heart is. What I think is the almost ironic piece of this, is here is a straight white guy who has performed on TV, a few films, and done some improv, deciding what is “funny” for an entire gender. The statement ITSELF is part of the problem, as much as it was intended to help. It kinda does both. Helps and embeds the problem even more.

I don’t care if TJ Miller finds me or any of the multitudes of women I know funny. We don’t need approval and a diploma which offers us the affirmation to know what we're doing is funny. Because who the fuck are these guys anyway? Why do we allow them to decide things? Are there women who claim to be funny that just aren’t? OF COURSE!!! Are there TONS of men also who claim to be funny that just aren’t? HELL YES!!! Claiming you're funny doesn’t make you funny. Claiming to be a great athlete doesn’t make you one. We all get that. But unlike sports where you can see scores and observe speeds, strength, and ability, comedy is a more subtle and complex skill. It’s about truth in the end…all the greats have said it. Even ol’ Homer Simpson – it’s funny cuz it’s true. The thing is, the people sitting in the Bullseye may not relate to everything that everyone else is doing. And MAYBE, if they started moving around and realizing that, moving to the left and right of where they have taken hold, they might ACTUALLY broaden what their truth is. Like the rest of us have been doing for a VERY long time. Maybe it’s the folks in the FALSE middle - that worn-out bullseye that has deteriorated like the emperor’s new clothes - who are the limited, suppressed ones.

WOULD YOU LIKE A FORCED SMILE WITH THAT?

I recently found myself on the same day at a Starbucks and a Ruby’s Diner. Not to brag or anything. But I noticed something in both places that I feel are linked and so I’m using this blog to try to figure that out exactly. So, here we go and I hope this winds up taking us somewhere interesting…good luck!

I think as women it’s tough for many of us – definitely for me – to trust my GUT. It’s taken a lonnnnng time for me to FIND my voice, let alone listen to it. It was a combination of things that led me back to my voice, but the biggest catalyst was improv. Which is just one of the reasons why I am such a devout fan of it. I shall refrain from rambling on about the glories of improv but just know that I easily could.

One of the things improv asks of anyone doing it, is to trust YOUR response. Since there is no one “right” way to do it, no one “correct” answer, you are left having to use YOUR OWN ideas, reactions and information. And you learn that THAT is plenty. In fact, it’s great! So over time, you start listening and trusting what your impulses and instincts are more and more. For me, and I think for a lot of women, it reconnects us to ourselves. Our own ideas. Our “gut”. Connect to it and more importantly TRUST it. HONOR it.

When I was in improv for about a year, I realized I was getting REALLY angry and defiant in scenes. That was NOT how I pictured myself…a nice, polite, thoughtful person (a k a doormat) from the Midwest. But once that synapse started to get reestablished in me, there was suddenly all this POWER there. Tough women characters, badasses who stood up for themselves and challenged whomever was “in charge”. Really fascinating stuff if you think about it. It was as if I was reintegrating all of that back into myself because I started to change. I started to get more confident, say my mind more often and easily, and not care as much what others thought of me.

I see how that has translated into my life in, what feels like, a million ways. BUT I have also seen over time how the world has been built in particular ways that reinforce us gals being nice, polite, accommodating and thinking of others before ourselves. It’s SO deep and SO engrained that I feel like I’m just starting to see the more subtle layers and its EVERY-FUCKING-WHERE!

CUT TO: Starbucks, Olympic and Fairfax, Los Angeles

Here are the facts:

It’s about 9am and I’m sitting at a table with my Cascara Latte (it’s new…yummy…lots of sugar though) and I have 2 notebooks open. I am prepping for my BUSTING THE GOOD GIRL workshop which starts in an hour. As I scan one notebook for things I want to bring in to today’s workshop, I am interrupted by a male voice. He is standing almost directly at the edge of my table and says right above me, “Copying your notes?” I look up. It’s an older man, hippie-looking dude, beret, white beard, beads around his neck. I smile a little (not too much as to invite a long conversation) and say “yeah, I guess I am.” I go back to writing. “Is it for a class?” Without looking up I say “Yes.” He says “can I ask you what the class is about?” I look at him and say “I’m actually doing some work to get ready for it.” His smile disappears. It’s pretty clear he’s not happy with my response. He very abruptly turns away and goes to sit down at a nearby table.

Now…here’s what stuck out to me. First of all, his energy was my first red flag…just kind of one of those people who have no problem interrupting you and not taking the subtle cues of “hey man, I don’t want to talk to you right now” so you have to get pretty direct for them to get it. But the whole exchange stuck out to me for a few reasons. The minute he approached my table I just felt encroached upon. He walked right up to me, there was no respectful distance or even an “excuse me” or when I say I’m busy, no apology…no “oh, sorry to bother you”…it was rapid fire like he owned the place. When he asked me to tell him what my course was about I felt the familiar hiccup within me. The split between my gut and my Good Girl, my “should” – the part that watches from the outside and tries to figure out what I SHOULD do, what the RIGHT thing, the NICE thing, to do is. Not what I want, but what is “right”. The intel comes from 2 completely different places. And it all happens so fast.

Gut says: fuck off old hippie guy, if you were nice, if you had a different vibe I might totally want to chat with you but there’s something about you that I don’t dig and I am busy and I don’t want to get into a conversation with you about my class because I guarantee all you REALLY want to do is have someone listen to you talk about yourself or your thoughts about my class and right now, I’m interested in neither.

SHOULD says: oh wait, SHOULD you tell him? Would it be MEAN not to? RUDE not to? How is he going to feel if you say NO? It sort of feels like he’ll get pissed if you don’t, he’s very much expecting you to…maybe you just SHOULD.

Both going on…at the same time. Well, NOT the same time. GUT was first. SHOULD swooped in, weighed in, tried to get me to calm down and think. Reason it out.

A ha!!! That’s where the synapse is cut I think!!! Stopping ourselves from pushing back, saying no, not doing what someone expects, not taking care of them or their feelings before my own. I am programmed to HESITATE. Double check my responses to make sure I don’t…don’t what? Say the wrong thing. Speak out of line. Make someone mad. Hurt someone’s feelings. It’s not exactly clear what the hesitation prevents but it’s a general feeling of “oooooh, I’m possibly in touchy waters here.” Or the stakes are too high. There are endless articles about this stuff, this hesitancy, our need to take care of others, etc. But when you know it and STILL see it operate in yourself, you can appreciate how deep it goes and how strong a force it is in us. The programming worked. The synapse (my word for it) between any gut response that feels angry, defiant, or bold seems pretty weak if not severed. I have had SO many women in improv classes (traditional improv and corporate workshops) have a VERY hard time getting angry, even if it's pretend. They can't yell without smiling or their voice just won't go there.

An earlier version of myself would have listened to the SHOULD voice almost immediately, siding on the “when-in-doubt-be-nice” strategy. I am in no way saying not to be nice BUT it does seem like WE WOMEN ARE ALWAYS EXPECTED TO BE NICE. And that we take the hit so others are comfortable. So to be honest, I was glad my hippie friend felt more uncomfortable than I did. I wanted to give that back to him instead of ABSORB it. It’s such a familiar movement but these days, NO WAY. I listen to my gut. Not that it’s ALWAYS right but it is ME and it values ME. The SHOULD values just about everyone and everything else BEFORE me. Had it been a different hippie with a different energy, who knows, we may have had a lovely conversation. But at that moment with that particular person, nope. And that’s all I needed to know.

It got me thinking about us inherently not valuing OURSELVES. I think it’s something we’ve been groomed to do – rewarded for it and punished when we don’t align. I think it’s the same move that we make when we tell a guy we have a boyfriend even when we don’t just to make the “sorry, I’m not interested” easier for them to take. It becomes, “oh I WOULD! But I can’t.” so they feel better. But we have invented an imaginary boyfriend on order to do that…and pretended there was a chance in hell we’d date the guy when there wasn’t. The way this older white guy was behaving, it was as if this place was HIS. And that is definitely NOT the first time I’ve seen that. Hardly. It occurs ALL THE TIME. But this really stood out to me because I have tried to become more aware of when I feel myself split in 2 and doubt my first, gut responses. Now, I can’t totally blame this guy…the Western world has for the most part been curated by straight white men. That’s just how things have been for a few thousand years. And from one perspective, rightly so…they have been the ones out there building the world. Makes sense that their preferences and values would set the tone for how everything was to shake out. When you’re the center of the world – creating it - you must see things differently than when you’re not. Women know what it’s like to be in the “not” category. Any person of intersectionality is in the “not” category. It effects your thinking, your feelings, your sense of right and wrong, your sense of yourself…everything. There’s a lot of fascinating work around intersectionality and if it interests you, have at it! Too much to say about it here…

So…next stop…

CUT TO: Ruby’s Diner @ The Citadel Outlet Mall

Many hours later I took a jaunt to the Citadel and stopped off at Ruby’s Diner to have a burger and chill out. I sat at the counter and took in the 1950’s vibe, listening to Elvis and Chubby Checker. While I was sitting decompressing from the overwhelm from the insane amount of shops that were there, I saw one of the waitresses self-consciously pull her skirt down as she brought out a tray of food to a table. She was wearing the uniform all the women were wearing. And I looked at all of the waitresses in there and then the waiters. I had one of those wonderful moments where you see almost with new eyes, looking through the veil of what is “normal”. Almost like one of those movies where aliens come to earth and see all of our habits and norms for the weird things that they are.

What I saw so clearly was the NIGHT AND DAY difference between what the gals were wearing and the men. The women were wearing TINY tight skirts, tight tops, and lots of make-up (encouraged to look like 50’s girls it seems). The men? As usual, long pants – not tight – and shirts, also not tight. Nothing unique about their hair…not greased back like in the 50’s. At a quick glance, the women were exposing a lot of skin...their legs, arms and neckline. The men? Just what existed after their baggy shirt sleeves stopped, maybe 1/2 an arm. I thought, just for fun, what if a bunch of ‘cougars’ (I actually dislike that term but you know what I mean) or any of my gay guy friends were in charge of the uniforms? If they owned the chain and thought, “fuck it, I’m going to dress my employees how I want to see them”…I’m guessing it’d be a different story. Men in tight shirts, good bodies a must or at least a plus, tight pants or even shorts. Women could wear a tasteful jumpsuit, not too tight, flattering lines and cut. Comfortable and practical! Why not? Well, because this is all built around what straight MEN WANT. What they VALUE. Duh. So obvious. And yet often something new about it will hit me. And the fact that it’s 2017 and still so prevalent and accepted is what interests me. WHY? Why is it still OK?

So to go back to the point of this post, our gut. Sitting at the counter looking at the waitresses and waiters and how completely differently they present themselves…and what those differences are…made me angry. It felt ridiculous, outdated, and wrong. Why are we still allowing this? I believe it was in Australia where at one bar the men wanted to see what it was like to have to wear what the women are told to wear – high heels, tight skirts and tops – and they found it both degrading and almost impossible to do for more than 30-40 minutes. I wondered if the female Ruby's employees ever complained? If they ever wrote a letter to corporate asking for more “equal” uniforms?  Underneath it, there's simply the FACT of the difference. That it’s existed for such a long time and that we hardly see it. Or hardly get upset about it. And how unfair that all seems.

And that’s what I’m getting more and more interested in. Is there that moment when they are putting on their uniform that their gut tells them to refuse. Or if one of the female managers looks out on the floor and notices how, well, sexist the uniforms are and wants to address it. But they don’t BECAUSE maybe that synapse hasn’t been reconnected. Where not making waves and fitting in is MORE valued than speaking your mind and standing up for yourself. And when you HAVE stood up for yourself or seen other women do it, they not only are NOT rewarded but perhaps even punished.

Just tonight I was in an improv class and even though it's an advanced improv class filled with men and women with lots of experience, I noticed yet again: the men all spoke first; in the scenes where we needed to identify the 'protagonist' they were all men. The women - as badass as they are - were happy to wait. Hesitate. Did they even see it? Last week I was in Orlando leading a corporate workshop for a sales team of about 80 employees. The experience was evenly distributed between the men and women there and it looked as if there might have even been slightly MORE women on the team than men. Even so, when it came time to volunteer to start an exercise, or share experiences, or ask questions, or provide suggestions...every time, men spoke first.

I would be very interested to see what would start happening if more and more women got connected again to THEIR wants, needs, and desires…listened to that voice before the SHOULD and then decided what to do. Not that one is always the “right” tactic…But I think without knowing what WE want first, we can so easily slip into the groove worn for decades and decades by women ‘behaving’, listening to the SHOULDS, fearing from NOT doing what they say, rewarded for it in fact.

As I left Ruby’s and the 50’s behind me, I walked into the gorgeous, late afternoon sun and thought what a VERY significant moment it is for us women. Perhaps for the first time ever…or at least in a VERY long time, we are free. We live in a world where we can start to push back. We can start from what we value and not adopt anyone else’s value system, norms, and unspoken rules. But we need to get aligned with the truest part of who we each are to know how to navigate. We may piss off a few hippies but that’s ok…what’s that quote that keeps going around? “Equality feels like oppression when you’re accustomed to privilege."

Time to take up space, ladies.

 

 

 

ANGER IS A FUEL. A FUCKING AMAZING FUEL.

I remember walking down the street in downtown Kirkwood, Missouri where I'm from when I was around 13 or 14. A typical midwest suburb with a quaint and modest feel, 5 or 6 blocks of shops and boutiques that often evoke the overused words, "Oh cuuuuuuute." wherever you look. As a young teen I was walking and thinking, as I tend to do. When I think my forehead bunches up and I stare several feet ahead of me on the sidewalk. An older man walked past me and as he did, he stopped me and told me, "you should smile." 

My internal experience STILL tosses and turns at the thought of it. It's mix of what feels like dozens of emotions and responses. And apparently I am not alone in moments like this. I've heard from countless women and girls who experience similar confusing and contradictory reactions to being TOLD by a man TO SMILE. The two primary responses go head to head:

1. Oh my god, he's right. I must LOOK so ugly, so unfeminine just staring at the ground! I've been caught!

There's a gut response of apology and mild embarrassment. How unpleasant I must look! And who is SEEING me look this way? God, that's so awful to think about - the way I must APPEAR. And at that time, my perfect guy (John Cusack meets that hot guy in Sixteen Candles) could be around any corner and what if THAT was his first impression of me? Ewwwww. How HORRID. I'd have blown my chance and he wouldn't have seen me as I had planned to look in all my daydreams - smiling, knowingly, confidently with a touch of innocence and adorableness. Like I was in on some joke at the very same time that I was free of all of the silly worries that OTHER girls are caught up in...ahhhh, refreshing.

Yet simultaneously, buried beneath the knee-jerk apology, the shame, the embarrassment...

RAGE. 

2. FUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKK YOOOOOOUUUUUU!!!!! GO FUCK YOURSELF OLD MAN! YOU fucking smile, you mysognist creep and stop fucking telling ME or any WOMAN what we SHOULD DO! Who the FUCK ARE YOU!???!!! SERIOUSLY! What give you the FUCKING RIGHT TO STOP ME AND TELL ME WHAT TO DO??? I'll smile if and when I please!!!!! I am not here to MAKE YOUR stroll down the street NICER TO LOOK AT!!!! 

Oh the tirade I hear in my head minutes after the paralyzing response fades. I'm sure all I could do WAS smile when he said it. Oh, hahahaha, what? Yeah....smile? Wait, what...? Oh hahahaha, yeah....  Then turn away. Start walking, get your bearings, brain turn back on, what the hell just happened? Confusion. The 2 options appear amongst other subtle feelings. Why? It's just an old man telling you to smile. But it triggers SO MUCH. And more than anything it triggers the very thing, so many years later, that I STILL grapple with.

ALLOWING MYSELF TO FEEL ANGER. In the moment, as it happens, with clarity and precision as to why it's making me furious and what I want to do about it.

NOT 20 minutes later in the car after I've driven off. Or in the Facebook post I make about it that night. AS A RESPONSE IN THE MOMENT.

If this sounds familiar, well, I think we are part of a BIG club. I have read numerous articles on the subject and there are a lot of very logical reasons WHY many of us women have a tough time feeling ANGER. Either in the moment or hours later. Days later. Years later. AND IT'S PISSING ME OFF.

I was flying from LA to Chicago recently, just long enough to read the main articles in Vanity Fair. This issue happened to have 2 articles that I am guessing were not meant to be a commentary on anything in particular, they just happened to be in the same issue from what I could tell. One was about Bill Cosby and recounted details of the scores of women he drugged and raped. I hadn't read something recently that laid out the scope of his atrocities. The second article was about a prep school in the East Coast, St. George, that was starting to deal with the horrific sexual abuse charges it had collected and ignored for decades. They are both insanely disturbing stories for so, so, so many reasons BUT what stood out to me was a sickening similarity: in both stories the women (all ages) who were victimized acted in incredibly similar ways - they felt ashamed, they hardly retaliated, they stayed relatively silent about it - either refusing to speak about it or eventually speaking about it years later, they punished themselves both mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically, many still saw/interacted with their abuser as if nothing happened, many of the St. George victims were repeatedly abused for years. On the plane I started to feel really sick. I know the place where they all went to - we as women all do I am betting. It's where we shut up, shut down, do as we're told, obey, tune out, freeze, pretend it isn't happening, that it never happened, and go on. Smile.

Everyone knows that it's much preferred to be a happy girl. A nice girl. A carefree girl. NO ONE likes an angry girl. A loudmouth girl. And there is a lot of writing out about why that is and how we are conditioned to behave and respond in the ways we do. Ok fine. BUT I AM GETTING TIRED OF IT. I KNOW I am wired to swallow my impulse to lash out, yell, FEEL my anger and respond from that place. Not little angry tirades but REAL, DEEP anger and anger that is in response to specific things. Anger in response to a line being crossed...a line that involves our worth, our bodies, our selves as equal and respected. It's like there's a trip wire in place - and probably for good reason if you think about the way the world has been for us gals up until VERY recently. Acting out, fighting back, and expressing our rage were probably frowned upon at BEST and became grounds for things like prescribed medications, psychiatric examination, and lobotomies. Seriously. It happened all the time. THAT'S a Halloween-nightmare that women lived in consistently. Which is terrifying and suffocating to think about. Yeah, so I get it.

I'm just SICK OF IT. Because to me, anger is a FUEL. In myself and when I see it released in other women. A much needed, valuable, God-given fuel. When I started allowing myself to really feel my anger, when I started to see it bubble in me and instead of "calming down in order to express myself in an appropriate and careful manner" I began to let it OUT, and things started changing. I could literally FEEL the surge of it, the power of it. I could see how it impacted the person on the other end. They had to DEAL with how what just happened made ME FEEL. I did not, as I have been trained and wired to do, TAKE CARE of them...to make sure THEY felt ok at the expense of ME feeling ok. I was free to express myself solely because I had something to express. I began to value myself and therefore my feelings (which is what my talk is all about - discovering another set of values by which I want to measure myself and other women) which was new and was incredible.

Knowing what makes me MAD is fantastic intel. I don't want to STAY mad but man, do I love knowing that something makes me mad! It makes me ACT! It makes me THINK! It makes me want to address it and make space for my anger. And I love how it FEELS. It is like a volcano of power. It's a fucking force. And I see how uncomfortable it makes people. Men and women alike (but MEN...that is really fascinating). Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Or not scorned. Anything, everything. I just think our fury is POWERFUL SHIT. And it's SCARY SHIT. Because we're the mothers of the world. The wives. The daughters. The object of desire. We caretake. We smile. We obey. We are liked when we go with the flow and not make waves. And we got schooled when we DID makes waves. And still DO. 

But it is time to make waves. Make LOTS OF FUCKING WAVES. The path has been cleared. The voices of the women who were snuffed out and suffocated, not able to speak up or speak out...I think about all of them sometimes when I worry about being TOO MUCH. TOO loud. TOO pushy. TOO in your face. But fuck it. It's time to be TOO MUCH. Our anger is part of who we are. And it's a HUGE part. We are expanding as women right now...in a moment of greater expansion everywhere - diversity of all kinds is HAPPENING. And I believe to shatter out of the stratosphere that has held us earthbound, we need FUEL. And we need our ANGER. As Beyonce says in her song that I am kinda  obsessed with, DON'T HURT YOURSELF (listen to it, the explicit version if you want to get your anger up):

I am the dragon breathing fire
Beautiful mane I'm the lion
Beautiful man I know you're lying
I am not broken, I'm not crying, I'm not crying
You ain't trying hard enough
You ain't loving hard enough
You don't love me deep enough
We not reaching peaks enough
Blindly in love, I fucks with you
'Til I realize, I'm just too much for you
I'm just too much for you

I believe most of us are realizing that we are MUCH BIGGER, MUCH STRONGER, and MUCH MORE BADASS than we thought. Embrace that anger ladies. It doesn't mean you have to stay there but let it catapult you. Fuel you. Focus you. 

FROM THE QUEEN HERSELF:

“The minute you’re not angry about things, the minute you’re not upset about things, what are you talking about? … I’m furious about everything. Good things don’t always happen to good people. And I’m very angry about it. But if I didn’t have the anger about it, I wouldn’t be a comedian. Anger fuels the comedy.”

- Joan Rivers, 2010

THE SUBTLE STIGMA OF "STILL SINGLE"

Being single has often, to me, been another way of saying I'm in between relationships. The unfortunate waiting period after one relationship ends before the next one (maybe "THE ONE!") begins. The message is received in many ways...both from the outside but also VERY much from within. It's only been recently that I've been able to see it so clearly myself.
 

Singlehood is for the first time in history is now a bigger pool of women than married women. And women are choosing marriage later and later in life. I've been obsessed with Rebecca Traister's new book, ALL THE SINGLE LADIES, which I picked up on a whim while traveling. I have been savoring every chapter and insight ever since.

What has hit me lately is the ownership within myself to BE SINGLE. And it's not "still single", meaning the point is to NOT be single but for the moment I am. Like an unlucky situation you are hoping changes very soon. It sounds obvious and simplistic but I don't think it is. At least hasn't been for me and the last group of women that attended my BUSTING THE GOOD GIRL workshop on LA. We spoke about the subtle difference in relating to yourself that way. One feels like you're waiting for someone to come along and pick you from the bench for their kickball team..."Oh you're STILL not on a team yet?" versus just owning the fact that your life is busy, you are really fulfilled, incredibly happy, and you're not going to hook up with just anyone who comes knocking just to check off that box.

To be honest, it takes a LOT to proudly own being single as a woman. It feels like a false affirmation technique you tell yourself when you have lost. "No, it's ok. I WANTED to lose." But that's NUTS! And not even true. But it can feel like it. The pressure is from outside and within. And it takes something to not fold or apologize or make excuses. To OWN this is a very conscious choice, one that I am making based on what I want, what is important to me, and who I want to become. Does it mean I am ANTI-having a boyfriend? Not in the least. But there's a bar, a standard in myself where compromising is not interesting or worth it. At one time it was. It was more unconscious but the need to have a boyfriend, to be IN a relationship was a void that MUST be filled. Having NO boyfriend was somehow worse than having a mediocre one. Which I've had many of. Now THAT'S nuts. But so ingrained. And that's why at the moment, I'm having an epiphany of sorts about "singlehood".

When I post photos now on Facebook my mind starts churning out the familiar critiques of what my life must look like, and oddly a fear of being seen that something is WRONG sneaks in, there MUST be a reason I'm "still single"...what could it be? Not being approached every single time I enter a bar or movie theater or Starbucks at some point does trigger the fear that I'm not "pickable". What is wrong with me? Why am I not date-able? So and so is always on dates. Then the comparisons start...oh well maybe I should be more like this or that. Ugggg. Pretty insidious stuff. Now I went to therapy and read those books too...yes, sometimes it's that we're pushing intimacy and vulnerability away. Or we're secretly angry and mistrust men. That's always a possibility and on me to figure out my different motives for everything I do. But of course those are not the only reasons why someone would chose to be single. Single isn't "wrong" and the reasons why someone chooses singlehood aren't from a lack or problem. But THOSE beliefs run deeeeeeep. It's quite possible a woman chooses to stay single simply because she prefers to not be in a sexual relationship. Boom.

Now that argument often leads to another little voice...a voice that often pops up when I think about what my life must look like from the outside or from my akashic record known as Facebook. I imagine someone looking over my photos concluding, "there Holly is again with another female friend, and ANOTHER...hmmm, haven't seen her cuddling up to some dude in a long time, wow since 2013? Really? Ok well, I know she's very vocal about being pro-LGBTQ so, yeah, come on, when is she going to come out already???!" Ah yes, the good ol' highly intelligent argument that a single, strong woman MUST hate men. She must be a big lesbian. And as much as I hate that I have that, it is a crazy and weird 'fear'...which makes no sense clearly. For everyone who knows me, that is not a comment whatsoever about lesbians or a gay or bi-sexual lifestyle. That's just not mine. But the rub is that there's an assumption somewhere out there that only a woman who does not like men sexually would choose to go without one for this long. And the older I get, having never been married, well the "proof" keeps adding up. And the weird thing is there's a part of me that is programmed to CARE about what people think of me and my dating life...as if they are all waiting to "like" a post where I telegraph to the world I AM IN A RELATIONSHIP!!!!! SEE????? I'M NORMAL!!!!

I recently read an article that the amount of women who create fake boyfriends when asked out by a guy they're not interested in - it's a crazy huge percentage. There are apps for it and websites dedicated to help you craft the perfect fake boyfriend so you don't piss of guys who ask you out. Saying "no thanks" clearly doesn't suffice. How could we prefer to stay single when being offered a date or more? Mixed in there is that we also are overly concerned for other's feelings and the aggression many gals receive in turning down a guy. That's another CRAZY can of worms for another post. To me creating a fake boyfriend helps prove that we don't want to go on a date with whomever asks BUT never fear, I am still dating. I don't "hate men" I am just not single. 

However as I mentioned, the more I study singlehood, the more I am seeing what a VERY powerful club it is and has been. One that is making me more and more PROUD to be part of it. One that we hardly celebrate...more apologize for or feel shame for. Reading Traister's book, she points out that most of the significant and radical change that has occurred for women's rights over decades and decades has been taken up by women who were single...either never married or married but said adios to their husbands when it was clear being a wife was more limiting than they preferred in order to give their time, energy and attention to women's issues. A few were married with supportive husbands but just a few. Susan B. Anthony, when asked about love and marriage said, "I've been in love a thousand times!...But I never loved any one so much that I thought it would last...I never felt I could give up my life of freedom to become a man's housekeeper. When I was young, if a girl married poor, she became a housekeeper and a drudge. If she married wealth, she became a pet and a doll. Just think, had I been married at twenty, I would have been a drudge or a doll for fifty-five years." Instead she was instrumental in changing the world and liberating women - as in half the population.

These single women were ridiculed and pitied far worse than today...but the roots of feeling bad about being single were clearly laid back then with terms like "spinster" (unmarried women who worked as 'spinners' of thread), "thornbacks" (if you were sadly unmarried after the age of 26! Oh my!); "mannish maidens" and "Amazonians" were single women who were labeled unfit for marriage. In 1853 it was written in THE NEW YORK SUN, "The quiet duties of daughter, wife or mother are not congenial to those hermaphrodite spirits who thirst to win the title of champion of one sex and victor over another." So...married or a hermaphrodite. Ummm, got it, thanks. Message received.

So I am experiencing stronger than ever before pride in my singlehood. At the moment I need to own that I am choosing singlehood to a large degree. I am not willing to sacrifice the life I have constructed for myself for just any relationship. I'm not letting myself get distracted by guys who would take me off my path or out of my sense of power and self-worth. A few times I've veered too far in that direction and it felt AWFUL. The GOOD GIRL believes the fairy tale. A happy ending and fulfillment lie on the other side of that magical kiss by Prince Charming. And she feels like crap until that happens, she hasn't been picked yet and that MUST be her fault somehow. But the other part of us, the "FUCK IT" as I like to refer to it in my talks and teaching, is already full and fulfilled. Sometimes it takes work to get from one side to the other but it's always doable. And knowing there's a legacy of incredible, brave, pioneering women who made the same choices for the same reasons actually helps a lot. Maybe the next phase of the women's movement will be to own and celebrate singlehood not as an "in between" state but as a conscious, empowered choice to live our lives to the fullest and value the life we've created and the person we've become. If a guy enters my world and compliments it, supports it, pushes me and helps me grow and experience life in new ways...right on! Sign me up. If not, sorry...I don't have time, I've got bigger things to accomplish.

ARE YOU CLEAR ON WHAT YOU WANT?

I have been holding workshops in LA which I have been calling BUSTING THE GOOD GIRL. They are continued inspiration and fuel for me to keep exploring exactly what the GOOD GIRL is and also how do we strengthen what isn't her...the free, fearless part of each of us, the "FUCK IT"!

We are picking up steam as we focus our attention on what do we, as leaders in various fields -- especially so in the performing arts -- WANT to create? What additions do we WANT to see added to the existing landscape? Sure, we can spend time trying to change what already exists...but we are starting to see the benefit and excitement in building our own new platforms, outlets, content, and collaborations. Based on our voices, our interests, and our points of view. The name of the game right now appears to be DIVERSITY! Add to the mix what has been more or less the same thing for such a long time.

And what will it take for us to work on those voices, those interests, and those points of view? That's what so many of us are starting to get inspired by and investing more and more energy into. Maybe we're not so clear what they are just yet. We all know VERY WELL how to take part in what's already been, to help support those already "in", fit in and play by the rules that someone else has made. So how do we go another step forward? Not just fit in BUT CREATE! That's a whole other ball of wax! And sky's the limit there.

As I like to say, at one point in our recent past, getting access to play in the dude's sandboxes was the order of the day. And our foremothers and sisters fought very hard for that access. But now it seems very clear that it's now time to build our own sandboxes. As many as we can!

Gaining clarity and confidence in our own ideas, impulses, and inspirations is very important and relatively new. Especially when you throw that pesky GOOD GIRL in the mix who'd rather get affirmation for playing by the rules, being nice, and doing it "right". Now more than ever we need to shed her and lead with the fearless, bold, and authentic part of ourselves and see what we can create from THERE. IF we don't know what it is we want, that's not a problem as long as we start investing in getting clarity. Just focusing on what we do NOT want isn't the same as knowing what it is we WANT and working to build THAT. Saying "I want to know more about what I am inspired by and inspired to do" is still clarity on what you WANT. So if you have to start there, start THERE! And then you can begin to move forward with more and more specifics. If you don't SEE what it is you want, it just might be your task to build it or co-create it with others who also share the same vision and passion but don't yet see it.

The GOOD GIRL is not programmed to take the bull by the horns and create. She is designed to politely thank YOU for whatever you have handed to her and be grateful for it and and smile and say thank you and not complain. If you don't like what you see OR don't like the fact you don't see it, use that as an indicator of something. It's not random and it's not arbitrary you feel that way. And you may be surprised to learn how many others are feeling the same lack or desire to create. The more clear you are, the faster things will start happening in that direction! It's the different between saying "No I'm fine. Don't worry about me. Thank you." and saying "FUCK IT!"

 

Freedom

“What do you think the new woman will be?" - Nellie Bly

"She’ll be free." - Susan B. Anthony

— 1896

I love that quote and had never heard it until recently. I love that Susan B. Anthony had a vision of women of the future and all she knew, all that was important, was underneath everything, women were just FREE.

I find it's an interesting concept to think about around the 4th of July...a small group of politicians, statesmen and soldiers who were willing to go against the authority of the British Crown, risk their lives and be labeled traitors, who fought for a vision they shared of a new world...a world built on principles so radical and so revolutionary that nothing like it had been seen anywhere before. A place where liberty was valued above all else. Freedom to act as one wished, freedom to believe what one wanted, and freedom to think for oneself. The individual and their conscience were of preeminent importance.
 
"If you aren’t free to think your own thoughts and believe your own beliefs, you aren’t free, period." - James Madison
 
To jump now to 2016, seeing where women specifically have come from up until this moment, is a fascinating journey in and of itself. For me, it's an exciting and important step for us all to examine where we are dislodging ourselves from beliefs we have inherited and deciding for ourselves, maybe for the first time in history, what WE want to think and believe. What WE want to be valued for. What life WE want to create simply because we want to.

The radical and revolutionary ideals that built a new world and sent shock-waves through the old are still unfolding over 200 years later..and probably will continue to do so for a long time. Susan B. Anthony's dream of a day when WOMEN are truly FREE on every level imaginable is becoming more and more a reality all the time...sometimes a lot more slowly than many of us would want or hope! It requires a lot of work, focus, understanding, and inspired action to bring it into being.

What I have seen happening most recently that I think is becoming an important shift is a shift away from looking at and giving energy to what's wrong, what enrages us and belittles us, to a focus on WHAT WE WANT. That, to me, is a significant and immeasurable shift. And LOT harder. For instance, in a recent BUSTING THE GOOD GIRL workshop in LA we started speaking about a stand-up show that one of the women saw with a few male friends. It started with a really awful, mean-spirited, woman-bashing, misogynist set and the rest of the night went downhill from there. You could feel the anger, frustration, and hopelessness of the room build and the spirit that had been there lessen almost instantly. More and more women chimed in about similar experiences and even more so, seeming powerlessness to do ANYTHING about it. "Should I write a letter to the comic who hosts the night? Go to the club to talk to him? Call the owner? Blog about it? Write all over Facebook about it??..." A familiar conversation that evokes a familiar emotional package. And NO FUN. So then, I shifted the conversation because I know for myself that's ALWAYS an interesting moment. What if we just left them all alone? They clearly have an audience so fine. That's their right to do stand-up that way. Great, good luck and farewell. So once we stop trying to make them do something else, why don't we talk about what WE WANT. Suddenly it was quiet...but filled with a different energy. One by one the 12 women in the room started chiming in on what kind of comedy THEY would want, what venues, what the experience would look like and feel like. We saw that maybe people who currently dislike stand-up would be attracted to this new thing because it spoke TO THEM. So the fear of not having an audience started to lessen and the excitement to CREATE poured in. And within 5-10 minutes we could care LESS what this one stupid club was doing or not doing! Who cares!??! We have bigger fish to fry! Important comedy to make! I don't think this is about stopping people from doing what they're going to do...it's about adding our voices to the up-until-now-white-straight-male conversation and world. A beautiful example of this happened when a bunch of hateful people went to protest in Ohio. A huge group of citizens showed up known as "The Angels", not to stop them, but to out-shout them and sing "songs about love". The protestors soon packed up and left.

There's a quote that I can't seem to find so I'll do my best to paraphrase without screwing it up hopefully which Buckminster Fuller apparently said of the laws under which everything in the universe operates - galaxies, stars, planets - which is: energy that goes into trying to salvage something old, dying, broken is lost energy. The only energy that has any impact is the energy used to create the new, what's next...and it's always an evolution, a step FORWARD.

Beyond Equality?

I have been giving my talk, GOOD GIRLS AREN’T FUNNY for 4 or 5 years now and one of the many things I love about doing it is it pushes me to engage with it fresh each time. What is striking me about it this time? What insights have I had that might apply? What have I heard, read, saw, or experienced that might be relevant now?

A few months ago I watched a documentary by Bonnie McFarland, WOMEN AREN’T FUNNY, which was a personal exploration as an east coast stand up comedian on the topic. I don’t know much first hand about the stand up world and it was interesting to watch, trying to figure out what it must be like as a budding (or even well-established) female comic in that world – the world of having to clock time on the road, dark bars in small towns, with awful “free” housing. Besides the obvious lifestyle situations not always friendly to gals that I’d heard about (it being a boy’s club, hooking up after shows, excessive drinking) I learned about Comedy Condos…where the booking venue puts comics up for free. It’s usually a rented apartment where several comics all pile in to at once. In theory they are supposed to be clean with clean linens, etc but apparently that is usually never the case. Imagine frat houses, according to the doc. And a woman was interviewed saying she is often the only female staying in one of these glorified dorm rooms and said more or less it’s fantastic conditions for unwanted attention from the guys, at the VERY best.

It got me thinking…hell no. If I had to be a stand up, I just wouldn’t do it that way. Why do we have to do it THAT way just because that’s how a certain sector of people do it? I’d want to do it differently. My imagination went rampant…I’d rent a big house, invite all my favorite people over, we’d serve nice appetizers, wine, and do comedy but in really comfy clothes and great lighting. Ok so clearly my amazing model may never actually take off…BUT…shortly after my little insight, I have been tracking 2 things:

1. YOU TUBE BILLBOARDS ALONG SUNSET IN LA. Driving along Sunset I saw their new campaigns for popular “comedy channels”. And much to my delight, the majority…almost EVERY SINGLE ONE…was a woman’s face.

2. THE BOUTIQUE GYM CRAZE IN NYC. I joined ClassPass (I love it, thank you Allison Dunbar) and just about every class I attend is NOT at a huge, noisy, crowded smelly gym. It’s at smaller, clean, friendly boutique gyms, often run and owned by women. Attended by mainly women. Focusing on what women want to focus on. It’s like going to a massive Holiday Inn all your lifeand then suddenly discovering charming B&Bs. There are people who love Holiday Inns. AND there are people who prefer B&Bs. (now I am a Crossfit addict…I love the grit, grime and noisy unglamorous culture of every single Crossfit gym I go to. I ALSO love the boutique gyms for different reasons and for different styles of work outs…like Barre and Core Strength classes. I like that I have options.)

These seemingly unrelated examples struck me as being similar in a very core way: THIS is how we’re doing it OUR way.

When I was growing up in St. Louis, equality to me meant, consciously but also very subconsciously, we were allowed to do what the boys did. Which implies “getting to do what they boys do” means they have more value. Counts more. Which I believes means they – guys – count more. The water didn’t flow both ways…guys didn’t suddenly think, oh GOOD! Now we too get to do what the girls do. Clearly, the focus was on breaking down the barriers that existed between the genders. A-FUCKING-MEN.  But I think right now there’s a groundswell that goes beyond this leveling of the playing field. It looks like women deciding – because we CAN – how we want to do things. How we want our comedy to look. How we want to express it and expose it. “Thanks for letting us into your world guys, but I don’t necessarily want to gothere after all. I’m interested in going over here…”

I see sketches and web series popping up daily all created, performed, directed, and edited by women. No one is asking permission any more…and anyone who IS is finding themselves banging their head against a wall that isn’t there any more. There are all-women improv teams popping up. I know so many women improvisers struggling with sexist and demoralizing moments in their classes and on stage with their ‘teams’ seeing that trying to change the current system (often created and run by straight white men…sorry dudes, it’s just true) isn’t happening very fast. So how far out and independent do women have to go to stop trying to fit into a model that doesn’t feel right or serve them? It’s certainly a moment to see two options (at least) appearing all over the map: try to fix and evolve the current model, or create your own. I’m digging the second one. I don’t think equality means, necessarily and in every case, we have the right to say, “I don’t like your model. Change it.” It’s their model, whomever THEY are. They started it, they invested in it, it’s working for them. Great. Should we let them know why it isn’t working for us? Yes. But it’s up to them to change it. I think equality means we have rights. We have the right to join their model. We also have the right to start our own.

I’m sure there are plenty more examples of how this is happening — and mind you, it’s happening without a prescribed “leader” or organization leading the way. That’s why I find it completely exciting and significant…it’s a groundswell. Women have come so far in such a short amount of time! It blows me away sometimes…our joy at collaborating, at showing up for each other, for preferring to work together, create together, BE together seems new to me. Compared to what little I have read about the amazing movement in the 60′s that changed everything. While women marched side by side and toppled buildings and walls together, the unity didn’t last. As a matter of fact, it was massive mistrust and infighting that seems to stop the Women’s Movement more than anything else from what I’ve heard about and read.

So I feel these signs are pointing to what is replacing the vacuum created by lack of opportunity and access. I once read somewhere, “Nature Abhors a Vacuum” and it seems the vacuum right now is starting to be filled by women who aren’t concerned about equality any more. They are beyond that. They are creating what they want on their own terms because they want to. And that’s fucking beautiful.