Sunday, 25 July 2010

Kira Cochrane on Why Feminism Is Far From Finished

Another wonderful and inspiring piece by Kira Cochrane in The Guardian yesterday on the rise of third wave feminism:

Cochrane is probably the most important broadsheet journalist on the subject as she repeatedly brings the subject to the main pages of every intelligent person's favourite newspaper. Such eloquence, passion and insight are rarely so beautifully presented in mainstream media as in her writing.

I've read almost everything she's ever written. You should too:

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Bad Boy Of Feminism at the Soho Theatre

Many thanks to everyone who came to the two final ever performances of The Bad Boy Of Feminism at the Soho Theatre on 25 and 26 June. Despite the heat in the theatre, they were my two favourite ever gigs and I was truly delighted that both shows were sold out.

It was lovely to perform the show to such a like-minded audience. As you can see from the picture above I had more converts to the cause at the end of the show than from any other!

I start previews for my new show James Mullinger's Schooldays this week on Thursday at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham. I have a lot of work to do on it but it should be nice and polished by the 6th and 7th August at The Camden Fringe.

Time Out article

I was most honoured to be asked by Time Out's enormously respected Comedy Editor Tim Arthur to write a piece about the final two performances of The Bad Boy Of Feminism. The piece generated a lot of interest and lots of like-minded feminists who hadn't heard of me before came to see the show off the back of the article.

Understandably, Time Out's lawyers insisted on some moments of ranting to be removed so please find below the full, uncut, unexpurgated version that I submitted:

Why the stand up circuit needs feminism more than ever by James Mullinger

Misogyny has been making something of a comeback of late, both on the stand up circuit and in society in general. It seems you can say what you like about all women being slags and they are all just supposed to take the joke. Even the most mainstream of comedians are making rape jokes but we’ve all got to laugh along because it’s all just a bit of fun, right. Wrong.

Obviously the wealth of superb female stand ups on the circuit right now are redressing that balance, but it is often shocking how much misogyny you hear in clubs up and down the country every weekend. Things aren’t as bad as they used to be in the 1970s when Jim Davidson and Bernard Manning were on primetime but with Neanderthal scum like Danny Dyer telling readers of weekly rapist training manual Zoo magazine to slash their ex’s faces and Comedy Central’s marketing department cashing in on Charlie Sheen beating his wife to a pulp on Christmas Day by distributing adverts for the new series of Two And A Half Men with the tagline: “Charlie’s no angel!” we still have a long way to go.

It is staggering to me that even in 2010 violent crime against women is still treated as a bit of a laugh by a supposed comedy channel. At least there was uproar over Dyer’s comments and he was promptly fired. Sheen meanwhile was whooped and cheered by the studio audience of said lame-com in his first post-arrest appearance.

So third-wave feminism should in theory be flourishing at a time like this but instead it seems more people than ever are afraid to call themselves feminists. People assume that a feminist has to look like Jeremy Clarkson’s uglier sister. Part of the problem is perhaps the word ‘feminist’ itself. The ‘ist’ at the end of too harsh - after all, no-one wants to be a racist, rapist with a cist do they?

Another reason is the stupid people that think only women can be feminists. After a gig at the Leicester Comedy Festival, a woman came up to me and accused me of being a misogynist for using the ‘c’ word in my act. I tried to explain that I was using the term in the English way as a term of endearment, not the misogynistic North American sense. When she continued to shout I shamefully resorted to proudly revealing that I had a degree in Women’s Studies as if that gave me carte blanche to say what I like. Her response? “You can’t be a feminist, you’re a man.”

So I hit her. Which was fair enough. After all, she was asking for it.

Just a joke! Right?

For all of these reasons I decided what the circuit needed was a proud feminist male comedian. I’m the first to admit that a stand up show about feminism sounds about as funny as being fingered by John Leslie. But everything about ’James Mullinger Is The Bad Boy Of Feminism’ is intended to defy expectations and I have worked hard to make it as funny as it is preachy.

The title is a swipe at the way that the media call these wife beating scumbags ‘bad boys’ when really they should be called homicidal thugs. But the title is deliberately ambiguous so as a result, I have attracted audiences from both sides of the political spectrum. The first time I performed it at the Camden Fringe last year, half a dozen men from a men’s rights group bought tickets, assuming they were in for an hour of feminist bashing. I haven’t seen so many frowning cavemen since the BNP lost the Barking seat in May.

I decided to reclaim my feminist roots in 2008 after four years on the circuit, having been branded something of a laddish comic, some reviewers even going as far as accusing me of misogyny. I had also appeared on a TV panel show called Street Cred Sudoku and found myself accused of misogyny. The subject of Jordan came up and what I wanted to convey was that that I don’t buy into the idea that she is a successful businesswomen, I think she is an appalling example to young women prostituting her life, as proven by the horrifying fact that 95% of visitors to her website are women. Unfortunately, in the cut and thrust of a laugh a minute panel show, what came out of my mouth was the more succinct and less righteous: “I think she’s a slag”. Robin Ince and Sue Perkins rightly turned on me for using such a word. Ince even pointing out that he and I had been discussing the work of Andrea Dworkin in his dressing room prior to filming and that I was clearly some kind of charlatan.

As well as comedy punters and some misogynists, the show has also attracted some hardcore feminists, some of whom are big heroes of mine. Performing the show for them filled me with nerves because as well as being a filth filled gag fest, I wanted it to hold up as a feminist argument. Once well known feminist writer came to the show and I sheepishly asked her afterwards which bit she liked best expecting her to invoke the segment on bell hooks (sic) and the origins of Black Feminism or the insight into the way radical feminism evolved in the latter part of the twentieth century, but instead she thought about it for a moment, looked me in the eye and in all seriousness said: “The corpse fucking joke.”

Which proves I have maintained my feminist ideals after all because that’s my favourite bit too. My wish is that more comedians will shy away from using women as their comedian punch bags and instead target those deserving of our wrath such as Danny Dyer and Charlie Sheen.

James Mullinger will be performing ‘James Mullinger Is The Bad Boy Of Feminism’ for the very last time at the Soho Theatre on 25th and 26th June


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Why are modern crime novelists so obsessed with the torture of women?

I have always enjoyed crime novels on holidays for the trashy fun that they should be but over the past fortnight found myself disgusted with the abundance of rape and violence that pepper almost all the mass market novels in the bestseller lists.

Why do Kathy Reichs, James Patterson (and his numerous "co authors"), Karin Slaughter, Patricia Cornwell all assume that the only crime their readers are interested in is the rape, murder and mutilation of young women?

They revel in it. I just finished Swimsuit by James Patterson (or rather written by Maxine Paetro but bares Patterson's name to ensure it shifts millions of copies) and it is by far one of the worst examples of this. Dozens of rapes and murders described in graphic details for no reason. No plotting or tension, just a list of rapes. The ending? The murderer gets murdered in a snuff film. Or he doesn't. We don't know. The book is utterly pointless unless you are aroused by the idea of a woman being raped before being decapitated with her head attached to a ceiling fan so that the head spins around the room. Or how about a women being strangled to death while she is being raped?

I have not made any of this up. These are just two of the many atrocities Patterson / Peatro describe with no skill whatsoever. The entire book is sick, unnecessary, offensive and made me feel rather ill and spoiled my sunbathing.

Which would be my own fault if I had purchased a book packaged like a torture porn film like Hostel or Last House On The Left. But I had not. I had purchased a book by the world's most successful author (he churns out so much of this garbage that he sells more books than Dan Brown, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling put together) from WH Smith sporting one of the covers illustrated above. Does anything about the cover above say to you 'Rapey head chopping'?

The cover of the edition I purchased at Toronto Pearson airport also states that it is his 'most satisfying book since Kiss The Girls'. Satisfying? Interesting choice of word. Not only would Patrick Bateman himself be sickened by this book, it has also alienated Patterson's own fans with 120 Amazon reviews granting it a 1-star review and only 38 a 5-star review. More of his fans hate his lazy output than actually enjoy it.

Surely he and other crime novelists can broaden their horizons a bit? There are other crimes out there. The mob are a pretty exciting bunch, how about featuring them? Or bank robberies. Or diamond smuggling.

Or anything other than sexual assaults and mutilation of young women.

Most disturbingly, the majority of these books are written by women so I am extremely confused as to their motivations. Are they under the misguided view that by graphically describing rapes in pornographic detail they are highlighting the awfulness of sexual assault?

These hack trash pedellers need to check out the work of genuinely thrilling crime novelists such as Simon Kernick and Mark Billingham. These masters of the genre do not need to resort to crude lists of atrocities as they have refined literary chops and the understanding of narrative.

I gave up reading Patterson's book a few years ago when he stopped not only writing his novels but in all liklihood, reading them also. I thought I'd pick this one up because it looked like it might be a bit of pulpy fun.

I will not be making this mistake again.