The office's marketing staff sit around patting their backs. A job well done. It was a great day – they had reached their targets, achieved all goals, and the entire board was walking around doling out compliments. The staff anxiously awaited their individual feedback as the board walked from cubicle to cubicle.
“Great stuff,” they said to Jerry.
“A perfectly executed quarter,” they remarked to Bill.
“I was really proud of your whole team,” beamed the boss to Henry.
“You looked really hot this week!” they told Charlotte while maintaining eye contact. “Keep looking sexy.”
This is how I felt after my show last week in Sarasota, Florida.
After a great performance, my comedy team (North Coast) stood in the hallway selling merch and shaking hands, thanking people for coming to the show. While receiving compliments from happy audience members as they exited the theater, most folks kindly came up to my teammates and I and said the normal things one says after a show, such as: You are so funny! What a great show. You are so talented! But, one guy with a round face and a mustache walked up to me and said “You are so sexy.” It took me off guard and annoyed me to no end. Our full conversation was the following:
Him: You are so sexy.
Me: I thought you were going to say 'talented.'
Him: (Doesn't respond to that. Instead, he gestures to my male counterparts) I just met the other guys on your team.
Me: Did you give them the same compliment?
This show was particularly good. It felt particularly good. It was the first stop on our (first ever) South Florida tour, and even though we perform weekly in New York, this performance felt incredibly strong and positive and funny. We worked our asses off and when we got off the stage: we knew we had killed it. We felt GREAT. So, this man's "feedback" angered me for two reasons.
The first one is obvious: My job is not to make you feel things in your pants. Why do I get comments on what I look like while my male teammates do not? This is my career and I just did great work. Why can't you comment on the work accomplished? As far as this man goes - I could've stood on stage and done nothing and received the same compliment.
The second reason I'm angry is harder to put my finger on: It has to do with being a comedian and performer and wanting to be "liked." It also has to do with being a woman and minimizing my own circumstances or feelings in order to keep a situation feeling like it's a-ok. [This article helps articulate it.] When talking about this incident with my male friends, I find myself downplaying it to sound "cool." I can't be angry because at the end of the day - someone thinks I look good! What he said was harmless, right? Someone complimented me! So... I start to make excuses for his behavior and I start to judge my own feelings.
Why do we sweep our feelings under the rug?
I wasn't even going to write about this experience. It seems small. And truth be told, for the most part I'm surrounded by kind men (and women) who have my back if I need it. But even those who call themselves feminists and who think they are supportive - even they don't react much in situations like these. We laugh at it. That guy is nuts! You DID look good tonight.
Sure. That guy is nuts. I did look good.
But then why is this bothering me so much?
My friend, Katy, and I wrote a silly song about feminism recently for an online video contest. We saw the video as a way to empower young girls and have some fun in the process. Harmless, right? The Youtube comments are alarming. You can hate our song, bro. But this is more than harsh. It's terrifying.
I've decided to write about this situation now so as not to sweep it under the rug. So as not to minimize my own feelings. To shed light on something that happens every. single. freaking. day and most of us don't even bat an eye. The conversation is happening. The conversation is helping. So, let's keep talking about it.