(This was also published on the Indian news site WSN)
In the final week of the recent Edinburgh Fringe, I chaired five daily hour-long chat shows. In the fourth show, the guests were Scots comedy critic Kate Copstick (always known simply as ‘Copstick’) and American comedians Laura Levites & Lynn Ruth Miller. There were several English comedians in the audience, including Janet Bettesworth and Bob Slayer. This is a brief extract:
COPSTICK: As far as I’m concerned, the most strongly feminist comedian on the Fringe is Lynn Ruth – and Laura’s not doing too badly either. The amount of shit you’ve both taken and overcome without wearing the I’m A Feminist teeshirt and waving Boys Are Bad – Throw Stones At Them flags.
LAURA: To me, being a feminist is not about what you say, it’s about what you do. I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words. You don’t say Look at me! Look at me! You just do things.
LYNN RUTH: I don’t think feminism is knocking down men. I love men. Why can’t we just be people? I don’t see any difference. I think men have the same insecurities as women.
LAURA: I think they have more insecurities.
JOHN: What sort of insecurities?
LYNN RUTH: Oh, they’re so worried about their bodies.
LAURA: Their bodies, their dicks. Every night I’ve had to lie in bed with a guy who’s drunk too much and blah blah blah you gotta listen to that shit. Oh my god! Shut up! But my biggest problem with feminists is they get mad when someone sexualises you. I like being sexualised. Objectify me! Talk about my tits and ass – Please!
LYNN RUTH: Nobody’s talked about mine in years.
LAURA: It’s like you can’t… If somebody says a woman’s pretty or…
LYNN RUTH: I like somebody saying that.
LAURA: Yeah. But, if somebody talks about a woman’s body, then all ‘the women’ get up in arms Arghh! You’re sexualising! But you’re a woman. You can’t ignore the way women look. They have things sticking out. Women have tits. Women have shapely bodies. How do you ignore that? I get so mad.
COPSTICK: I would give my right arm to be a sex object.
BOB SLAYER: There are some websites where giving your right arm would make you more sexy.
JANET BETTESWORTH: How do you feel about She was asking for it? You know, exposing bits, it’s late at night, she’s got a pussy pelmet, she was out on the street, so… She was asking for it.
COPSTICK: Well I genuinely believe – this won’‘t go down well, but – if you walk into Battersea Dogs Home with your legs covered in prime rump steak, you cannot complain if you get bitten.
LYNN RUTH: Yes.
LAURA: I agree.
COPSTICK: If you put it out there, someone’s going to pick it up.
LYNN RUTH: You gotta have the right look. In Redwood City, there were a lot of women who were constantly walking by a bowling alley and they were being attacked and they were being raped. And I had my two little dogs and walked by the bowling alley every day and I called up the police and said You know, I walk by there every day and I was waiting for them to say Well, YOU they’re not going to bother! But I mean I think I just don’t have the right look. It’s like, when you are afraid of a dog, it IS going to bite you.
LAURA: But I think most women don’t understand the way most men view them. Whether or not you like it – it’s not about liking it or not – men do look at you like a sexual being. It doesn’t matter what you look like as a woman, there’s some dude that’s gonna want to fuck you. It’s absolutely true. If you’re walking down a street at night with parts of you exposed, it doesn’t mean you’re ‘asking for it’, but you have to be aware…
LYNN RUTH: It’s called good advertising.
LAURA: … people are going to respond to you. You can’t ignore the fact that you’re a woman. You can’t ignore the fact you shouldn’t drink too much with a man by yourself. you shouldn’t take strange men home with you. You gotta be careful and it’s up to you to own that responsibility and keep yourself in safe situations.
COPSTICK: I think we’ve only got one word for it, which is rape.
LAURA: Yes, we should have more words.
COPSTICK: At the moment, it’s ludicrous, but that one word covers both someone who is wandering along a road and some person completely unknown to her leaps out – which must be horrendous and terrifying and it’s not about sex, it’s about violence. It’s a very specific form of assault… That is one thing… That is horrendous… But then there’s some twat of a 19-year-old who dolls herself up, covers herself in make-up, goes out, gets shit-faced, gets a guy, gets more shit-faced, takes him back to her place or goes back to his place, takes some items of clothing off, starts playing tonsil hockey, has her nipples twiddled, starts playing the horizontal tango … It’s too fucking late to start complaining. It’s not his fault any more. You can’t go Yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes – Oh! – No! – It’s not fair.
LYNN RUTH: I think the thing I’m feminist about is I don’t want women to use their bodies for currency. They can use their minds.
COPSTICK: Nobody wants your mind. I know this.
LAURA: What do you mean ‘currency’?
LYNN RUTH: They dress to get attention. I won’t say who, but there’s a comedian here in Edinburgh who slept with this guy because she wanted him to put her in the show. There are better ways to get in a show than to get fucked. Women can accomplish what they want in other ways.
COPSTICK: But can they?
LYNN RUTH: I have.
COPSTICK: You’ve never used your body to get what you want?”
LYNN RUTH: Never. Because I had anorexia and I was a mess. It’s really true. Nobody’s come on to me for 50 years.
34 responses to “Feminist female comedians agree there are different types of rape in Edinburgh”
There are several jaw dropping moments in this discussion, stunningly bad.
All I can say is that as a man I know the difference between “yes” and “no”, however “unfair” or disappointing you may think that it for me … no excuses.
What is being said here is “poor dear, he couldn’t help it, after all the slut was female”.
I agree with you completely ecadre, apart from how awful this is in terms of blaming victims for what happens to them, if I was a guy I would be pretty disgusted at being compared to dogs who can’t control themselves around meat. Men aren’t animals, they have the ability to control themselves. To imply otherwise is pretty crazy!
There’s so much wrong with this that I wrote a blog about it and still could have written more. http://bellanoise.tumblr.com/
One of them mentions feminists getting “mad”.
As far as I’m concerned, I welcome more angry feminists.
Your blog post is obviously from the heart, very true and sadly still very much needed given the above.
I have to agree with ecadre but have to also emphasise they are more than jaw dropping they are unfuckingbelieveable. Especially this shite coming from women of their age and background. Having had a daughter attacked by a moron when she was doing nothing more than walking home on a late december afternoon dressed appropriately (because apparently according to my sisters above a woman is responsible for being attacked if she wears anything less than full body armour) I am totally dismayed by both the garbage that has come out of their mouths and the fact that they are holding women accountable for the bad things that happen to them – I really hope that they never experience that stomach churning, leg collapsing, brain disintegrating moment when you are told your child has been seriously assaulted by some man!
“they are more than jaw dropping they are unfuckingbelieveable”
Sadly, you are correct.
I hope that you and your daughter are both happier (is that the way to put it? Especially when having to put up with stuff like this as well) and well.
Yes, we are but I don’t think it is something that you ever ‘get over’ as it hits your inner core of belief in other human beings and in particular that we are innately good to each other. Worse things happen on a daily basis all over the world to women and children, and of course men. But that doesn’t actually help, in the sense that this violence is an everyday occurrence everywhere and it has become, it seems, so daily an occurrence, that women such as this, feel that somehow they are being controversial in saying what they do. I mean is violence something that we now make jokes about or use to promote ourselves?
But thanks for the support and message.
This is perhaps the most jaw-dropping piece of anti-feminist crap I have ever read. It’s victim blaming dressed up as feminism because it’s coming from the mouths of women. Disgusted.
I feel sick. I feel really, really sick. How DARE they call themselves feminists?!
I like the way John Fleming has worded his title, although ‘Feminist female comedians’ is rather misleading given the content ( – are there any feminist male comedians?).
Other posters might want to refrain from too much negative comment: this was a chat event attached to a comedy festival – geddit? Millar can be excused at almost 80; Copstick and Levites are obviously joking around but mainly come across as being a bit thick.
Actually, I specifically worded it as “feminist female comedians” because there was a recent blog with Martin Soan in which he was ‘being feminist’. I can think of several men I have heard and quoted in the past who (I think justifiably) claimed they were feminist. So I was trying to avoiding seeming to say only women could be feminists.
Oh because this was a ‘chat’ at a’comedy festival’ we can accept this crap. My mother is 87 and she doesn’t make jokes about rape nor blames women when it happens – but I guess you are just being ageist? And since when does joking around or being a bit thick excuse them pray?
There are many male feminist comedians, yes. All of the ones I’m friends with are, whether they do material about it or not. And I would imagine nearly all of them would disagree with the opinions of the women in this interview.
In what way are they ‘obviously joking’? Copstick is someone who says what she thinks, and there is nothing about that which strikes me as misinterpreted due to tone.
No excuse. Rape is rape.
So Copstick isn’t joking when she says she’d give her right arm to be a sex object? Levites isn’t so quick with one-liners but she does express frustration with feminists; yet, contrary to both other women, she doesn’t think women in short skirts are ‘asking for it’.
There is definitely a problem with labeling: Louise Mensch also calls herself feminist and many other women tend to hold similar views as Copstick & Co. Radical feminists seem to take the view that anyone who disagrees with them is a rape apologist. See the recent Twitter rape threat storm involving white, upper-middle class, feminist banknote campaigner and meeja darling, Caroline Criado-Perez.
Criado-Perez’ reactions were evidently a result of being unable to navigate social media without having everything her own way. Throwing her weight around and managing to get BBC chums on her side along with relentless safety-in-numbers cyberbullying courtesy of her followers, she ended up having to quit Twitter which – for a freelance journalist – is a bit like the Pope leaving the Catholic Church.
Women in the public eye have a duty to set standards and act responsibly when it comes to women’s issues. Criado-Perez and other radical feminists have managed to isolate themselves and alienate other women. I’m undecided if feminism is once again to blame for having failed women, or if it’s women who’ve failed feminism. No doubt the radfems will blame men, as usual.
Can you not see what you’re saying? You conclude with ‘No doubt the radfems will blame men, as usual’ when in fact it is you who is blaming men by agreeing with ‘Copstick & Co’ who definitely seem to think men are beholden to uncontrollable primitive instincts. And, it must be nice and easy to neatly categorise any person who contests the ‘Copstick & Co’ opinion on rape as a ‘radfem’. Yes, they’re all just reactionary raging women, aren’t they. (sarcasm alert.) Perhaps you simply mistakenly conflate angry reactions with radicalism. Finally, your stance and that of the women in the transcript above signals a great unease about women’s bodies and sexuality, because the glaring issue is not rape at all – but rather your and their fear, born of misunderstanding, of women who act sexually confident (by wearing clothes which flatter or simply reveal their figures). The fictional scenario described above in the transcript in which a woman who flaunts her sexuality gets drunk, invites an interested man back to her house, starts to have sexual activity with him, before deciding at the eleventh hour that she doesn’t want to go ahead with the penetrative act, is THE ONLY scenario actually being discussed in the ENTIRE transcript whether anyone else has noticed this or not. And why would YOU or anyone else think it is okay for a man to stick his penis inside a woman if she says no? Even at the eleventh hour? If I am in bed with my partner and we are engaged in sexual activity but then I feel I cannot continue onwards and I say ‘sorry, I have to stop’ – he doesn’t think ‘fuck that’ and rape me. He stops. That’s what being a human being is: being enlightened enough to care about the other person with whom you are engaged in the most intimate activity with and NOT being selfishly violently domineering. And if it’s a one night stand – so what? Do the rules of ethical behaviour bend when it’s a one night stand? WAKE UP.
I’m appalled at the victim-blaming coming from the mouths of these women, and their low opinions of men. They’re implying that women ought to know that men just can’t control themselves if they see exposed skin, men just can’t control themselves if they see a woman they like the look of, and they’re trying to say that the way to prevent rape is for women to stay in, stay covered, stay away from men. Bollocks to that. It doesn’t matter what women wear, where they go, how much they’ve had to drink, who they’ve had sex with previously – the only reason women are raped is because rapists rape.If bare flesh caused rape, there would be riots on every beach and in every swimming pool. Rape has nothing to do with what women wear, or what time of day/night they are out of the house. Rape has nothing to do with men being so inflamed by lust they can’t control themselves. Most men don’t rape. The ones that do rape because they’re rapists, not because of what their victims do or don’t do. Copstick, Levites and Miller should be ashamed to spout this poison.
I would say that there are plenty of male feminists and I know some who are comedians. However, these women’s self-interested rubbishing of women’s rights to own their own bodies is pretty anti-feminist. I would say you have labelling issues…
I must admit, your ruse worked if it was meant as a deliberate red herring. I came here thinking it might be a discussion of the rape joke by feminist comedians and wondered if there was going to be a context argument. I was disappointed to find instead that it was some women flogging the old trope that rape depends on the context. Sheesh.
I know Kate is your friend, and she delights in having controversial opinions for the sake of it, and as it’s not the first time she has made an argument like this, I have to say, at least she’s consistent. But really, I do hope this ends something. It will take a lot of voices to shout down someone so vocal and influential, but I am not scared, so here’s me and my voice. Again. I hope that this time I am one of a chorus… and maybe you’ll think more about harm and consequence the next time you transcribe a conversation full of juicy controversy rather than hits on your blog.
Thank you John for publishing this bile from people who should know a lot better.
There is a legitimate question over whether publishing this provides a platform for the bile, as Donnerscott points out. But what you have done is show the world what obnoxious little people the participants in your discussion are. And by publishing the full transcipt of the conversation, they cannot pretend to have been taken out of context.
“if you walk into Battersea Dogs Home with your legs covered in prime rump steak, you cannot complain if you get bitten.”
The depressing thing is, if you did that and were properly hurt by the bite, you probably would be able to complain and the dog would be destroyed.
Ruth Lynn Miller is an elderly American. She comes from a different generation with a different worldview (although my American mother who was probably older than her would never have come out swith such crap) and may well have a different comedy style; she’s probably aping the likes of Joan Rivers. Not much of an excuse, I know, but it’s something. The other women in this “discussion” have no excuses whatsoever. This really is appalling, and everyone involved should be ashamed. And then to have the gall to call themselves feminists…
An open letter to Kate Copstick from a smaller female voice in comedy. This was incredibly hard to write and share but I think it is hugely important that it is expressed.
I felt obliged to write directly to you as I have complained myself over the years about industry friends and colleagues sniping behind my back about reviews I’ve written and things I’ve done that they’ve never raised directly with me. And as I have drawn attention to John Fleming’s piece about rape I felt it only right to raise my concerns with you.
Firstly a bit of background. I was raped when I was 14 by an 17 year old boy that I really liked. We’d been out in a big group and he offered to walk me to the bus stop. We took a detour through the Meadows and he kissed me. I kissed him back feeling like the luckiest girl in the world that a boy I liked wanted to kiss me. Now, I was done up like only a 14 year old wanting to be an 18 year old could be, short skirt, too much make up. And I really, really liked him.
It wasn’t until he started bring to remove my tights that I realised he wanted more than I was willing to give. I pushed his hands away and told him no. I was laughing and trying to make light of it firstly because I didn’t want to scare him off and secondly because I was terrified. He stopped and we continued kissing. Then he started again and I said no again, firmer this time and he ignore me. I tried to pull away from him and he dragged me to a parked car (down the alley use as you enter the Meadows) and bent me backwards over the bonnet. I was 14 as I say, and a hell of a lot smaller than I am now. He held my two wrists behind my head pushed down onto the car bonnet and ripped my tights off. At this point I had stopped saying no. I was crying. He never hit me or pulled a knife on me. When he was finished he stood up and pulled his trousers up and asked if I could lend him £10 to get a taxi home. Which I gave to him.
That was my rape.
It took me 2 years to confide in anyone that it had happened because I felt very much like it was my fault. I fancied this guy, had dressed up nicely to get his attention and had happily taken a detour to snog him. I even gave him money after the event. I absolutely knew that something wrong had happened but I was convinced it was my fault.
You may think that your brash, unlikable, ball breaker persona means that the comments that you make will always be taken with a pinch of salt, or you may not even have that humanity left in you, you may just not care how they are taken. But I know about your work in Africa and it terrifies me that the vulnerable women that you work with over there could be subjected to the opinions that you have stated in that interview.
You are for better or for worse a very influential voice in comedy and there are a multitude of new open spots who are embracing the ‘rape joke’ again. It is absolutely abhorrent and irresponsible of you to spread these dangerous and damaging opinions. And, speaking personally, incredibly hurtful.
I am a strong woman now, I have buried my demons and am comfortable talking about my experience as I’ve found it helps other people dealing with sexual assault, especially when there is guilt attached.
My rapist was never charged, it was never reported to the police. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind he would have gone on to do it again and that is the guilt I live with now. Your statements are exactly the type of thinking that will prevent others reporting their rapes, leaving rapists free to continue ruining peoples lives.
If you have not already done so I would really like to ask you to consider issuing an apology to anyone you may have offended and I would also like you to seriously rethink your position on what is one of the most demeaning and hateful crimes.
Corry, thank you for writing this. It’s incredibly brave. Much, much braver than anything Kate Copstick has ever said and I hope she listens. It’s awful that we have to tell our stories to make such ignorant people aware… it’s not some ‘other’ people that assault and rape happen to. Not some ‘deserving’ types as she seems to think. It’s us. Ordinary girls and women, just trying to be… not ‘asking for it’ at all.
I’m afraid I have several stories of horrible everyday sexism that I don’t feel bold enough to tell. But I’ve told people about my ‘lucky escape’, as I have always thought of it. I can remember a friend and I being chased on the way home from school by three men in a van, who wanted us to get in the back. We ran to a stranger’s house, hoping someone was in, trying to escape them. The old man who opened the door just looked bothered by us, but at least the men drove off. We never told anyone. We were twelve.
Why didn’t we tell anyone? I don’t know. I think the old man made us feel like we were making a fuss over nothing… but what would have happened if he hadn’t opened the door? In retrospect, the men were clearly cruising the streets looking for someone vulnerable… and given the time of day and the fact we were in school uniform probably meant they were targetting schoolgirls. I felt guilty at the time, as though I’d done something wrong, but now I feel guilty because they may well have tried that somewhere else.
I’ve been lucky that I’ve not had any horrible incidents at any comedy gigs… apart from the whole “women aren’t funny” pre-judgements and apologies almost from an MC for having to introduce a woman the once, which I think are pretty standard. That said, I am dismayed by the very small number of people in the industry who have been prepared to challenge Kate Copstick on this. She’s just one reviewer – why are people running scared?
I’ve sent her comments before, after she spoke about the victim in the Ched Evans case (John published Copstick’s comments on this blog, and they were also published in The Erotic Review), and I didn’t notice many people from comedy speaking up then either. Of all the people who have, I suppose I have the least to lose as I’m very small time – I’ve only ever done shared shows and never in Edinburgh – so I’m unlikely to get her coming to review me. But I’ve said, unless she apologises, she is banned from any show I’m involved with.
So, thank you once again for speaking out.
Thanks. I doubt very much whether I’ll comment further on this as its dragged up a lot of stuff I thought I’d laid to rest years ago. Sleepless night for me tonight. I’m not sorry I published it though, I think it’s important to realise these are not anonymous victims, they are friends and colleagues. I hope they do apologise or at least rethink their stance.
Please excuse all the typos, I was a bit emotional when I wrote the above.
Never heard of any of them. Just trying to account for the ignorance and out dated attitude. Big egos probably fully engaged in what’s still predominantly a man’s comedy world. They’re ‘one of the guy’s’. so to speak, and if you’re one of the guys, you’re one of the family, Group attitudes get reinforced. Plenty more where they come from, all over the world as many of us know. It is a shame though that having the balls to take up a profession like comedy (and comedy critic) doesn’t also give you the balls to stand up for people of your own gender (at least) in what is a huge global concern at the moment with law makers and judiciaries at the centre of it permitting rape and encouraging it with their lax rulings practically worldwide. You usually have to be dead before rape is taken seriously, and even then it’s not, coz it’s murder. These three are about as useful as Margaret Thatcher attaining a position of Prime minister and doing nothing to even attempt to alter the male led system while she had some power and influence! Never mind. There are so many billions of types of feminists out there that I can’t tell the difference between feminists and women with opinions anymore. As damaging as their remarks are, there are other female comedians and critcs and even male comedians and critics who are a bit more clued in, so I vote we just follow them! Leave these three to die in a vat of their ankle length peticotes, ignorance, and unfathomable rape envy. ….Oh please God!…. Only joking. Unlike these three I wouldn’t wish rape on a living soul.
“Margaret Thatcher attaining a position of Prime minister and doing nothing to even attempt to alter the male led system”
Do you not see the irony in this statement? I wish feminists would stop categorizing themselves, and just live their own lives. Neither Margaret Thatcher, or any other women for that matter, is going to make you what you aspire to be. It’s you, that’s going to make you what you aspire to be.
“with law makers and judiciaries at the centre of it permitting rape and encouraging it with their lax rulings practically worldwide”
What’s all this rambling about then? I’d consider myself reasonably well traveled. Never have I felt permitted or encouraged to rape anyone. Not saying there isn’t places in the world where it is, but it’s certainly not worldwide.
I would agree when you look at a lot of cases, you scratch your head at the leniency of sentences for rape, but you can just as easily question sentencing, with almost all crimes. At absolutely no stage does it justify it.
Sorry for picking at your comment. But, being relatively new to wordpress, I seem to be constantly coming across feminist, anti-men rhetoric. It might surprise you, but we’re not all rapists, we do value womens contributions to the workplace and believe it or not, we even have some of our own issues to deal with.
All rape is rape. Stop blaming the victims.
These people are do bitter.
Aside from all the vile rape comments, I have an issue with the following quote:
“LYNN RUTH: I think the thing I’m feminist about is I don’t want women to use their bodies for currency.”
You can’t claim to be a feminist and then go on to tell women what they shouldn’t do. If she was saying “I don’t want women to have to…” that would be fine, but if women want to use their bodies to get what they want then that’s no business of yours.
“But then there’s some twat of a 19-year-old who dolls herself up, covers herself in make-up, goes out, gets shit-faced, gets a guy, gets more shit-faced, takes him back to her place or goes back to his place, takes some items of clothing off, starts playing tonsil hockey, has her nipples twiddled, starts playing the horizontal tango … It’s too fucking late to start complaining. It’s not his fault any more. You can’t go Yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes – Oh! – No! – It’s not fair.”
This shows that these women in the above conversation have, oddly, no understanding about the tradition of ‘heavy petting’, something that has been part of social, sexual behaviour by the young in particular for many years – where young men ARE expected to ‘stop’ at some point. At some point, that social contract appears to have become violated (Corry Shaw’s terrible experience as one example) and women victims of that violated contract blamed! Shocking to see the amnesia, as well as the rampant sexism and young woman blaming, going on in the above comment.
Not funny and a bunch of misogynists, so how did they get the title “feminist comedians”?
Also comparing men who rape to dogs which bite – when dogs bite we have them put down. Perhaps rapists should be treated in the same way using that logic.
You know what? The women in the article claim to be feminists, they’re not, they’re huge liars is what they are! A feminist would never blame a rape victim. I take it theyve all lived nice sheltered lives and have never been subjected to the horrors of rape and abuse? Lucky them, unlike the millions of women out there who have unfortunately become victims through no fault of their own. All the women in this article are just rape apologists, wanting to look cool in front of the menz.
John, you chaired this conversation. As a man, did you not feel a personal obligation to say at some point: “I don’t think there’s ever a good reason to excuse men for raping women” or “As a man, I’m perfectly capable of stopping when someone asks me to, and so are most other men” or “I don’t think we should describe a woman who has been raped as a ‘dumb twat’ even if we are comedy luminaries because it’s actually vile and hateful, not comedic”?
Do you not have a personal responsibility to speak up in the face of misogyny, especially as you were formally in charge?
Apart from the fact that it’s completely devoid of humour, not the best advertisement for your comedic talents, the rape statement clearly shows you to be as enlightened as you are funny.
Unless it’s a desperate attempt to appear edgy with controversial bleatings you neither condone nor believe, which would clearly make you comedy goddesses.
Laura would definitely get it though.