Apr 10, 2018
   Comedy Festival 2018: Fringe Wives Club in Glittery Clittery: A Consensual Reboot!   

Read the original review on www.heraldsun.com.au.


Jim Schembri is the best kind of feminist: a man. Schembri believes feminism is too important to be left up to women, and offers a point-by-point assessment of how the ladies of Glittery Clittery in the Melbourne Fringe are doing feminism wrong.

"But wait," you say, "why all the talk about feminism? Isn't this a review?" It was, for a while. Schembri eases into things by describing the atmosphere ("filled with anticipatory electricity") and the show ("a rafter-shuddering comedic push-back against the patriarchy, female oppression, sexual harassment and the like"). He even acknowledges that men in the audience were advised "you can have a dick, just don’t be a dick," but apparently didn't take that advice to heart, as he couldn't even get to the end of the sentence without snidely remarking that the show was particularly for "those who buy into the present narrative of gender subjugation." Ah yes, this new and unproven theory that some genders have it easier than others, whose adherents barely number enough to fill a theatre (luckily all of them apparently showed up on the same night).

During the review part of the review, Schembri is grudgingly complimentary, noting that the performers "cannot be faulted for their vocal projection or their extraordinary singing ability," although one gets the impression he really wanted to. Just as I, sadly, cannot fault Schembri for his grammar and factual reporting, even after carefully reading the entire article multiple times. Alas, life is a cavalcade of disappointment.

Despite reluctantly admitting that the comedy, musical and physical performances were all top knotch, he nonetheless ascribes the audience's raucous reaction to "anything that fell squarely into the 'Women are Oppressed/Smash the Patriarchy' group-think" as merely being the approval that comes from "preaching to a house of the like-minded." The laughter and cheering of the audience was not to be trusted by an unbiased reviewer, it is implied, because "there’s a lot of shaky ground beneath the show's merry virtue signalling." And since the audience was almost entirely women, their opinions are presumably not to be trusted. Statistically, around 20% of them were even on their period!

Fortunately, objective and non-hormonal reporter Jim Schembri was there to assess the merits of the material divorced from the performance or its reception. Schembri is so objective, in fact, he felt it necessary to note earlier that "there is no more beautiful sight at a festival than watching women do physical comedy," which is so objectively objective it must surely be peak objectivying.

What really set him off was when the crowd reacted positively to the performers saying "feminism is so hot right now," because, as he tells us, even those "with a passing interest in the topic know that feminism is in deep crisis." And Schembri, surely, is someone with just such a passing interest, seeing as how he previously had no idea there was an issue with pockets on women's clothes. Apparently they should've interrupted their pro-feminist cabaret show to fully delve into the divides within the movement and address why Camille Paglia rejects "the notion that there is a patriarchy" or why young women post "Why I'm Not a Feminist" videos on Youtube. And since there is nothing more feminist than men discussing what women should and shouldn't do, I will attempt to address his concerns here.

Why don't they mention what feminism stands for? I mean, that's kinda the whole show, or at least what they stand for. Why don't they acknowledge that "most women" in the US and UK don't identify as feminist? Because it's not true. And why would women post anti-feminist videos on Youtube? Well, first of all because Youtube is awful, but it's tangentially addressed earlier in his own review: women say they aren't feminist for the same reason men say they are--to get laid. And as Caitlin Moran points out, the fact a woman can post a video of her opinion publically without first obtaining permission from her husband or father means she's already living a feminist life.

As far as Camille Paglia, she hasn't been relevant for 30 years, if she ever was. She's the feminist equivalent of a climate change denying scientist, representing the "other side" of a non-existent debate--the side that says despite all the evidence there's actually nothing wrong. Anti-feminists love her because she tells them what they want to hear, and she's a woman (mostly). If Camille Paglia did not exist, it would be necessary to invent her.

Throughout the review, Schembri drops occasional bon mots like "group-think" and "virtue signalling" to hint at where he resides on the feminist/meninist spectrum, but eventually he can't contain himself and decides to straight-up mansplain feminism:

There’s a big difference between sensibly railing against fact-based mistreatment and waging war against mirages of misogyny. The show appears to promote both, which is unwise.

Also, the Fringe Wives showed they had a bit of a numb thumb when taking the pulse of the zeitgeist, with a very good song about sexual harassment receiving an odd introduction that singled out Justin Bieber and Robin Thicke as violators.

Huh? Bieber has had trouble with drink driving, drugs, anger management and egg throwing, but nothing to do with mistreating women. And Robin Thicke’s only crime was the 2013 song Blurred Lines with Pharrell Williams, a fun song that somehow caused controversy among feminists even though it is clearly about women’s sexual power over men. Why pick on these guys?

Surely Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and Brett Ratner — and others — are at the heart of the whole #metoo kerfuffle. Yet they are spared mention. Why?

Yes, what possible reason could the performers have for lampooning musicians in their comedy show rather than bringing up Hollywood's most notorious serial rapist? Hmm, let's give that a think. Maybe it's because talking about rape, even in a positive way, is not fun, especially for survivors. Or maybe it's because half a decade later there's still at least one man who thinks Blurred Lines is "a fun song that somehow caused controversy among feminists even though it is clearly about women’s sexual power over men." Dude. Bro. Buddy. The hook is literally a guy saying "I know you want it." And Biebs, why would they ever bring up him? If only there were some way to find out about these things.

Unfortunately, Schembri does such a poor job of mansplaining feminism that I must now mansplain mansplaining. Why does he bring up Paglia but make no reference to Lyman Abbott's seminal work Why Women Do Not Wish the Suffrage? Why did he wait to bring up his complaints in a review rather than interrupting the show, even though those with a passing interest in the topic know mansplaining is best done in person and in the moment? Whatever the ladies were doing with their little song and dance routine could've waited while a man had his say.

And he certainly needs outlets to have his say, ever since he was not fired from The Age for contacting the employers of his Twitter critics. Fortunately I don't currently have an employer, so if he feels the urge he'll just have to complain directly to me here. I will update this article should such a blessing descend.

His outburst spent, Schembri ends the review the way it began: with back-handed compliments. They did get a partial standing ovation, you see, but that was just the "reverse domino effect", and most of the people were surely just standing "so they can see what’s happening on stage." He gave the show three stars, which probably doesn't sound very good. However, Schembri never gives anything more than three and a half stars, at least not in the last two years' festivals, so Glittery Clittery's seemingly mediocre three stars is actually worth 4.3 when converted to a five-star scale, which rounds up to the four and a half it got in Adelaide.

Whatever one's reservations, however, the review has an undeniable upside: if it empowers just one woman with the courage to strategically deploy her middle finger, Jennifer Lawrence-style, to condescending mansplaining critics, then Schembri would not only have served the cause but would deserve to be absolved of his review's shortcomings.

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