We’re all waiting for a time when this stuff isn’t a big deal, when you don’t have to point at something and say “this is a first! this is amazing!”, when it’s just another great placement on Harold Night or another great team.
I’ve been here 10 years, and I’ve seen alot of firsts. We’re not there yet. I’m confident we will be. So in the meantime, I hope it’s okay to point at a first and say that it’s about damn time.
I’m going to broaden Pat’s post so that it’s not just about improv, it’s about life in general and our need to celebrate firsts even as our ultimate goal is to get to a point when equality isn’t a big deal.
My opinions about affirmative action types of programs have swung back and forth a lot, particularly over the last couple of years. I went to Barnard College, not because it was a women’s school but because it was the school that made the most sense to me (small liberal arts with a big research university attached and located in NYC but still retaining a solid campus). Frequently I didn’t even think about it being a women’s college, especially since so many dudes took classes there. For a while my experience at Barnard made me think that there actually wasn’t a need for single gender education and that we should all be working to get past even recognizing gender since it’s fluid and mostly arbitrary (the last part being something that I still generally agree with).
But after getting out of college I realized how nurtured I had been by this school that focuses on promoting women. It prepared me to deal with men in a different way because for four years I was specifically told that I had value, unrelated to my sex or gender identification. Ironically, that was a lesson that was best taught in a single-sex setting. Being surrounded by strong women prepared me to stand on my own when dealing with strong women, men and everyone in between.
In the comedy world, I’ve been hesitant to endorse some of the single-sex programs that are meant to empower women because I hate setting the precedent of excluding men. I was on an all female improv team for a while but we were all women by chance, not design. It was just a fun group that I wanted to play with. I still haven’t been to a Lady Jam for a couple reasons (some having to do with my mixed feelings about something geared exclusively towards women with the concept of “tokenism” thrown in to talk about men, but primarily just because I have been super busy). Regardless of my opinions, the one thing I can’t deny is the positive influence that some of these female oriented programs have had on my peers. At least half a dozen women in the UCB community have told me how supported and empowered the Lady Jam has made them feel. In essence, they talk about the Lady Jam the same way that I just talked about Barnard. This program that’s geared towards women serves an ultimate purpose of nurturing a traditionally underprivileged group’s skills and setting them up to be badasses no matter who they are playing with.
A while ago, Will Hines was telling me about the positive impact that Doppleganger’s Cagematch run had on the esteem of new improvisers who were racial minorities and/or women. For the non straight, white dude crowd, seeing people on stage that look like yourself helps. It makes it easier to envision yourself on that stage. The same applies for women and minorities in politics. We need more so that more young people will see it as a viable career option. Really, we need examples of all genders and all races doing everything so that we can get to a place where it’s not unusual to see any “type” in any job.
So I wish we were at the point when seeing an all female house improv team wasn’t a big deal but I also wish that we were at the point where we (and by we, I mean me) weren’t actively waiting for a female President. We aren’t there yet, so let’s celebrate all of the small victories until they become mundane.