This makes me uncomfortable

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About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post called ‘Being comfortable is not the same as success‘. It came out of my ponderings on finding my niche after reading Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element and watching Bloc Party be awesome live. I wondered, do we have to be uncomfortable to succeed? Are we wrongly taught to seek comfort over personal growth? For example, we’re taught to prefer a career that will let us live comfortably in a nice house etc. over a career that might be personally rewarding but more difficult. Counter-culture tells us not to “sell out” and to go for the more difficult path. Is it right? Is there a virtue in discomfort?

Now I wonder if there are different kinds of “comfortable”. Like, say, there’s that feeling of being in the ‘flow state’, when you have found the thing you love and doing it connects you to the floor and the ceiling. Then there’s that feeling of curling up on the couch and watching your old favourite TV show – you know all the words, there are no surprises, and you relax into the safe familiarity. Are these different? I feel that one must be more productive than the other, but then I worry that my attachment of value to productivity is a product of my cultural conditioning to always be productive. Gah. It is hell inside my head right now.

I feel like there must be a bunch of philosophers who have already covered this topic; Plato wrote about different types of love, so surely someone must have written about different types of comfort. If there are any philosophy students out there who can point me towards some reading, I’d love to hear about it! Gimme some juice in the comments below.

In the past, I’ve let myself stay in relationships and circumstances that made me deeply uncomfortable because I had become so divorced from my feelings that I couldn’t use them as signposts anymore. Sometimes discomfort is a good sign that you should run far, far away. Otherwise, what are our instincts for? But learning to separate instinct from conditioned discomfort is difficult, at least for me. How can I tell whether I’m uncomfortable because this is a bad scene, or because I am stepping outside a culturally mandated ‘comfort zone’?

Talking about all this makes me uncomfortable, too. Yeesh, life is just uncomfortable. Thank goodness I have M*A*S*H and this deep sofa to help deal with it.

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Blog hop hooray, ho, hey, ho

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Twitter friend and author Chris White has invited me to take part in the #MyWritingProcess blog hop. It’s kind of the blog equivalent of a chain letter, and I get to chat to myself about writing. How it works: you get an invitation from a writer-blogger to answer four questions about your writing process, then pass the torch along by asking other writer-bloggers to answer four questions about themselves. I’m looking forward to peeking into the lives of other writers and hopefully finding out that they, too, make death noises into the keyboard.

I’ve been given the chance to participate by Chris White, whose work spans, among others, two of my favourite genres: magical realism and science fiction. He blogs at chriswhitewrites, and you should definitely check out his tweets because he curates a pretty great Twitter feed. I always learn stuff.

OK. On to my answers to the blog hop questions:

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing my next solo show, the format of which is inspired by the lecture as performance. I’m a big fan of TED Talks and the like; I’ve seen a few comedy and poetry performances that used slides as props to great effect. I’m still in the early stages of the concept, but I’ve found that applying for grants to develop the show has really helped me focus my ideas. Limitations usually help me be more creative, so if I have to create the work by a deadline or fit it to specifications (i.e. touring on a budget, justifying it to funding panels) it is easier to put my head down and write.

2. How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?

Hmm, this is a tough question, mostly because I’m not sure what my genre is. I mostly write for performance, sometimes page poetry, and very infrequently opinion articles. I guess my work differs from that of other writers in my genre(s) because my collection of interests is going to be different to theirs. I admire the scientific process, reason, and logic; I try to employ them when I’m writing a poem. (I use my work to explore social and political issues; it’s my way of trying to figure out the world. It’s important to me that I can justify each choice I make in my poetry.) When I’m trying to put a feeling into words, I pretend I’m a forensic scientist looking for the most accurate words (I wanted to be a scientist or a poet when I grew up, so this is a nice compromise). I’ve definitely stopped performing some poems because new information showed me that their internal logic wasn’t sound. Got to make sure all the ideas add up.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Because I can’t write anything else? Haha. Through a process of elimination, I have found that writing poetry suits: (a) my perfectionist fear of lengthy projects (novels are my Everest); (b) my passion for language and aesthetics; and (c) my love for an audience. I’ve found that performing poetry suspends the audience’s reality for a while and they’ll let me get away with heaps more earnest flights of fancy than if I was telling a joke or a story.

I write opinion when I can, because getting paid for my opinions is pretty much 15-year-old-me’s dream job, and damn, I owe her a lot (she discovered Harry Potter for us).

4. What’s your writing process, and how does it work?

I’ve been writing and dating all my writing/ideas in journals since I was 10. I often write down ideas for conceits, or a few lines, to go back to them later. They usually marinate in my journal for a few months, maybe a couple years. Then I go back to them and smash out the rest. The super-personal stuff takes the longest to marinate. I get out all the self-indulgent, cliched stuff in my journal, then rewrite it with fresh eyes. Edit, edit, edit. When I think I’ve got the shape of the thing, it goes into a Word doc on my computer for more editing.

I started writing for theatre last year, and that process has required more formal organisation. I’ve started using Scrivener. After I’ve thought of a show idea, I spend a few months pumping research and thoughts into a Scriv doc, setting myself inquiry questions. I do a lot of background reading. I think of my solo shows as research projects, and the final work is my thesis … Except, the kind of thesis where I don’t have to show any of my research. And I can be totally subjective. And I can revise it every time I perform. OK so they’re the funnest research projects in the world.

 

That’s it for my blog post! Thanks for sitting through me nerding out about my own writing, haha. Next week, please check out the ruminations of these fine writer-bloggers …

1. Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson

kwpoet.blogspot.com.au

Kate Wilson lives in Bunbury, Western Australia, where she writes and performs poetry that’s designed to entertain and inspire. Kate started writing poetry at the age of 7 while sitting on her garage roof. At the end of her Speech and Drama studies in 2008, Kate entered and won her first poetry slam, and has kept writing and performing ever since. Kate has appeared at dozens of events and festivals in WA, sharing her words and teaching poetry, voice and performance workshops.

 

2. Zenobia Frost

zenobiafrost.wordpress.com

Zenobia FrostZenobia Frost is a Brisbane-based writer and editor whose debut poetry collection, The Voyage, was released in 2009. Her work has been published in The Guardian Australia, Southerly, The Lifted Brow, Overland, Going Down Swinging, Voiceworks and QWeekend Magazine. She is fond of graveyards, incisive verse, theatre and tea.

Betting all the chips on you

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Yowza. Today marks exactly one month before I step onstage at The Blue Room Theatre, for the first time as a ticket-selling solo artist. I’ve finally twigged that my parents and my friends and my friends’ friends and my parents’ friends will be coming to see this show (bless them). Nerves? What nerves? HA HA HA I’M TOTALLY FINE.

Okay, so the caps-lock suggests that I’m a bit nervous. Well, dur. This show is intensely personal and I’ve spent the past year pulling out of myself as much feels and honesty as I could handle, before sifting through the raw materials and moulding it into something an audience could enjoy. It’s been a process of painful personal growth and self-doubt and pushing through roadblocks that seemed insurmountable. It’s been REALLY HARD. And clearly it has also been really important to me, otherwise I wouldn’t have kept pushing.

But there was a moment, shortly before I previewed the show at Metro Arts during its creative development stage, when I became very worried that I was changing – for the worse.

I was sitting in a coffee house, at a meeting with a couple of friends, talking about a  project entirely separate to my show. Before the meeting, I had been staring at pictures of myself for a good hour, sorting out publicity material, and writing copy about how great my show was and why everyone should come and see it. That stuff will mess with your head. After a few hours’ writing about yourself, your creative practice, which is your best side, why you’re this generation’s Bertolt Brecht – holy wow, you won’t know which way is up. (This goes for writing funding applications, too.) I had come to hate my face. I thought if I had to spend another minute figuring out how to work in quotes about my “genius”, I’d puke. But I also felt disproportionately large, like my own image was filling my vision and I couldn’t see around it. I couldn’t remember what it was like not to think about me. I was miserable.

Anyway, so I go into this meeting at the coffee house with this mindset, trying to yank myself back into the present and pull me out of myself. You know, to get back that feeling where you’re “just a pair of eyes” (as Tavi Gevinson would say) and you’re engaging with the people around you. I fail horribly. I’m tetchy, sharp-tongued, restless and easily offended by the lovely people I’m sitting with. Things ain’t right. I’m out of my groove. After the meeting I walk away, settle down, send apology messages, and reflect. What is this knot of terror sitting in my gut? Why am I so out of balance?

I realised that, after years of dancing around the edges of my dreams, I was finally plunging in head-first. After a long time of joining other people’s projects, working on other people’s visions, and reviewing other people’s creations (all of which I can’t wait to do again), I was now working on a project whose success depended entirely on my abilities. If I can self-aggrandise for a moment, I was like James Bond in Casino Royale: I had bet the whole endeavour on me. And that terror – that lizard-like feeling that makes you selfish and jumpy and defensive and small – it was crawling up my throat.

I didn’t feel ready. I’d gotten in too deep. I was going to fail.

But, as my spirit animal Amy Poehler says, “Great people do things before they’re ready”. You can only find out that you’re ready by trying. I mean, I guess that’s true – I’m about to find out! The ego thing is pretty hard to get around, and I’m not going to further self-aggrandise by pretending that I’m the only one struggling with this. That lizardy ego can crawl into the mouths of any person in any field, and my greatest dream is to live free of it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t chase my other dreams as well. For a long time, I think I unconsciously skirted around my ambitions because I was afraid of what a little success would do to my head. What if my dreams came true? What if I became insufferable? (The latter is a real danger in the arts.)

But making myself small and holding myself down and only allowing myself a fraction of the joy I wish for in life – all of that is an ego-trip in itself. It’s the ego that says “Look how much I sacrificed”, “I am strong for holding myself down”, “It takes incredible willpower to walk away from your dreams”. I predict that eventually these thoughts alone would not be enough solace for the adventures you denied yourself, so you would start trying to impress upon other people how difficult your struggle has been. Then you become that person in the bar, slurring “I coulda done it, y’know, I coulda bin a STAR”.

So, in one month I’ll step onstage and try something. I’m nervous, of course, but I’m also thrilled to be trying something I’ve been dying to try my whole life.

And if I keep working hard at it, and trying and pushing at these dreams, maybe one day I’ll be able to pay someone to do my publicity material for me. YES.

My first stage show is officially funded!

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My Pozible crowdfunding campaign has reached its target WELL before the deadline! Watch me inelegantly try to say thank you using props and old footage of a cat.

Massive thanks to all my supporters!! You make my heart feel hurty in a good way. The campaign still has 10 days to go before it closes, so I will be doing an official tribute video and social media blitz when it closes, to show my gratitude.

Pledging is still open! http://pozible.com/kaitlynsfirstshow

Crunch time

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Hola mi blogosphere amigos!

This is a post to say that I won’t be writing a post this week. (I know that sounds counter-intuitive, like taking a guy out for dinner to tell him you don’t want to go out with him.) My head is all over the place this week, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve started watching The Voice. You know you’re in deep procrastination when you’re hanging on Joel Madden’s every word.  

So, I’m going to put my head down and try to meet all these deadlines. I hope to be back next weekend, human again, and with a spankin’ new blog post.

In the meantime, here is a guinea lion.

Guinea Lion

Best Australian Blogs 2013

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Before I get to my news, I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who follows my blog, and an especially hearty welcome to my new followers. Welcome! Please take your shoes off, get comfortable. Cup of tea? But really, thank you to everyone who has been following this blog over the last two years, or even the last two minutes. And I really appreciate all the like-love, and the shares on Facebook, and the comments on posts. It’s nice to know I’m not just shouting into a void. Big love to you all!

Now, news!

I’ve entered this ol’ blog in the Best Australian Blogs 2013 competition, just for kicks. The comp is being put on by the Australian Writers Centre, which is kind of cool. They’re recognising that blogging is writing! Well, we’ve known that for ages. But still, it’s nice.

If you have liked reading my poetry and ramblings and stories about crazy stuff that happens to me on public transport, you can vote for me in the People’s Choice category! It’s easy, just click on the link below and tick the box next to “Kaitlyn Plyley”. (I’m near the bottom of the second page.)

www.surveymonkey.com/s/BAB2013

You can vote for as many blogs as you like, so if there are a few other Australian blogs you think are pretty awesome, you can tick them as well. (I’ve already voted for a couple of my faves.)

The prize for the People’s Choice category winner is a bunch of writing courses, so if you’ve just come across my blog and think my writing needs some work, vote for me anyway! Help me improve! Just vote!

Cheers, guys. See you around the blogosphere (somewhere, my housemate is snickering).

Motormouth goes to a Dinner Party.

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Last night I went to a dinner party where I knew hardly anybody, and had only made the acquaintance of a few. Although most of the people in the room where strangers when we walked in, it was one of those magical nights where everybody just clicks. People were constantly moving chairs, hopping around the table, keen to lock minds with everyone else in the room. The end of the night, to me, perfectly summed up what kind of dinner it had been: it took us a good thirty minutes to actually leave the restaurant, because everyone was lingering in the doorway, edging down the stairs, talking in the street. Nobody wanted to part company.

Since last night, I’ve been thinking: What made conversation with those people so engaging? It wasn’t that we all shared exactly the same interests, because I was talking with people from all kinds of occupations and backgrounds. We had introverts, extroverts, nerds, artists and number-jockeys. Young professionals, and young unprofessionals (that would be me). So what makes conversation with certain people so damn delicious?

Is it a keen appreciation for intelligence? Is it purposefully playing with awkward sentence structures? (“I want all of the things!”) Is it asking each other “What do you do?” and getting a real answer? Maybe it’s finding out someone has read the same books as you, or that they’ve read books you’ve never heard of. Maybe it’s four-hour debates about whether soft determinism is a real thing.

I think it’s talking to people who are also seeking. Those with curious minds.

“Walk with those seeking truth … Run from those who think they’ve found it. ” – Deepak Chopra

My favourite kind of conversation is the free exchange of ideas. This is the kind of conversation you get with someone who is seeking truth, who is bright and curious and looking around. If I can brashly dichotomize for a second, I think most conversations fall into one of two categories: the exchange of ideas, or the exchange of information. The latter is necessary to human survival, and the most basic use of language; the former involves higher-order thinking.

I find that conversations with people who think they’ve already found the truth involve only the exchange of information. This can be edifying, sure, but such conversations hit a wall pretty quickly. They fall into a kind of “you say something, then I say something” pattern, in which neither person is really listening. They’re like actors who only learn their own lines and their own cues, and don’t engage with any of the other actors’ performances. They’re just waiting to speak.

We all do that sometimes. I know I definitely do – someone will mention Holland or Michael Palin or something, and I’ll think “Ooh ooh! I have an anecdote about that! Quickly, quickly, mustn’t miss the opportunity to tell it!” Something I’ve gotten better at over the years has been to talk less (new friends – yes, I used to be WORSE). I have a motormouth and will freely run it if left unchecked. Now, when I catch myself doing my ol’ primary-school-student, arm-waving-in-the-air, “PICK ME, PICK ME” routine in my head, I ask myself why I want to tell this story. Will it benefit the people listening? Is it something I need to tell for my own personal growth? If the answers are no and no, then I bite down on my lip and sit on my hands. Because if I’m just telling an anecdote that I’ve told before and is as rote to me as the alphabet, then I’m not seeking truth. I’m just making noise.

I want to exchange ideas. I want process, not just destination. I want to really learn about other people, and to riff on ideas with them. Small talk is fine; I’m all for small talk. It’s the sprig of parsley on a fancy entree. But big talk is the main meal. It’s the best.

I think that’s the key to last night’s deeply satisfying dinner conversation. Big Talk. Talk with a capital T. Let’s have more of that, please. I may have compared it to a main meal, but with Big Talk I never get full. Bring on the next course.

Dudes on whom I have a major brain-crush

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A lot of my posts lately have been kinda heavy, so I thought I’d lighten it up a little and tell you about some of the positive things on my mind. Like sunshine, and puppies, and organic peaches … But mostly dudes! Lots and lots of dudes!

Not just any dudes. Dudes with sexy brains. I have made a list of dudes on whom I have major brain-crushes. Now, before you read it, know that a brain-crush is not remotely sexual. So knock it off right now. It’s not that I have the hots for any of these guys (necessarily … Todd Sampson). It’s just that their brains are so interesting. I would like to take their brains out to dinner and ask them about their childhoods. I would walk their brains home and call them the next day.

You may notice that Margaret Atwood has made my dude list. “But she be not a man!” you may cry. Forsooth, it be my list and my rules. “Dude” is a pretty all-inclusive term in my books.

1. Sir Ken Robinson

Ah, Sir Ken. The wise-cracking, education-reforming, deadpan actual-knight of my dreams. I discovered his work properly last year and went on a Sir Ken binge, reading his books and watching his TED and RSA talks practically in one go.

 

2. Kevin McCloud

Another grouchy old Englishman, yes. But another one bouncing around with passion for his work. Irresistible! Grand Designs always delighted me, but his sustainable housing project catapulted him into brain-crush territory. Basically, he wants to make houses that make people happy. What’s not to love?

 

3. Todd Sampson

CEO of Leo Burnett, climber of Mount Everest, wearer of very tight T-shirts. My favourite co-founder of Earth Hour, and salt-and-peppered panellist on The Gruen Transfer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr Sampson a couple of years ago for a student magazine, and I somehow got through the whole thing without swooning. Evidently I’m not the only one he affects this way, as a play is showing in Sydney next month simply entitled I Love Todd Sampson. I love whoever created that show.

 

4. Margaret Atwood

Acclaimed author, literary heavyweight, and one-time retweeter of one of my tweets. (Greatest. Moment. Of my life.) My friend Carina Tan-Van Baren has written a gorgeous account of Margaret’s recent appearance at the Perth Writers Festival. Other than that, all I can say is this: if you like speculative fiction, read Oryx and Crake. Go. Read it now.

 

5. Ben Hammersley

I discovered this gentleman’s work recently when I was listening to his keynote on the RSA Events podcast: ‘Tomorrow’s Work: Why Yesterday’s Expectations Are Ruining Today’s Future’. He raised some very interesting points about technology and how we use it at work. Since corresponding with him about his ideas, I’ve changed some of my email habits and become a much happier worker! I look forward to reading more of his stuff.

We can be heroes

Transports of Delight

Transports of Delight

I remember thinking, I don’t want to sit near them. They stink of cigarettes and stale clothing. I move further up the bus, perching on a seat high up the back. I can see the only other passengers riding with me today: those two down the front (the smokers) and an elderly woman sitting in front of me. I settle in for the bus ride, gazing out the window, no more thought for my fellow commuters.

A lazy fifteen minutes later, my attention is jerked back into the present when someone in the bus starts yelling. At first, I can’t tell who it is; I can only see the backs of heads. Then one of the stinky people – a man in a dirty grey shirt – shifts as he yells, belligerent, moving his chin up and down. I’m not sure who the target of his abuse is … Until I notice the soft whines coming in response to the man’s abuse. They’re coming from the person sitting next to him. I almost didn’t notice her – I think because she wants it that way. She is a big girl but she is hunched right down in her seat, head down, bowed before the the filthy stream of language the man is spewing at her. I catch some of what he’s saying to her:

“You’re a dumb bitch. You’re a dumb bitch. You’re a dumb bitch. It’s women like you – no, it’s women like you – who fark it up for everyone … MAKE THE CALL. MAKE THE CALL … So he raped you, so make the call. You’re so farking stupid. What about my daughter, eh? What about that? You don’t think. Dumb bitch.”

The girl rises in her seat and scuttles away from him, into a seat across the aisle. He meets this show of defiance with sarcastic laughter. “Oh, oh! And where are you going?” She makes another whining sound, which he brays over.

My fingernails are digging into my palms. I feel the flush rising up the back of my neck. This is one of those moments that will pass, and later I’ll think, “I should have done something”. I rise up, out of my seat. Take a couple steps towards the front of the bus. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I get there, but my temper is up and that is such a rarity that I’m curious. What could I do? Could I step in? Maybe we can be heroes … (Okay, I need to stop repeat-listening to Bowie.)

What actually happens when I reach the back of Dirty Grey Shirt’s seat, is that the bus pulls into its final stop. The doors open next to me, and I automatically turn to exit. I don’t know, if we had pulled into the stop a few minutes later, would I have found my voice? Would I have done something heroic? I strode down the busway, thinking, Coward.

Dirty Grey Shirt exits the bus behind me, still bawling out his girlfriend. I walk faster, teeth clenched, and head for the lift. I don’t want to listen to another second of it. But as the lift arrives, I get in and turn around. And there they are: Dirty Grey Shirt and his battered looking girl, shuffling into the lift behind me. I hesitate, aware that I am now trapping myself in a small metal box with them. But something says, this must be faced.

It’s just the three of us in the lift: the girl is cowering in a corner, and Dirty Grey Shirt is eyeing me (well, slightly south of my face). He moves his bulk (beer gut and all) into my space, intimidating. I hold up the flat of my hand and say, “You need to back up right now.” He dances back a little, bulk wobbling, still murmuring in what he evidently believes to be a charming tone.

“You’re not a movie star, are you,” he says to me.

“No,” I grind out.

“Yeah. You don’t look like one.”

I bite back any response. Won’t do to provoke him when we’re in such close quarters. Grey Shirt keeps trying to pull me into a conversation, but I look over at the girl. She meets my eyes from under that mess of black hair and shapeless beanie, and for a moment we just stare at each other. I can’t remember ever seeing such naked despair, so close to me. Not just the misery, but the hopelessness. I have an impulse to put an arm around her shoulder and lead her gently away. But something tells me she wouldn’t accept it.

As the lift doors open, Dirty Grey Shirt grunts a reprimand at me, “Well fark, thanks for being so farking friendly.” And I let my temper snap.

I turn on him. “I don’t appreciate hearing you–” finger jab “calling her horrible names on the bus and speaking to her that way.” Jab, jab. “Treat her a bit better!” I shout that last bit at his back as he shambles away, unperturbed. Other people on the concourse look embarrassed. (My protest looks pretty lame when written down in text, and let’s face it, was probably pretty lame when I said it.) The girl has skittered away in front of Dirty Grey Shirt, clearly wishing to avoid a scene. As if there would be a scene. Even my rage-fueled diatribe was polite and carefully worded. I can’t believe that, in moments of righteous anger, I still lapse into the same patterns of speech I used when working in childcare. Starting with how I feel, using specific examples of inappropriate behaviour, and delivering a positive directive for improvement. Sheesh.

I can tell you, in my head I was using all sorts of foul language on him. In my head, I was giving him the serve of a lifetime. But it occured to me that he’s used to that; swear words have lost currency with him. I’d hoped that a relatively polite dressing-down might get through to him. But it obviously didn’t. The despair that I saw in that girl’s eyes – I don’t know how to touch that. If any of what Grey Shirt was ranting about was true, then she’s going through hell. I wanted to be a hero, but I didn’t know how to save her.

I hope she’s okay.

Women. Am I right?

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“This is a real phenomenon: When women feel like outsiders, they lose interest.”

I read the above quote in an article today, and it struck me dead. In the article, a science student writes about gender bias in the scientific professions, and even though I don’t know my boron from my bunsen burner, I found myself strongly relating to it.

See, the thing is, on Wednesday night I had my first go at stand-up comedy. I entered myself in RAW Comedy, where beginner comedians can compete for a spot in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I had never set foot onstage at a stand-up gig before, and I don’t mind telling you I was petrified. I had a lively group of friends around me, chattering and laughing and telling me I was going to be fabulous, but every now and then I would just go blank with hot white terror.

Part of my terror came, I think, from the fact that I was one of only four women competing on the night. The other 11 were, as you might imagine, men. That in itself wouldn’t have been that intimidating. After all, I’ve been performing at poetry slams and readings for years now, which are still heavily male-dominated. That wasn’t the issue. It was what the men were saying. Joke after joke about violence against women. Seriously. One guy’s punch line was actually – and I quote – “Wouldn’t it be great to know you fucked a woman to death?” Then he talked about going to her funeral and gloating, saying, “Let that be a lesson to all you other ladies”.

Yes. Let that be a lesson to us. In case we ever forget, we aren’t safe here. Comedy is not a safe space – for anyone, I suppose, but especially for women. One male comedian spent his five minutes extolling his disgust at Julia Gillard, saying she had a penis and she couldn’t arouse the most desperate of men and so on and so on. Textbook misogyny: “a-woman-can’t-be-in-power-without-losing-her-femaleness” with a dash of “if-she-can’t-get-me-off-what’s-the-point-of-her”. Not a word, of course, about her actions as Prime Minister. Another man raged against his ex-wife, calling her a “crazy bitch” at least six times before I tuned out. One young, harmless looking guy, who looked like someone your brother might play Call of Duty with, thanked all the women in the audience for setting their Facebook profiles to ‘public’ so that he could masturbate to them.

I am truly baffled when I see male comedians make demeaning jokes about women, and then chuckle: “Ha ha, all the women in the room hate me right now”. All the women in the room – that’s fifty per cent of your audience, buddy! Too many amateur comedians seem to forget that alienating women means alienating half your potential ticket-paying customers. That comedy isn’t just for the benefit of other men.

By the time it was my turn to perform next, I was feeling sick to the stomach. I waited by the sinks in the ladies’ room, staring up at the posters of upcoming comedy tours. Rows and rows of male faces grinned down at me. I smoothed down my hair, eyeing my outfit. Before I left the house that night, I had pulled a ribbon out of my hair, not wanting the audience to be distracted by my gender. Already, I was “gender priming”, having been told for years that female comedians “just aren’t as funny”.

“Even in areas where actual performance is equal, when a certain group is reminded that they are supposed to be bad at something, their performance weakens.” (S. Wofford, Feminspire)

But I did it. I told some jokes. At the end of my set, I sat down with my friends, shaking like a flippin’ leaf. I had survived. I had even gotten some laughs. I put my head down on the sticky table and tried not to gasp for air. I know public speaking is meant to be scary, but it had never really scared me up until this point. Comedy is such a different beast. You can lose the crowd so quickly. And then you’re dead.

Later that night, after seeing off my friends and dragging myself home, I felt empty. Like all the humour had been sucked out of me. My five minutes up there hadn’t been too bad, I thought, but the other comedians’ various attacks on women had shaken me. I comforted myself that the crowd had liked those jokes as little as I did, with most people shifting uncomfortably in their seats or sitting in stony silence. At least the misogyny wasn’t being openly encouraged. But I wondered. After years of going to comedy nights, I can say that jokes at the expense of women are incredibly common. They’re often aggressive and sometimes violent. Why do these comedians still think these jokes would be an awesome idea?

I found myself thinking, are these the people I want to work alongside? Is this an industry I want to join? If I’m going to have to spend years feeling like a second-class citizen, why would I bother? And then today, I found clarity, staring at me out of that science student’s article. I felt like an outsider, therefore I was losing interest. I was already thinking of opting out of my lifelong dream (my mother says that as an eight-year-old I solemnly informed her, “I want to be a stand-up comedian”) because of some dickheads with microphones. Seems to me that comedy is so male-dominated not because women aren’t as interested in comedy. Rather, I think a lot of women listen to the sexist jokes and see the other female comedians putting themselves down to get laughs, and think, “Fuck this noise”.

Well, I won’t be so easily discouraged. If I cancelled my dreams every time some idiot made me feel inferior for being a girl, I’d never have gone anywhere or done anything. I’m gonna have crack at this comedy thing. And whether I keep working at it or decide it’s not for me, I hope my decision will be based on factors other than my gender.