This dude in our scene who raped two women is hosting an open mic. He raped one of the women after one of my shows 4 years ago, after I procured a ride home for her from him. The next week she asked to meet with me and told me what happened. I was heartbroken that I had been the one to put her in his car. But I was also totally enraged. I wanted to get the bastard.
I talked to my sister, who I was running that show with. My sister got real agitated, real quick. She said it was shitty of me to believe that lady over that dude, who she called “our friend.” She said that lady had always been crazy. She started crying. We argued. I was shaking. I probably yelled.
It was a trip. It was right when I had started transitioning too. After Philly. This guy who had raped this girl, let’s call him Johnny McRaperson, had coincidentally been the only guy in the scene who knew I was transitioning at this point in time. Because he had used the T-slur on a show of mine and I had, with my trusting heart, decided to explain why that was so unacceptable with a heart to heart talk after in which I made myself vulnerable with revealing my own journey.
I used to be quite the trusting heart.
I was really taken aback by my sister’s reaction. I thought, maybe I’m reacting too quickly. I thought, maybe I’m being strategically dumb about this. I thought, maybe this has to do with my own trauma.
About a month and half after that he raped another woman.
I put the two women in contact. They both filed charges. I moved the FUCK out of town, because I was turning into a gay trans dude and falling in love with my friend, who was outspoken about being a dick to women in his own way, and I couldn’t handle what I conceived of as my hometown’s especially rapey comedy scene.
My hometown doesn’t have an especially rapey comedy scene. All comedy scenes are hella rapey. You got a bunch of narcissist young men drinking and doing coke, and a minority of young women with their own self-love issues drinking and doing drugs with them. The SF comedy scene is as rapey. Comedy is a super fucked up industry.
But for a long, long time I was really fucking angry at my sister. I felt so much guilt for Johnny McRaperson raping that next woman. I felt so angry at my sister for talking me out of blowing his shit up initially. We’ve had a bunch of fights since.
Ok, now back to the present. Johnny is hosting an open mic. It’s in a bar. The excuses he offered for being so confused about consent and raping these women were that 1) he was sexually abused as a kid himself (fuck OFF with that UGH that shit makes me so angry, I know so many people who were sexually abused as kids who are not rapists) and 2) he has a problem with alcohol. So why would someone who has such a problem with alcohol put himself in a situation where he’s in a bar for all of his thursday night?
Because Johnny McRaperson is a fucked up bastard.
I sent a group message to all the lady comics I could think of in my city. I said don’t hang out with him while he’s drinking, don’t be in a room alone with him, don’t get in a car with him. He works at one of the comedy clubs in town and I said it’s ok to be smart and try to preserve your opportunities to work at that club. I don’t care about getting work as a comic so it’s not as risky for me to put his shit on blast.
Then I went to hot yoga this morning. I thought about my sister. I thought about some other women I know in comedy. Years ago I criticized another city’s scene I was a part of, for all the sexual harassment and rape jokes, and my criticism was turned into an article (not written by me, that’s the trick, write your own shit, don’t trust reporters) and the dudes in the scene decided to spend a month calling me an ugly dyke who can’t get laid and is a fascist, you know, like Hitler. If Hitler hated rape jokes. You know, it sucks to be really scared of a gang of dudes. I was scared shitless. But what actually hurt was that there were all these women in the scene who either stayed quiet or joined in on making fun of me.
Some of those women are famous for being feminist comedians now.
I was in hot yoga and I was thinking about my sister and these other women. I was thinking about how alone I felt in those moments. The first time I dared go to an open mic after that scene turned on me, and it was scary because literally there had been whole mics of guys insulting me, this woman, who now is famous, cornered me in the hallway and said, “You know, I want to talk to you about that article, because I LOVE being a lady comic. I feel like I get to be special compared to all the dudes.”
I just felt like, wow, there is something wrong with me. Something is wrong with me that rape jokes bother me so much. Something is wrong with me I don’t love being a lady comic. Something is wrong with me that I don’t like the hosts of shows talking about whether they’d have sex with me when they bring me up. Something is wrong with me that I feel scared being around all these drunk dudes so many nights. Something is wrong with me. Something is wrong with me I don’t want to dress to “show off my body” as one of the staff at a comedy club advised me when I got my first, and only, hosting gig. This lady is a lady, and I’m not definitely not anything like her.
I quit comedy, one of like, a dozen times I’ve quit.
I’ve had so much anger in my heart towards that woman. I tried to hide from it while I was transitioning, I tried to chalk up how chill she was in that scene to her being in her correct gender, and me being not really a woman. And then since that story fell apart I’ve just like, had such a hard time forgiving her.
How hard would it have been for the women in that scene to check on me? We’d been friends. Would it have been so hard to say like, hey, maybe Maria’s been through some shit and that’s why she can’t be chill about what we’re chill about. Or even to be like, yeah, we’re not chill about any of that either.
Criticizing that scene in that way was like, anti-strategy. That’s why I became untouchable as far as the other women were concerned. Because I was acting from my emotions, and in comedy you have to constantly be playing a political game. Also, if I didn’t get booked on shows because I now was an ugly dykey Hitler, that meant more slots for these women to step into. The one woman per lineup rule is real.
In a violent, competitive male context, women are of course going to enforce the norms of men getting off the hook. That’s called doing what you need to to survive. You internalize what you need to internalize, you scapegoat who you need to scapegoat, you scare who you need to scare. And you fuck up the women the crowd of men has decided to fuck up. And you reap the rewards of joining in on that.
In yoga the instructor was telling us to breathe out what we needed to let go of, and take in what we needed more of.
Here’s what I know about myself: I am profoundly un-chill about rapists raping people. I do not like to be brought onstage by someone asking the crowd to imagine having sex with me. I think rape jokes are a way to remind women that they are constantly under threat.
I also know, about myself that I already lived through all of that. I already lived through rape. I already lived through being scapegoated. I already lived through internalizing that I was wrong, that I was not a woman. I already lived through doubting myself and feeling tremendous guilt for allowing a rapist to hurt another woman. I’ve already done this. My body knows what all of that is like. My heart knows what all of that is like.
Sometimes other women are more scared than you are. Sometimes, most of the time, other women are willing to join in with the crowd if it will keep them safe.
But they are living under the same fears. The threats to their bodies are the same. We end up with the same bruises on our arms and legs. We end up with the same nervous tics and compulsive patrolling of our bodies.
Sometimes one sister gets beat up a lot harder than another. Sometimes one sister lets that happen.
I think we are all on a path towards being warriors. You either become a warrior or fertilizer. I see how quickly and calmly I can react now, how I know how to spread the word, how I know how to stick to my guns, and I know I’ve grown a lot stronger over the years.
I see how I can come back to my body, how I can sweat for an hour and smile into the sunny sky after, and I know that through these crises I have become so strong.
You gotta forgive sisters who sometimes aren’t their best selves. Because yeah, they were coming from a place of weakness. You gotta be weak before you’re strong. I was weak, and now I’m so much stronger. I do think every year they are getting stronger, getting their shit straightened out, un-fucking the insides of their own heads. I know they’re on a warrior’s path themselves. Luckily I don’t have to figure out their struggles, I only have to tackle my own.
Today I’m a woman who warns other women about rapists. I’m a woman who isn’t afraid to tell the story of what happened to me. I’m a woman who isn’t afraid to say how it fucked up the inside of my head. I’m a woman who can feel her own strength. That’s an amazing person to get to be. What a hard blessing this road is, and how lovely.