Do We Really Need Women-Only Festivals? 

Portland's Female Comics Share Their Thoughts

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THERE ARE PLENTY of Portland comics in the All Jane No Dick festival this year, and we asked a bunch of 'em why they think all-female comedy spaces are necessary—or if they even are. Mostly, they agreed. Sometimes they didn't. Here's what they said:

"What I love about all-female comedy spaces is that they demonstrate the incredible variety of perspectives and voices that women bring to comedy. With one or two women on a show, a person in the audience could dismiss them as 'just another lady,' but with so many different people performing, it becomes wonderfully clear how there is not just one type of 'woman comedy,' but actually as many different types as there are women."—Whitney Streed

"I can tell you from personal experience that jokes about guys not being able to piss neatly into a toilet don't go over well in mostly dude crowds. Dudes telling jokes about how grody their girlfriends' periods are don't tend to go over well in a room full of feminists. That's life."—Diane Gasperin

"Even though the name of the festival might lead the dudes to feel left out, having an all-female comedy festival isn't about exclusion: It's about highlighting and celebrating. It's like having a seedless watermelon. I don't have anything against seeds, I'm just saving myself the trouble of having to spit them out!"—Kirsten Kuppenbender

"I love watching other comedians, and my favorites tend to be those I can relate to on a personal level. So I get to spend four days watching comics I immediately have something in common with? That rules. Plus nobody on this festival can accidentally get me pregnant, which is nice."—Amy Miller

"All-female comedy space is important to build a female audience, who desperately want to see their experience reflected on stage. Furthermore, to encourage lady/trans comics who are often embroiled in male-dominated comedy scenes. Women are funny, of course we are; but we may give up the game before our voices are ripe because we are constantly surrounded by misogynistic dicks. I don't know why comedy attracts such hostile pricks, but it does. (Wonderful people, too.)"—Bri Pruett

"When I started in 1983, I fought hard to be just a comic. I was always added to the bill like, 'Here's a freak for your enjoyment.' Financially that was to my advantage, so I kept my mouth shut and learned. What happened early on as a 'headlining' woman comic is I was ignored or judged by the media. I was ignored in radio shows or interviews. Unless they wanted to ask that stupid question 'So what's it like being a female comic?' To which I would respond, 'It's like growing a dick and knowing what to do with it.' Funny is funny. Women are strong and we should show our strength in the business, but I'm sorry it's necessary because we should be past this. We (and I include myself) worked very hard to create a very firm presence in stand-up for women. Just as women before me paved the way."—Susan Rice

"It's not just that all-female comedy shows are important; it's also that high-quality, funny all-female comedy shows are important. The All Jane No Dick lineup isn't a gimmicky 'all-girl' show that you watch while your nails dry if you are bored with Sex and the City. This is not a lineup of comics who are 'funny for a girl.' All Jane No Dick is a lineup of some of the best comics in the entire country, and I think that's really empowering and exciting."—Barbara Holm

"The comedy business is very male-dominated. You can attend a 'men's comedy festival' at pretty much any comedy club in America on any given weekend. Men have a different perspective on life than women that is reflected in their humor. Because that's what most audiences see, that's what they expect to see, and that's how they eventually define comedy. The audience is unaccustomed to hearing women's perspectives and doesn't as easily 'get' us. At a women's show, the audience gets in the mode of hearing women's voices, and we have a better opportunity to have an audience that understands what we're doing." And the camaraderie is great. It's nice not to feel like you're going into the men's locker room."—Betsy Kauffman

"The most important reason to use showcases and festivals as a way to promote women in comedy is because we are there at the open mics, and we are there on the locally booked showcases, but we aren't there hosting at Helium and advancing in comedy competitions. I don't think that the common person thinks about those issues when they find out that there's an all-female festival occurring. They probably just think about boobs. But it's important to make sure that the visibility of women, especially strong women with provoking and entertaining brains, is out in the open, so people will start to wonder why it would be necessary for us to have to point out that we exist." —Andie Main

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