ED2013 Columns ED2013 Comedy

Mary Bourke: Opening the Muffragette Hall Of Fame

By | Published on Sunday 18 August 2013

Mary Bourke

There’s a refreshing amount of comedy focused on and championing the feminist cause at the Fringe this year, including Mary Bourke’s great show ‘Muffragette’. Following her one-woman Fringe protest, chained to the railings outside The Stand, here Mary explains why she picked this theme for her show this year, before officially opening the Muffragette Hall Of Fame.

Every year I set myself a challenge, and this year I wanted to write a show about feminism that had no boring preachy bits and lots of jokes. I called the show ‘Muffragette’ because it made me laugh, and it didn’t have the toxic associations that ‘feminist’ has, with its images of Andrea Dworkin and her dungarees of doom.

I told one of the “machete comics” – so called because they’re all edge and no point – what I was planning to write my show about, and he gave me a pitying look, and a condescending “good luck trying to make that funny – what are going to call it ‘Minge And Whinge?’”

He then bounced on stage to shriek and spit with rage about the fact melted cheese can sometimes be very hot, and that bus replacement services can sometimes be very slow. I decided there and then that ‘Muffragette’ would have to be written. That feminism needed to be re-introduced to a generation who felt it was no longer relevant to them.

As part of that mission, I want to launch a Muffragette Hall Of Women. And to get things started, here are two people for consideration – one who is definitely being inducted, and one who is definitely not.

Andrea Dworkin (rejected by the Muffragette Hall Of Fame)
Andrea Dworkin was the Chesney Hawkes of second wave feminism, a one hit wonder who got way more attention then she merited. She managed to create her own caricature of the feminist and got trapped in her own creation. She discovered that by saying more and more outrageous things she got more and more attention, but in doing so she left the mainstream way behind her. She never used the phrase “all men are rapists”, but she did have a sign over her desk that said “dead men don’t rape”.

I spent a weekend reading her collected works thinking I might use it in my show. It was a bleak harrowing experience that read like a howl of pain from a marginalised, victimised woman. It didn’t feel empowering and it certainly didn’t resonate with me. In fact, I found it so traumatising I had to watch a Bette Davis boxset and drink half a bottle of gin to get my equilibrium back. I don’t doubt Ms Dworkin’s sincerity but her cartoonish hatred of men lead to many women feeling feminism wasn’t for them, and that contributed to its exile from mainstream culture.

Joan Jett (inducted into the Muffragette Hall Of Fame)
When I think of strong women Joan Jett will always be front and centre. I went to review Ozzy Osbourne in Dublin in the mid 90s during his career slump. My usual photographer refused to come because the last time he’d been to a Black Sabbath gig he’d contracted a nasty case of scabies whilst in the mosh pit.

Joan Jett was the support act and was introduced to a volley of “fuck offs” and a mass exodus of men to the bar. As she reached the mic someone threw a steaming bottle of piss that narrowly missed her and exploded onto the monitors. Joan laughed and continued chatting to her drummer as she strapped on her guitar.

I’ve never seen a woman who was so completely calm and in control of her environment. She was utterly oblivious to the verbal abuse and made no attempt to ingratiate herself with the audience. She opened with a brief “Hi my name is Joan Jett, are you guys ready to rock?” Her question was met with sullen silence and a couple of sarcastic “yeahs”.

Joan then played the opening bars to ‘I Hate Myself For Loving You’ and you could see gangs of men staring open mouthed as they watched a woman rip the gig a new arse. I had never seen a woman rock before and Joan Jett forced the crowd to love her through her complete and utter confidence in herself and her own abilities.

Before I do a comedy gig I always promise myself that I’ll “give it the full JJ”. Because being a MUFFRAGETTE is about being the best and most authentic version of your own fabulous self.

‘Mary Bourke: Muffragette’ was performed at The Stand Comedy Club III & IV at Edinburgh Festival 2013. 

Photo: Kat Gollock