During the Edinburgh Festival I was invited to participate in Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show; The News at Kate 2013: World Inaction at Canons Gait. I was very excited, but a bit nervous; I’d never shared a stage with a comedian before.
I prepared a little talk about secularism and the extent of religious interference in education. As expected, the audience didn’t find it particularly funny, but none-the-less I enjoyed the experience. A second invitation allowed me to work on some more witty material, satirising my own transition from devout Catholic schoolboy to secular campaigner.
Kate Smurthwaite is well known for her views on religion, and probably falls into more of the atheist camp than the secular one. This is a well known clip of her on ‘The Big Questions’.
Kate was joined by fellow comedian and journalist Sarah Bennetto. I think I was as surprised as Kate when Sarah said that she felt religious people were often mocked and ridiculed in society. This may indeed be the case, but my aim in the show (and my campaigning as a whole) is to show that it is certainly overpowered by the serious and organised ranks of religionists interfering in everything from education policy to dominating ethical and moral discussions.
Its certainly not a stretch to describe Kate as a feminist. I must confess to being slightly anxious about sharing a stage with two strong feminist comedians. I don’t want to come across as self-flagellatory however.
As I later explained to Kate, my awareness of feminist issues sprang fairly late. I had up until then expected that most people, like me, would simply not discriminate on sex grounds, but treat someone based on my experience of them. Indeed, I had often been heard repeating the cliché that ‘feminism’ is a bad thing, because it maintains the idea of a liner difference between the sexes. I would say, why is their Women’s Hour, but no ‘Mans Hour’.
Through listening to Kate however, I came to understand, that feminism represents much more than being pro-women. It is about standing up to a cultural acceptance of ‘rape jokes’ and seeking to balance the scales after millennia of entrenched prejudice.
Can I be a feminist then? Is that even possible, or allowed? Do I have to write to Germaine Greer?