‘Why can’t I be an ‘equalist’?’ my partner asked me for the umpteenth time on our way to Andrew Watts’ work in progress Feminism for Chaps. And for the umpteenth time I sighed, reminded him he was a tool of the patriarchy (or just a tool, I can’t remember) and hoped Andrew Watts would solve this battle of the genders once and for all. In retrospect, this may have been a bit of a tall order from an hour-long comedy show.
Watts is an affable chap, happy to make himself the butt of jokes about mediocrity in the sack and challenge stubborn stereotypes about useless males.
Watts is an affable chap, happy to make himself the butt of jokes about mediocrity in the sack and challenge stubborn stereotypes about useless males. Thus the thread of chappy feminism winds along, with Watts decrying the Mad Men culture of the maternity ward, the mummy/daddy wars of the playground, all sewed up with a story about a ‘feminist sex party’.
He also, deservedly, pokes at the great bear of collaboration that is the ‘Fourth Wave’ – a multi-voiced, prickly mass that needs to get its act together before any change might actually be enacted (if people can agree it exists in the first place). One particular story, of doing a show in a strip club, gave insight into the potential power of Watts’ show - the people who are most in need of enlightenment will no doubt be put off by the show’s name. In the packed out Laughing Horse, he was essentially preaching to the converted - someone even took issue Watts’ use of ‘vagina’ because of its derivation - which gives you an indication of the level we were working at.
I didn’t laugh out loud often, but I chuckled. I recognised the pictures he was painting so well that I could see the punch line coming from London. But that’s ok - it was a lovely change of pace; Watts’ comedy isn’t racy, but, like the comedian itself, a bit fluffy with well-intended, well-reasoned polite outrage. He’s just the chap for the Guardian-quoting, bag-for-life toting, kale and quinoa-eating, close-the-pay-gap-campaigning sort. If you named your child Shulamith or Luce, you’ll find a lot to like here.
Smart feminist comedy, whether in the guise of Bridget Christie or Kate Smurthwaite, is attempting to chip away at the braless harpy image that seems to override any sensical work The Fawcett Society or UK Feminista might be undertaking. But a man, fighting the good fight in his, ahem, privileged position of white, posh male, could be just as useful if it’s executed well. Feminism for Chaps is close to achieving this, although a name change might be in order to trick the heathen into coming along and hearing Watts’ opine.
What I was really hoping for was the conversion of my partner. But on the way home he mentioned ‘equalist’ again (which, by the way, isn’t a thing) so I pushed him off his bike, toppling the patriarchy once and for all.