For SHAME, Green Party

49

February 20, 2012 by Lindsay Sharman

The facts, and then I shall express my ire –

A chap from The Green Party contacted me last week to offer me a 10 minute slot on a bill headlined by Alistair McGowan, for a Green Party fundraising event. I accepted, and we started exchanging e-mails to finalise details.

This morning, I received this –

Hi Lindsay,

I’m really sorry but I am going to have to withdraw our offer.

It’s nothing personal, I was asked if I could increase the diversity of
comics on the night

So we’ve got a 63 old transexual comic instead of a second female artist.

Sorry you have been usurped in this case for a transexual

Best Regards,

Chris

That’s the e-mail in it’s entirety. Let me take a moment to splutter with renewed outrage.

Now let’s try and enter into the thought-process of Chris, upon being asked to increase diversity. My thoughts are in bold (which a lady should never be, eh Chris??? Eh? EH?) –

Chris’ thought-process

  1. There’s a fixed number of comics on the bill, and we’re at maximum capacity. Obviously we are very lucky with our headliner, so we’re not going to change him. (Ok, that’s fine, I can accept that.)
  2. At the moment, the women on the bill represent ‘diversity.’ (Insert argument about the fact that 2 women on the bill is still considered worthy of note, some kind of sacrifice by the promoter on the altar of equality.)
  3. But there’s 2 of them! If this was Top Trumps, they cancel each other out. I’m wasting a diversity card!
  4. I’ll give this diversity card to someone else. Someone who embodies our liberal aesthetic. Let’s do a pick ‘n’ mix of things that society considers ‘other.’ (Because employing someone on that basis is in no way insulting.)
  5. I’ll have to e-mail one of the females now (toss a coin? Last one in? The least fanciable? Chris, I’m surprised you didn’t spell out exactly why I’m the one that got the boot! Although you did say it “wasn’t personal”. Ah shucks, that’s good to know. So it really was purely gender-based. Phew!). She’ll understand! Because if she were in my position, she’d do the same thing! Because this is an accepted, if generally unspoken, way to compartmentalise and dehumanise people! Also, this is in no way unprofessional!

You know why I love comedy? Because it’s a MERITOCRACY. I still believe this. If you’re funny and determined, you’ll be able to carve out a career, regardless of what genitals you’re packing. Ditto for race, disability, pointiness of elbow blahblahblaaaah.

I am so bored of the gender-politics-in-comedy argument. But then this happens. This ludicrous incident won’t stop the juggernaught that is my career, but it is disappointing. Is it redolent of a wider attitude to female comics, does it show how tissue-thin any attempt at equality is, is this just the idiocy of one person (maybe a little more than one, I don’t know how many people were instrumental in this decision)?

I wish this ‘incident’ reflected my political leanings and it was the Tories who’d been absolute tools in such a blundering, hypocritical fashion. I don’t want to poop all over the Green Party. But if THEY’RE being so ham-fisted when it comes to this sort of issue, then hopefully this should incite some interesting debate.

Or maybe it is personal and he was trying to be nice. He probably thinks I smell and will attract bears to the fundraiser.

 

 

 

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49 thoughts on “For SHAME, Green Party

  1. Lily Rae says:

    Hi Lindsay,

    I write for the University of Sussex newspaper and would really like to draw a lot of well-needed attention to this. Would it be possible to get an interview with you?

    Thanks,

    Lily Rae.

  2. shocking – was it a paid gig? he should at least be liable in law for that. To me it sounds like his shoddy thought processes may end up getting him the sack

  3. chrissiemcclusky@yahoo.co.uk says:

    Miss you hun x

  4. Dear Lindsay,

    I saw this and wanted to get in touch to apologise on behalf of the Green Party. I am not quite sure what has gone on or why but I am trying to get to the bottom of it and, in the meantime, am very sorry that you were sent such an insensitive and unprofessional email.

    Best wishes,
    Caroline

    Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party Leader

    • douggie62 says:

      I was just telling my Missus how amazing you were on Question Time the other day Ms Lucas, and then I see something like this and it just makes me think you’re just the same bunch of tossers as the Tories and everyone else.

    • This is a great chance to make a point about the box ticking attitude that seems to have wormed its way into becoming ‘accepted professional conduct’ while – as in this case – trampling all over individuals by turning them into some new kind of construction of someone else’s predjudices based on little more than vague perception.

      The real problem here is not the person who sent “such an insensitive and unprofessional email” – in fact perhaps they’re to be praised for at least being frank about the situation. The problem is with the person who demanded that Chris “increase the diversity”.

      I’m a member of the Green Party and would love to see it take a lead in this and raising the maturity of how we relate to each other in this world, rather than making ‘Clare in the Community’ into a documentary.

    • Matthew Cain says:

      Fair play to Caroline for coming on here. But she’s missed the point, surely. It wasn’t the email that was “insensitive” but the decision!

  5. Donna Scott says:

    I hope Caroline sorts this out sooner rather than later – and that they do something to make it up to you, Lindsay. I am fuming for you.

  6. The Masked Comedian says:

    Haha this is great! Not that you got pulled, morons, but the fall out and the blog. Keep up the good work. NOBODAY KNOWS WHO I AMMM!

  7. Dan the PR Man says:

    Diversity top trumps? I think you could be onto something. Apply to Dragon’s Den immediately! But what would the top trump be? I guess white middle class male would be lowest scoring and you’d rate the rest by how likely the Daily Mail would be to disapprove of them?

  8. Karen O. Novak says:

    I’m assuming that the unnamed ’63-year old transexual’ is award-winning comic Shelley Bridgman (aka Shelley Cooper), in which case Chris Genius has achieved ‘diversity’ by replacing a white female comic with… a white female comic.

  9. Ivan Wells says:

    Well, what a shit. I hate this sort of diversity / political correctness view. Surely the key was to put on a good entertaining show to help fund raise?
    I’m not a supporter of political parties (how my parents voted doesn’t influence me, I’m my own person) but have voted Green at the last several elections, (local, general, and London). However, this is the sort of thing that puts me off voting for them. Are they going to take this attitude into government? Obviously they will and therefore a single, white 40+ British male like me is never going to be diverse enough for them.
    Shame.

  10. yes Greenpeace have not only insulted Lindsay by dumping her, but also Shelley by sticking her in a box rather than booking her for being a really good comic, which she is, literally insulting two birds with one phone , or maybe two phone calls.

  11. and I even managed to screw that up because of course its not Greenpeace but the Green Party. woops.

  12. Jim Jepps says:

    Oh – my – Lord.

    I’m so sorry to hear about this madness.

    I’m a London Green Party member and know who Chris is. I’ve followed this up with a few emails and will try to ensure something comes of this – just not on – massive apologies.

  13. Rachel says:

    1) Transsexual is spelled “transsexual”, “transexual” is a porn term. Guess he should stop watching all that “exotic” porn!
    2) Transsexual people are, erm, people, and have a gender. There are transsexual men and women, I guess he means a trans woman?
    3) He seems to have a similar mentality to the Daily Mail “63 year old transexual, OMG!” To him, this is the punchline, I guess, and diversity is about putting on a freakshow, and trans people are freaks.
    4) Not only is he a shit, he’s treated you like shit, too.

    So, in summary, fuck you Green Party, you’ve lost my vote for good.

    It’s funny, in real life I know thousands of lovely people who seem to understand things like “don’t be a shit to someone because of how they are”, yet in politics everyone is a power-hungry, inhuman wanker. Where do they find these people? Eton?

  14. Cathryn Symons says:

    Hi Lindsay,

    I’m another embarrassed London Green Party member. I don’t know this Chris, but am not happy to be associated with this. Many, many apologies.

    Cathryn

  15. Elliot Folan says:

    Hi Lindsay

    I just thought I’d say, as a Green Party member, that I’m absolutely shocked by this and like Jim I’m very sorry. You didn’t deserve such rude and insensitive treatment, and you’re absolutely right. Comedy is a meritocracy.

    I’ll also be following this up within the party. Once again, huge apologies.

  16. Leo Kearse says:

    I’m really surprised about this because I thought the Green Party were full of rational intelligent people who had some really well thought out, good, practical ideas about how to run the country.

  17. Abigail Brady says:

    And if it is a trans woman as suggested above, then it manages to be transphobic as well, because of course then the wording “instead of a second female artist” ignores the fact that the replacement IS a second female artist.

  18. Mark Cridge says:

    Hello Lindsay

    I’m a member of the London Green Party media team and this email has been brought to my attention this evening. First of all I’d like to apologise.

    You were very generous in initially agreeing to help out with the benefit gig and whilst there may have been perfectly understandable reasons for switching around the billing, the communication you received was crass, inappropriate and un-called for.

    Needless to say this individuals handling of the arrangements and his contact with you fell below any acceptable standard that we would expect from the Green Party and it certainly falls short of just basic politeness. It certainly does not reflect the views of myself or the Green Party.

    I’ll be speaking to the individual concerned tomorrow afternoon and I’ll be in touch with you directly on how we resolve this.

    sorry again

    Mark Cridge
    Media Officer, London Green Party

    • Andy says:

      Looks like Chris is getting the sack, which is a shame as he was presumably just doing (if in a slightly crass, jokey and stupid way) what his boss had told him to do. I think you need to have a word with whoever thought that the bill needed to be more diverse.

      • Jim Jepps says:

        Just to be clear Andy, Chris is not employed by the Green Party so he won’t be losing paid employment from us whatever happens. I’m pretty certain he has no official role on the London election team either actually, God help us if he does.

        I don’t think he should have any part of the team because this is not the first instance of crass behaviour on his part and his approach is not compatible with the approach the Party takes more generally.

        I’m personally very doubtful that he was asked to book and then unbook Lindsay, even though this is what he’s put in the email. I suspect he overstepped his remit, was then told he was not to go around booking acts off his own back as someone else had been tasked with booking the extra acts needed… and then wrote this email trying to find a “reason” to unbook her, blaming someone else rather than himself.

        It should be investigated, because if he was instructed to do this it’s incompetent and insensitive behaviour on the part of the team not just him. Either way a member of the Green Party has just grossly insulted a good person for no good reason – while also displaying a worrying attitude towards trans issues.

  19. Mark – please see my comment above.
    I very much hope that the writer of this email doesn’t become some sort of scapegoat in this case. That would bring the Green Party down to the level of the childish (main) political parties. I’ve been really proud of the GP when I’ve seen it act in a more mature, less knee-jerk way in the past. I really hope I can say the same here. The fact that you and Caroline Lucas seem to be (I assume you’re both who you say you are) reacting quickly, directly and publicly is a great start. Pleas don’t blow it by, in effect, shooting the messenger.

  20. Bethany Black says:

    Whilst I think it’s shocking that you’ve been replaced in that way, I also think your othering of Shelly in this blog post is a bit out of order, you’ve essentially reinforced the idea that led to you being replaced in the first place., that somehow you’re the “real” woman here and that trans women are getting gigs that you ought to have and that this is somehow damaging women in comedy.

    If youever want a chat with me about this stuff, I’m always available.

    • Lindsay says:

      Hi Bethany,
      ‘Otherness’ basically just means that which society seeks to subordinate (according to wikipedia! But also I studied it in relation to performance once upon a time), so that includes me.
      I do not object to being replaced by an award-winning comic. But they didn’t say that, otherwise I wouldn’t have written this blog entry. What I object to is the fact that I was bumped so crassly, and that they are clearly using a ‘token’ system (which is expressed pretty clearly and with surprising honesty in the email from Chris.) As in, the “2 female artists” indicates that they had allocated (probably without much thought) a set number of comics on the bill to embody diversity. When it came to increasing that diversity, they looked to that small pool of token acts instead of the group as a whole. I was a token female comic. Shelly’s past and age (again, I say this with direct reference to the email, I certainly didn’t arrive at this myself, it’s why I included the complete wording of the email in the first place) made her a token of higher value to them. This is not how I view the world, this is how they view it! I thought that was clear, I’m sorry if it wasn’t.
      One last thing. I believe Chris thought he should be flippant and risqué because he was communicating with a comic. He got it very wrong. It was disrespectful to all 3 female comics, but while it should be looked at and learnt from, I don’t think we should start frothing at the mouth about this. I hope Chris isn’t punished disproportionately.
      I’m going to try and sleep now. I screwed up a gig tonight and I suspect this contributed! Although I don’t regret getting this out there.

      • Lindsay says:

        I feel like I haven’t been clear again. What I tried to say here is that what I was annoyed at is that all the women were reduced to tokens. They didn’t say Shelley’s name or accolades, or refer to the group of comics as a whole with regards to who was to be booted out. We’ve all been boiled down to our physicality, instead of talent and, err, common decency when it comes to withdrawing a job offer.
        I hope I’ve articulated this clearly, it’s become such a foggy issue.

  21. Paul Nelson says:

    I wouldn’t bother wasting your time with Bethany ‘the ego’ Black.

    HOWEVER, whilst I have sympathy for your loss of a gig I think it is Chris’ transphobia which is the real issue here. Let’s look again at the last couple of lines of his email:

    >>”So we’ve got a 63 old transexual comic instead of a second female artist.”

    Instead of? Shelley Bridgman *IS* a second female artist!!

    >>”Sorry you have been usurped in this case for a transexual”

    What is that suppose to mean? I can only read that as being even more blatant transphobia. Why is that even an issue. Would he have commented on the ethnicity or sexuality of an artist in this way? “Oh sorry, but you’ve been ursuped by a Pakistani/homosexual of all people.”

    Perhaps the Green Party should run a workshop on Gender identity and Gender Politics before sending him on an ‘how to write emails’ course.

    Px

  22. I think I’ve probably arrived to late to this for anyone to care, but I did want to point out that all political parties have a few idiots as members/activists (in some ways it’s nice to see that the Greens aren’t an exception). It’s not a reason to refuse to vote for that party’s candidates in elections if you agree with their policies; that would be like refusing to do a gig for an audience that had one or two idiot hecklers in it.

    Although it is a reason not to deal with the idiots.

  23. Liz Church says:

    http://janefae.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/news-feed-mps-condemn-suns-intrusion-into-trans-privacy/

    Caroline Lucas sponsors EDM condemning Sun Newspaper for intrusion into trans privacy.

  24. Lindsay, I was booked for this as well, and I was dropped for the same reason! How many women did he book and then drop for a 63 year old transsexual? Does one transsexual comedian cancel out the job of 3 other comedians? Was this booker hedging his bets? So bemused!

    • This is so odd. We should get an explanation for this.

      Can someone from the Green Party explain what happened here please?

      • Mark Cridge says:

        Hi Lindsay

        I’ve been able to speak to Chris to assess what actually led to this and it would be good if we could have a chat. Can I call you or can you call me on 020 7549 0310?

        I left a message for your agent just before lunch but I haven’t been able to speak to her yet.

        Mark

  25. Doug says:

    As yet another Green Party member who is aghast at the situation – I’d just like to ask Mark Cridge above to not hide the explanation for this in a phone call (speak by all means but make it public as well.

    Beer and sandwiches and it’s all hunky dory might be ok for other parties but it’s not ok for us – gory details, out in the open for all to see please.

  26. Mark Cridge says:

    Having been alerted to this issue yesterday evening, I posted on this blog first of all apologising on behalf of Chris and the Green Party but also making clear I’d speak to Chris this afternoon to assess what had actually happened.

    We had already arranged a successful comedy night fundraiser in November last year, and Chris had volunteered to put together another night for the London Green Party in April.

    During the course of arranging the acts we actually booked each comedian as they agreed to participate and in doing so ended up with too many confirmed acts—this was the first mistake. Ideally we would have simply checked for availability before confirming with each artist once we had the full schedule together.

    We compounded this with a second mistake, which was with the crass and inappropriate communication to two comedians, Lindsay Sharman and Rachel Parris. Apart from being impolite and flippant in its tone, it was in my opinion also offensive to both Lindsay and Rachel in its phrasing and in the process was also offensive to Shelley Bridgman.

    The Green Party prides itself in ensuring equality and diversity is at the core of our values and we go to great lengths to ensure gender balance right through the party, from the politicians we select for election to the way we run and chair meetings.

    Chris was arranging this evening on behalf of the Party and in his original briefing we wanted to ensure that there was appropriate gender balance at the event, as is common practice in anything the party undertakes. He had not been ‘asked to increase the diversity on the night’, as was stated in his original email. He did later acknowledge in a follow up email to Rachel’s agent that his decision to cancel Lindsay and Rachel’s booking was his alone, caused by his initial overbooking mistake.

    As I already posted, our handling of the arrangements and contact with Lindsay and Rachel fell below any acceptable standard that we would expect from the Green Party and does not reflect our views. This could so easily have been handled professionally and courteously but was clearly not.

    Whilst Chris had already tried to apologise to Rachel via her agent soon after realising his error, we are extending formal apologies to Lindsay, Rachel, Shelley and the other comedians booked for the event on behalf of the party.

    We’re incredibly grateful to anyone that gives up their time to support the party —whether as a performer or an organiser—and regret that these comments may detract from what should have been a great night.

    Mark Cridge
    Media Officer, London Green Party

  27. Sean Thompson says:

    As yet one more Green Party member who is appalled by this, I think that not only you but the members of the Green Party deserve a public explanation for the behaviour of this would-be apparatchik. By the way, I wonder why the silly arse thought that the other comedian’s age was worthy of mention – another box being ticked?

    Sean

  28. Corry says:

    Really nice to see some transparency and honesty in Marks response to what has been a pretty nasty screw up. Mark you should be aware that as well as comedians who are willing to give their time for free for fundraisers for causes or groups they believe in, there are also industry professionals who will do the same ensuring you would have a strong bill, booked professionally.

    Leaving such a high profile event to be organised and run by someone who clearly has no idea about the business or how to talk to people has clearly backfired.

    Really though, you shouldn’t be basing your comedy show bookings on ‘diversity’, you should be booking the best acts for the job regardless of gender, colour, sexuality etc. Otherwise your ‘pro diversity’ stance is as insulting to your acts (male or female) as that vile email.

    When I am employed for any job I like to think it is because I am the best candidate for the role, not because they need to meet a diversity quota.

  29. Green Party stop faffing around, there’s only one way out of this, apologise profusely to Lindsay and Rachel (including on stage on the night) and REBOOK them.

    Put your money where your mouth is.

    • Spoon Snake says:

      Come now, Janet, where’s the diversity and equality in that?! Clearly it would be too difficult to either start earlier and offer spots to the snubbed comedians or consider putting on another event, as that would mean admitting that they shouldn’t have dropped them from the line-up in the first place, which Mark Cridge and the Green Party still hasn’t done yet. As far as I can see he and Caroline have only apologised for the emails. I believe that this is what is known as ‘politics’.

  30. Jonathan Matthews says:

    The brazen face of positive discrimination. I’m amazed positive discrimination as a practice hasn’t been outlawed, it’s an oxymoron and has no place if anyone ever wants to succeed on merit.

    You have my sympathy, that just sucks.

    • I know I am coming to this probably too late but I just wanted to point out that the story has been written about in the Express newspaper And has started circulating about the net which is how I come to be here now.

      When I read the story I thought: awful journalism, poor handling by Chris and surely this is case (as pointed out in other comments) of one female comedian being replaced with another. I wanted to know Ms Lindsay’s POV.

      Having read all the comments above now I’m relieved that there are some intelligent observation of what happened and so I hope that often again. It’s unlikely to never happen again but at least I hope it’s not a regular occurance.

      • Oops, typing as i am on an iPhone i have just realised that the last paragrapgh has typos. It was supposed to read:

        Having read all the comments above now, I’m relieved that there is some intelligent observation of what happened and so I hope that this situation will not occur often again. It’s unlikely to never happen again but at least I hope it’s not a regular thing.

        Footnote: the Express. Can the Press Standards Authority not pull them up on their poor journalism?? Please?!

  31. […] her blog yesterday, 2010 Funny Women Awards finalist Lindsay Sharman […]

  32. countrygirljo says:

    Poor Shelley Bridgman eh? All these comments and no-one gives a damn about the effect it has on her, having her gender status and its ‘validity’ pored over like this. Has anyone the slightest idea what it’s like to be trans in this world? Or to be ‘discussed’ in this way? Less still trying to make it in the savage world of comedy? And, now, the Sunday Express has this story…they have lifted it from here it seems. They hate the Greens a lot. But they hate trans people much much more…

    • Lindsay says:

      I didn’t know the Express had got hold of it. I contacted Shelley to apologise, as I wrote this in anger and didn’t think it’d blow up like this. I regret any discomfort this has caused her. She was incredibly gracious when she replied to me.
      I’ll be more cautious about what I put out there in future.

  33. Thia Jones says:

    Reading between the lines and taking into account all that’s been said by the protagonists it seems to me that it’s a case of this Chris person trying to get out of the hole he’d dug himself by digging a deeper one and hoping that others in the Green Party might just fall in so he could then climb over them to get himself out. In doing so, he’s betrayed some rather disturbing personality traits, both misogynistic and transphobic in nature.

    Note that what follows is solely my opinion, but if true, would explain a lot…

    What i think happened in the dark recesses of the pit Chris found himself inhabiting, goes something like this – first, the backstory (because it’s always nice to do some scenesetting): Chris has never really bought into his party’s equality and diversity policies, indeed, he may well have had a falling out with a party colleague or two over this area in the past – he may, as some do, misconceive all this as being nothing more than tokenism, or he may, as a cis male, feel threatened by women and perhaps particularly by trans women.

    Now, we come up to date: Chis is in a hole, he’s made a bit of a mess of things by overbooking, he has a dilemma – does he say “ooops, sorry! i’ve made an embarrassing error” and try to resolve this creatively – and if it proved impossible to accommodate everyone booked on the bill, to be honest with those who were being dropped about his error? Or does he take the opportunity to undermine what he sees as a pointless requirement by pulling a Machiavellian master-stroke, thus setting cis women against trans women in the ensuing Comic Wars? Chris chooses the latter option, but perhaps hasn’t thought this through… Tune in again for the next thrilling instalment…

    As background, i was a longstanding member of the Green Party, though have not been for a good few years now – i do still tend to vote Green when the opportunity arises. My experience though, is that while the Greens tend to be much better about this sort of thing than other parties, there’s always the risk of some ass (just want to point out that i don’t intend that in the equine sense…) messing things up. There were a few occasions during my time in the Greens, where some ass raised their head (not sure that’s physically possible, as a head’s a thing that has a brain in it and an ass is a thing that has… well, you get the picture) so it’s not that surprising really – no organisation’s immune to that. And the kind of behaviour that i speculate about in this case is something that i’ve known happen before, for very similar reasons.

    I’m also a trans woman and comic genius (or is it my alter-ego who’s the comic genius? i forget…)

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