It was supposed to be a funny, lighthearted evening of comedy for women. And it was — until some dudes made it about them.
In November 2016, comedian Iliza Shlesinger hosted a women’s-only comedy night at the Largo in Los Angeles. The event, Girls Night In, “was a singular evening that encouraged women to get together, talk and laugh about the things we go through as well as donate some money to Planned Parenthood,” Shlesinger said in a statement.
Two men — George St. George, 21, and a male companion — decided to buy tickets to the show anyway. Staff at the theater told the men it would be best to sit in the back row for the event prominently advertised as being “no boys allowed,” then later denied them entry altogether.
Now St. George is suing Shlesinger for discrimination, claiming he was not allowed to attend due to his gender.
This is not the first time St. George’s attorney, Alfred Rava, has filed lawsuits essentially claiming “reverse sexism.”
Rava sued after not receiving the Mother’s Day promotion at an Oakland A’s game and sued Club Med for a women-only promotion. He’s done this dozens of times, both as the plaintiff and the attorney on the cases.
But this lawsuit isn’t exactly subtle: In the 14-page lawsuit, Rava even compares St. George being asked to leave to the “…Montgomery City Lines bus company in Montgomery, Alabama circa 1955 morphing into the Woolworth’s department store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960.”
And before you ask: No, St. George was not publicly humiliated, pelted with food, or dragged away and arrested for trespassing. He was simply offered a refund and asked to leave.
We have yet to know if a judge will determine that St. George’s claims hold water in the courts. But they simply don’t hold water in the real world, and here are three reasons why.
1. Despite his attempt to appeal to ideas of fairness and equality, St. George is filing a case to solve a problem that simply doesn’t exist: reverse oppression.
Reverse oppression (be it sexism, racism, or what have you) is not a thing and never has been.
In 2015, Melissa A. Fabello over at Everyday Feminism did a great job breaking down exactly why, but here’s the part everyone (especially dudes like St. George) needs to read:
“…yes, all people can experience stereotyping (assumptions that all people in one group are similar), prejudice (dislike toward a group based on those stereotypes), and discrimination (refusing access to resources based on that prejudice).
However, only oppressed people experience all of that and institutionalized violence and systematic erasure.”
There you have it. When the Largo didn’t allow St. George and his companion into the space to make a mockery of an event, this action was not reverse sexism — or in any way akin to the suffering endured by those in the civil rights movement.
These men have every right to feel hurt or bummed out that they were not allowed to attend (though let’s remember: they got a refund), but since no one in the history of time has ever mounted a successful campaign to violate, subjugate, disenfranchise, harm, or forever silence men because of their gender, this incident is by no means oppression.
2. If St. George wanted to truly stand up for men that day, he could’ve. But he didn’t.
He could have supported organizations that support male survivors of sexual assault, or he could have spoken out against toxic masculinity and the dangerous attitudes and traditions that don’t always allow for boys and men to express a full range of emotions. Hell, he could’ve raised money to support prostate or lung cancer research, the most common cancers among men.
Of course he didn’t do that because he’s not really interested in bettering the lives of men. He just wants to silence, shame, and disrupt the work of women. Men like St. George and Rava are cowards in activists’ clothes.
3. In fact, it’s because of men like this that women need a space to feel safe, encouraged, and supported in the first place.
Living as a woman comes with the emotional burden of sexual harassment, the constant threat of gender-based violence, microaggressions, and a substantial wage gap.
Not-so-shockingly some women just want a space, without men, to celebrate, talk, share, and commiserate, even if just for one night. To the men who understand and support this: Thank you. To the men who can’t wait to shit on something that doesn’t center them: Do better.