The Wom*n’s Comedy Debate was renamed in the lead up to OWeek, highlighting the need for greater aware- ness of women’s issues on campus.
Posters were pulled down, and the title of the all-female event was changed to ‘Comedy Debate’ on marketing around the University, removing ‘Wom*n’ from the title.
The Comedy night, which has in the past been a successful Union event, had only sold about 20 tickets leading up to the three-day OWeek festival. In comparison, about 400 Allday tickets for the closing night party had been sold.
Ultimately, the comedy debate drew 165 out of a possible 400 attendees. The re- sponse raises questions about support of women-led events, both on campus and in general.
Alistair Cowie, Director of Sales and Marketing for the University of Sydney
Union, believed the event was “trying to tick too many boxes.” He cited attempts to support USyd Alumni comics with small profiles, the use of the asterisk in wom*n, and the use of the word ‘debate’ as reasons why the event failed to sell tickets.
Cowie said that the Union received emails from boyfriends and brothers of wom- en identifying students confused about whether they were allowed to attend the event. This was apparently the impetus for the Union to change the name, to better reflect the fact that it was non-autonomous and free for all to attend.
Sophia Roberts and Laura Barendregt, this year’s OWeek Directors, were told on Friday 20th February that the name had to be changed. At first both were relieved: Roberts had been concerned that a more drastic decision would be made, such as including men in the line-up.
Upon reflection, however, Roberts regretted the name change. “I thought the point
of this was not to make money—of course we have to break even—but it did feel like all of a sudden we were backing away from a progressive stance that we did take earlier.”
Both Directors believed the event should have simply been called ‘Comedy Debate’ from the outset, and were concerned that the Union’s late change of name alienated some women.
Cowie told Honi that the Union would look at changing the venue and ticket pricing for next year’s event, in a further attempt to improve sales.
Roberts and Barendregt feel the issue reflects the broader need for more under- standing of the inclusive use of an asterisk in wom*n. Further, the event and response symbolise the necessity for greater support for female-led events, and the need for safe spaces for women on campus.