A Comedian Banned Men From Her Show. Now, She's Being Sued

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A so-called mens' rights activist sued comedian Iliza Shlesinger for banning men at a performance of “Girls Night In,” a ladies-only show. Attorney Alfred Rava contends that by denying his client entry to the show, the comedian broke a California anti-discrimination law that in the past has been used to fight against women's night pricing at nightclubs and car washes.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news, noting that Rava's 14-page filing contended that the decision to deny his client entry to the comedy event violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959. The law bars discrimination based on a long list of protected statuses including "sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status."

Sex is the class that Rava argues was the basis for a denial of "full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever," as the law requires. The suit names Shlesinger, her talent agency, and the Largo at the Coronet, where the event took place in November.

In the complaint, Rava says his client, 21-year-old George St. George bought a ticket online, arrived with a friend at the will-call window to pick up their tickets. First, they were allegedly told that they could sit in the back row, but ultimately they were banned from entry when they came back before showtime to be the first in line — something that Rava compares to the Montgomery bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins from the Civil Rights Movement. They were, however, offered a full refund.

Rava writes in his opinion that despite state law, court decisions, and state agency regulations, the "Defendants boldly organized, hosted, employed, booked, put on, performed in or at least aided a sex-based comedy show that treated male and female theatergoers unequally based solely on their sex."

The attorney notes a 1985 California Supreme Court ruling, Koire v. Metro Car Wash, set a precedent for this kind of situation. A man asked for the women's price at a car wash and then Jezebel's night club. Both denied to offer him the discounts, which were targeted at women customers. The court found that violated the act, and suggested that unless there's a "strong public policy" — say keeping children out of adult bookstores — any discrimination based on the protected classes would be prohibited.

In Rava's case, it's important to note that the attorney has made a career of suing under such circumstances. He has sued groups that promote women, including one that introduces women to golf and another that organized networking events for women in the tech industry. In an interview with CNN, Rava claimed to have taken 150 such cases to court.

Rava is on the advisory board of the National Coalition For Men, and formerly served as the group's secretary. Among the Sand Diego-based organization's focuses are father's rights, combatting violence against men, and education about "women raping boys."

Regardless of the merits of the case, the complaint's language will draw some eyes for its use of George Orwell quotes ("All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others") and its false equivalency of a comedy show with significant suffering under past civil rights violations, most mentioned were based on race.

He also argues that the ladies' night ultimately hurts women. Rava argues that keeping St. George out of the comedy show "repudiated hundreds of years of women's struggles to be viewed as being equal to men and is typical of old-fashioned sexism that might also advise a young woman that her best chance for a happy life is to ace her home economics class and learn how to make a queso dip from Velveeta to catch a good man."

This would not be the kind of language I'd use to help a case arguing against sex discrimination.