Founder, CEO of LOL Asia and Augustman A-Lister alumni, Rizal Kamal is no stranger to the entertainment industry. Having previously worked with artists such as Kevin Hart, David Blaine, Jimmy Carr, Iliza Schelsinger and many more, he and his organisation have been strong advocates in equality for women. Reflected in his efforts in fighting for women in the entertainment industry, he has often organised all-women shows like ‘Bi*ch Perfect’, ‘Ladies of Laughter’ and the ‘POMPuan Show’. We spoke to Rizal about how gender stereotyping is an obstacle to women’s rights and what he thinks can be done to mitigate this issue.
Can you tell us a little bit about LOL Asia’s efforts in fighting for women in the entertainment industry?
LOL Asia believes in the strength of diversity, gender, race and even age. We have been strong advocates in equality for women and that’s reflected in our all-women shows. The POMPuan show had a team of fully amazing women behind it, from the producers, director, performers to even the technical crew. The men in the team just sat down and enjoyed the experience. The show was incredible to say the least! Highly entertaining, empowered female performers took the stage to fully express themselves. 90% of the audience were female and the energy in the room was electric. Now that you’ve got me all excited again. I’d like to do another POMPuan show! *chuckles*
It is known that gender stereotyping is an obstacle to women’s rights. A recent study found that gender stereotypes in entertainment are effective in teaching boys and girls how they should act according to their gender identity and to what society expects from them. As someone who’s in the industry, what do you think can be done to mitigate this issue?
The great thing about entertainment is that it’s a medium that continues to explore and challenge the boundaries of culture. Like how comedy thrives on stereotypes—we make fun of outdated definitions and new cultures, which allows people to reassess their views on particular stereotypes. The most creative people in entertainment will continue to challenge traditional gender roles, and this should be encouraged. But it’s up to society whether to accept or to reject a body of work, as it’s a reflection of our current values. For example, only when people stop watching stereotypical dramas, would the producers stop producing them.
Do you believe we have enough women empowerment not only in the entertainment industry but in Malaysia at the moment? If not, then what can we do as a community to change that?
When I first started the stand-up business over a decade ago, there was only one female comedian in Malaysia—Joanne Kam. Now there are many and I think that’s a great progress in a traditionally male dominated artform, which breaks the ‘women are not funny’ stereotype. Similarly, other damaging stereotypes like ‘women should be submissive to men’ should be continuously challenged and we can do that by producing better content in entertainment.
Are there any advice you would like to give to the young men of this generation?
I would say that it’s okay to express your emotions and you don’t need to do things that are stereotypically manly if you don’t want to. Most importantly, never ask a woman if it’s their time of the month. *chuckles*
The feminist movement nowadays can often be seen as a Men vs Women debate, what are some ways men can become better allies to women, and vice versa?
The focus shouldn’t be on the strength or weakness of a gender. It has more to do with the individual. There are more similarities in men and women than there are differences, and looking at how we’re progressing, the difference will become smaller.
If you could change one thing in society, what would it be?
The world is changing rapidly, exacerbated by the pandemic. People need to embrace these changes, accept the good and let go of the bad. Not letting go of the bad due to comfort or fear is what is holding us back. That includes putting the most capable people as leaders. I fully believe that the world would be a better place with more women leaders.