Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Furry, A Rape Victim and a Black Guy Walk Into A Bar

There's been a big dust up lately regarding rape culture, rape jokes, misogyny, bad male behavior at Cons, the list goes on (I've written about some of this in previous posts). This evening, a friend posted a link to this debate between Lindy West and Jim Norton on the topic of rape jokes and I felt like it was time to jump in and throw out my white male privileged opinion.

Before I do though, here's the link to the debate. Go watch it. (Props to @MistressMatisse for tweeting it to my attention)

Okay, so here's my two cents. There IS a way to tell a rape joke and have it be funny (wait for it...). In my humble opinion, comedy is about sharing pain. We laugh at things because we've either experienced them directly or indirectly ourselves. Much like music or sex or even eating, laughing is something we do as a species that is a communal experience. It's meant to bring us closer together.

I'm going to defend my statement that it is possible to tell a rape joke and have it be funny by using three examples.

First, a comedian tells a joke about furries to a crowd (Google it if you don't know). Regardless of the content of the joke, there are a few things to consider. One, are there furries in the audience? Since most don't go to comedy shows in their outfits, we won't know. So, one should assume there *might* be a furry in the audience. Does it change things? No, and the reason it doesn't is that a person who is a furry has chosen this lifestyle and unless they are mentally deficient, they understand that it is a lifestyle that is outside the mainstream. While furries take themselves seriously and have every right to do so, they should also be prepared for the world at large to not get their lifestyle and have some thick skin about it. As long as the comedian isn't making fun of the actual furry in the crowd, I think we can all agree that this is fair game.

But here's a second part of that equation. What if the comedian is a furry? It changes the tone of the joke entirely. Almost unequivocally it makes the joke funnier because by making the joke, the comedian is giving us permission to laugh along *with* him. This means that everyone is included now. The comedian, the audience and even other furries in the audience can all laugh along without feeling like they are a target.

Second scenario. A comedian tells a joke about a black person. Same list of parameters. Are there black people in the audience? Does it change things? No, it doesn't. The difference here is that black people are born black and it is inherent to who they are. Unlike furries, no one chooses the color of their skin any more than they choose what country to be born in, what gender they are or how tall they are. Right there we have a deviation. But when we get to the second factor, that is, is the comedian telling the joke black, everything changes again. This is why Michael Richards calling someone a nigger was so offensive when Chris Rock's bit on the word is funny.

Again, the difference is about inclusion. In the video clip above, Mr. Bell actually makes a few jokes about being black and that's okay because it's at his expense. He's inviting us into his world and saying 'laugh along with me'. Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock are masters of this kind of comedy. I can't count how many white people I've heard say that they feel guilty for laughing at some of the stuff that Dave Chapelle does. I promise you, that stuff would not be funny if Michael Richards did it. It's about inclusion.

Which brings us to the third and final example, rape jokes. The reason I used furries and black people in my two examples above is that there are elements of each situation in rape jokes. In the second scenario, we saw that a lack of choice (a denial of consent as it were) was an element in racist jokes. The exact same things can be said for rape victims. Like race, people do not choose to be rape victims (If you disagree with this statement just stop reading now and never return to my blog). However, the same cannot be said for rapists, the perpetrators. They, like furries, have a choice. They chose to be rapists. Rapists chose to take someone's consent from them.

So, how can a rape joke be funny? Take the elements from the first two examples and combine them. Two ways rape jokes can be funny! If a comedian wants to make fun of rapists...that's funny! Cut loose with your jokes about rapists. The sooner we make fun of them, the better off we'll all be. The second way that a rape joke can be funny is if a rape victim makes it. And if any of you know a person (or are a person) who has been the victim of a sexual assault, you know that you'll be waiting to hear that joke for a very....very....very long time. (Hint: It's not ever coming)

Comedy is a weapon. In the right hands it's a deadly one. Time to point it at the right people.

1 comment:

Andrea Menzies said...

All humor is really tragic, if you look at it closely. Chickens don't like being run over as they cross the road. Not to make light of a dark subject.