lizzie_and_ari: (Default)
[personal profile] lizzie_and_ari
So, Andy linked to this article yesterday about rape jokes. The premise of the, very brief, article, is that you shouldn't make rape jokes because statistically, one in five people have been raped, and it acts as a trigger,and you shouldn't upset people.

On the face on it, I totally agreed. But it's been percolating in my mind. The thing is, there are many horrific things that may happen to someone over the course of their lifetime. Some are undoubtedly more horrific than others, but horrific is horrific, traumatic is traumatic and a trigger is a trigger.

I work in comedy so I've seen many of its incarnations, but there is still some material that triggers me. Jokes about eating disorders tend to be the worst. They upset me, they make my stomach flip and  make me want to stick my fingers in my ears in a bizarre childish fashion. Jokes about self-harm can have a similar effect, and even very banal material about family relationships can make me uncomfortable and sets me off on trains of thought I didn't want to be having. 
 
I am very lucky; I have never been raped. Many people close to me have, though, and it's been various stages of horrific. I'm not for one moment suggesting it's anything less than that and I wouldn't swap my traumatic experiences for theirs. So I suppose that, if I'm in the business of ranking trauma (which I'm not), I'd rank their experiences as Worse Than mine.
 
I don't need to say it: rape is bad. We all know rape is bad. Some know first-hand, some, like me, second hand, some just in the same way that you know killings is bad. The debate about whether we know this intrinsically as humans or not is for another day, but it certainly feels instrinsic.
 
Rape is so bad that we shouldn't joke about it. We can joke about other forms of abuse (or self abuse), we can joke about death or trauma or illness or terrible bad fortune. But we shouldn't joke about rape. In fact, you know what, we probably shouldn't talk about it at all... 
 
This is my problem with the 'don't joke about rape' concept. It in fact reinforces the concept of rape as the Last Taboo. It's something that's still stigmatised and putting into its own separate category of unacceptability underlines this stigma. 
 
But the original article is right. Son't say 'I totally raped level three' (not a phrase,thankfully, that I've ever heard myself). Similarly, don't describe the wonky wheel on your shopping trolley as 'totally gay'. Don't call the checkout operator at TK Maxx 'a total spastic'. 
 
Don't make jokes *at the expense* of those who have been raped, and don't apportion language in a way that will upset people and reinforce stereotypes and stigmas. But the moment we stop being able to joke about something is the moment when it holds most fear for us.
 
Don't not make rape jokes. Just joke like you should drink - responsibly.
 

Date: 2011-08-06 08:58 am (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Yeah, I totally agree. As I said in response to the [livejournal.com profile] marrog:
I think the post boils down to "Know your audience, and be aware that you might be upsetting them." - there are numerous jokes I'd tell in person that I wouldn't broadcast online

So, for instance, I wouldn't tell jokes about bulimia in front of you, now, because I wouldn't want to leave you upset.

And I agree that telling jokes about people being raped is generally not good, but some jokes have rape (or whatever) _in_ them, and the joke isn't at the expense of anyone in particular. And I think at that point you just have to know your audience, and decide how uncomfortable you're willing to make your audience to make a joke. And that's absolutely fine to me - I wouldn't censor anyone. I'd just like them to think, and make a judgement, rather than blunder into it without realising the effect they might be having.

Date: 2011-08-06 11:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] henriksdal.livejournal.com
The most intelligent thing I ever heard Jimmy Carr say was that if you have to look round a room before you tell a joke, then you should never, ever tell that joke

Date: 2011-08-08 11:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kerrypolka.livejournal.com
Oh, I like that.

Date: 2011-08-08 01:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] khbrown.livejournal.com
I can see this working with visible things, like whether there is a black or blonde person in the audience, but not invisible ones. It is not as if rape victims usually wear T-shirts announcing the fact, after all.

Date: 2011-08-08 01:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] henriksdal.livejournal.com
No - he means if you are worried about offending someone with a joke, you should never tell that joke. are you are thinking "oh, this jokes racist, but there's no black people here so it's OK"? No it is not OK.

Date: 2011-08-06 10:27 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-08-06 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] princealbert.livejournal.com
I had to read the article to find out what a rape joke was. Left slightly confused.

Date: 2011-08-06 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marrog.livejournal.com
The other day a comic told the joke at a gig I was at:

"I like women to take their glasses off before I have sex with them so that they can't identify me later."

Date: 2011-08-06 09:08 pm (UTC)
zz: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zz
I believe as a principle that everything should be joked about, because if you can joke about something it doesn't have a hold over you. however, i understand that some people aren't there yet about certain topics. that doesn't get to affect what happens outside of that person's presence though.

I can see the argument about using discomforting terms casually, but I'm enough of a dick to not care about that unless I know someone is going to be actually upset as opposed just offended on principle.

Date: 2011-08-07 09:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daisyflip.livejournal.com
Great blog, Lizzie-beth. I agree: it's far too simplistic to say you can't joke about anything. The few times I've had to have words with an act after Red Raw (usually when they can't work out why they died on their arse) it's to say they need to think about the victim of their joke. I've heard great jokes where the rapist/paedophile/violent partner is the victim - that's an incredibly powerful thing to pull off when it's done well and feels like a kind of reclamation.

I'd also say (I'd take it as a given) that everyone has the right to joke/be creative around their own experiences. We can't censor someone else's life.

I also totally agree with casual use of language, like 'gay' as an insult - it's something that I do think is slowly trickling through to people. (I know John and some of his Beltane chums started using 'straight' as an insult...). I am, however, totally pro the celebrated 'offensive jokes competition' in the privacy of your own friendships, where it's understood that irony drips from every vile insult. Use with caution.

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