I feel a little redundant writing this after reading Erikka Innes' very thoughtful and even-handed Six Thoughts on Rape Jokes and given that I already wrote a piece about the unhealthy relationship between feminism and comedy the last time we all had this shouting match. I even made this clever infographic about it
And what I always want in all this ruckus, is for there to be some intelligent public conversation, but afterhaving some of those in private this week (including with specimens of the dreaded White Male Comedian clan), I realized the reason we'll never have this real conversation in a public forum is because all the following things are true at the same time:
- Most bloggers get paid (or at last maintain job security) based on page views, so it's in their best interest to get out a quick, provocative post on a "hot topic." "Building consensus" and "Educating those with different opinions" are not the order of the day. Remember, even trolls are page views. Nuance and thoughtfulness doesn't pay the bills (believe me).
- Most comedians get paid based on making people laugh. In some cases that means appealing to the widest group of people possible, in most cases, that means appealing to a loyal group of fans who appreciate your unique viewpoint. Most unique viewpoints are going to offend someone.
- Many of the best jokes about rape or that are otherwise deemed misogynistic are actually pointing out pro-woman viewpoints in an ironic, satirical or hyperbolic manner.
- Some women's previous traumatic experience with rape literally triggers an automatic fight-or-flight response. Once you go down that road, they can not hear how well structured the joke was or the subtle satire that shows you're actually anti-rape (when either or both of those are the case).
- There's a lot a dudes out there who actually are misogynistic and support misogyny in humor because it agrees with their worldview. The comedian didn't give them those ideas, they had them when they walked into the club.
- Like the general population, a subset of comedians actually do hate women and are, in fact, being terrible dickheads. (Most of those people actually fear women because they have had little to no contact with them for their majority of their lives, but that's a whole 'nother post)
- When you lump the actually misogynistic comedians in with the smart guys making funny points you just don't like to hear, you're just convincing the dumb misogynist consumers (see #5) that there's MORE people who agree with them.
- "Rape jokes are always wrong" is the same thing as saying "Period jokes are always bad" or "You should never joke about cancer" - it's a global value judgment based on personal experience and opinion.
- Many people fundamentally disagree with the previous statement, feeling that violence against women is somehow a privileged topic. This is why defense of free speech sounds to them like defense of mysogynist dickheads.
I've got no great conclusion here, because it has become a pretty intractable conflict. But, at least we can all be a little more aware of why this is happening the next time we all get on this merry-go-round to beat the dead horses.