Thursday, July 12, 2012

On what counts as humour, being disappointed in strangers, and remembering my own advice

After a disastrous morning at work, I logged onto Facebook this afternoon to read this post by @daddy_san, which was the first I heard of the Daniel Tosh episode. Having duly tweeted it, I then looked at my Twitter timeline, and spent the next half hour or so in increasing levels of bafflement, disappointment, and fury.

I've said before, and I'll say it again, to me, "rape jokes" are not funny. I have never been sexually abused. I've been eve teased, and on one or two occasions, been very, very frightened about what might happen next. But no, I haven't been raped. Yet it's a topic I feel strongly about, and I'm known to get on my soapbox about it and the way it's discussed. And cracking "jokes" about it is something I have never understood.

So when I read those tweets this afternoon, I was upset - I suppose that's the best way to put it. I follow several Indian stand-up comedians on twitter, a large number of whom were going on and on about how Tosh's joke was a "stupid joke", or a "shitty comeback". But almost all of them insisted that there's nothing wrong with making "better" jokes about rape.

And then others, mainly women but some men too, started expressing their anger and disgust over what these comedians were saying. And then folks defending "rape jokes" got upset over the reactions they were getting. And the whole timeline turned into a battlefield for a while. I didn't say much beyond one or two generic tweets, which as someone said in an equally generic manner, was no more than tut-tutting, really. But I wasn't sure how to articulate what I wanted to say, so I didn't. At the time.

Now, some hours later, I don't know why I was disappointed. I don't know any of these men personally. I've followed them on twitter for some time now, and exchanged a few tweets with one or two of them. But by and large, I'm pretty sure they don't know I exist, and I don't think of them beyond the moments when I see their tweets appear on my timeline. But I think at that moment, seeing them, in one voice, defend "rape jokes", and insist that it was simply the quality of that joke that was poor, made me feel like there really is no hope for changing the mentality of how women are perceived and how rape victims are treated.

And then I went out for dinner with some colleagues, got thoroughly annoyed by one of them, sat through the evening with a migraine pounding my head, and eventually blocked out their voices and started thinking. And remembered something I had written on @tantanoo's blog more than a year ago:
I tend to get outraged if jokes are cracked over rape, or violence against women, or issues like that – because these are issues I feel fairly strongly about. It’s a completely personal sentiment.
But I don’t think my outrage has ever led to an unfollow or even debate – because there would have been other occasions, where similar jokes by the same people on a different issue may have been equally “inappropriate” but I have still giggled. Would be rather hypocritical of me to object now, simply because one is an issue close to my heart and the other isn’t.
Everyone has issues they get outraged over. Everyone has jokes which they will stretch till every bit of funny-ness in it vanishes. People need to chill, is all.
My two cents. :)

I didn't unfollow anyone today. I didn't engage in a debate with anyone either. I sat there, infuriated, and decided to go off Twitter till I calmed down. And then remembered that I need to chill a bit.

I came back to my room, logged back onto Twitter, and saw this post. I see her point about using humor to cope with a situation, and points to her for being able to do so. It's not something I think I would be capable of. 

So maybe jokes about rape are funny to some people. I still don't see it, but maybe they are. I also don't think the comedians defending the "sub-category of humour" that rape is part of were using it in the sense of being a coping mechanism, but maybe that isn't as important.

I tweeted a few days ago that either I'm not following people who perpetually outrage, or people now see outrage in everything. Every other day, I seem to see people cribbing about how other people are outraging over something that doesn't deserve the outrage. Well, today, I was part of the outrage. And I'm still not convinced that outrage wasn't deserved. But I do think we could have all done without it. I know I could have.

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