Feminists, this one is for you. Listen, I know that 2012 has been a weird year for being a woman but, like women, something else has been taking a beating, “the rape joke.” I’ve heard countless people rally against rape jokes, saying things like “rape jokes are never funny.” As a comedian, and frankly, as a woman who has been raped I think that’s ridiculous.
Okay, okay, okay, obviously there are several rape jokes that are unfunny. Like, that Todd Akins guy? He can’t write a joke to save his life. It seems like people are reacting to the fact that the joke is unfunny while being about rape and then using a blanket statement “that this must be true for all rape jokes” instead of criticizing the crappy writing or the perpetuation of oppression in the particular joke.
This blog post’s aim is not to make excuses for bad writing I’m aiming for the opposite actually. The case I’m making is one in favor of good writing in the presence of a touchy subject.
Admittedly, rape is hard to joke about, but that doesn’t mean it should be something that is “off limits.” Comedians talk about a million things that are hard to talk about. That’s sort of in our job descriptions. Telling comedians what we should/shouldn’t talk about is going to make us want to do it more, and probably without the care the subject matter deserves. The problem I see about a lot of jokes in general (no matter what the subject) is when a comedian doesn’t think about the message they’re sending with a joke, like if they’re victim blaming or perpetuating rape culture. What’s worse, is if the comedian does think about the message and doesn’t realize there’s anything wrong with it.
Comedy and jokes in general are supposed to alleviate pain and bring people together, they’re supposed to shed light on issues and make people think about things in ways they haven’t before.Trying to exclude an entire subject from the conversation is doing more harm than good, it’s not giving people the chance to alleviate pain, to laugh. So when you say “rape jokes are never funny” you’re stifling the voices not only of comedians but of people who have any contact with the subject at hand. Instead of saying “rape jokes are never funny,” I think much more productive terms would be “jokes that perpetuate victim blaming and rape culture” aren’t funny, because they’re not. Rape jokes that perpetuate victim blaming don’t require good or thoughtful writing because those things are the most easily accessible lines of thought. They are also the most hacky rape jokes, in general.
In conclusion, when you choose to use blanket statements you end up stifling voices and perpetuating shame. I know, personally, I have felt bad for laughing at a rape joke which is unfair, to say the least. It’s okay to laugh, especially if, when you’re done, the joke makes you think.
If I haven’t convinced you, fine, but let me leave you with 3 rape jokes I think are funny.
- Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired - Detachable Vagina
- Louis C.K (Start at 51 Seconds)
3. Stephen Colbert - Team Rape
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