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Rape Joke Supercut: I can’t believe you clapped for that

It’s a delayed blog post today thanks to Daniel Tosh who, after being heckled by a female audience member, suggested it would be funny if she were gang raped. The media has been all over this story and my feminist media monitoring colleagues have written some great pieces, drawing parallels between rape jokes and a culture where rape is acceptable and laughed at. From there, the discussion grew to how to tell a good rape joke: turn the power dynamic on it’s head and dismantle the culture of victim-blaming. 

From there, I was inspired (and encouraged across list serves and social media platforms) to make a super cut of rape jokes. But how on earth do you take something like that out of context, critique it and then make it into something that isn’t a highlights reel of misogyny? It was difficult – especially within 24 hours.  But tonight I’m happy (and exhausted) to be able to share my new super cut posted below.

I love this quote from Media Critic, Jenn Pozner:

“Media outlets are mischaracterizing the feminist response to Tosh: the takeaway shouldn’t be that ‘rape jokes are never funny.’ The great George Carlin proved they can be, when he used the image of Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd in a joke that dismantled the culture of victim-blaming,” says media critic Jennifer L. Pozner, Executive Director of Women In Media & News. “Humor can be used to expose injustice, as Carlin liked to do, or to reinforce it, as Tosh did by hostilely targeting a female audience member. And Tosh’s comedian pals saying she asked for it? That’s not comedy, that’s abuse.”

Special thanks to Jenn at Women In Media & News and Michelle Kinsey Bruns at the Women’s Media Center.

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11 thoughts on “Rape Joke Supercut: I can’t believe you clapped for that

  1. Thanks for this. I agree that if comics can use their powers for good, then they absolutely should. I don’t tend to find these bits funny even when they are exposing rape culture rather than reinforcing it, but that’s probably due to my own personal stuff as much as anything. I laughcringe at other stuff that pushes boundaries of good taste. I just think it takes a deft hand to handle a topic like this effectively and most of these folks are, let’s face it, not George Carlin.

      • The problem as I see it is that we can’t account for everyone’s context in a given situation. If I were to devise such a test, it might include questions like, “Does this joke validate rape?” But the answer to that question is going to vary from person to person, not just intellectually, but emotionally. Obviously, there’s the fact that (if you believe current statistics) in a room of 100 people, assuming 50 of them are women, at least 10 have been raped. Is *any* joke about rape going to make them laugh? Is the “good” done by the “right” kind of rape joke worth the harm it might cause? Totally not being a concern troll, but since rape jokes make me cringe no matter what (yes, I’ve been raped), it’s something that occurs to me.

        Then there are the men in the room, some of whom will be intelligent enough to “get it,” but others who really don’t and instead hear “haha rape,” which, because the subtlety is lost on them, serves to have the opposite of the intended effect. We have to talk about this stuff, and comedians should take it on if they think they can do good, and they certainly can’t be responsible for who gets it and who doesn’t, but take Tosh who thinks he was just being funny and can’t see his way clear to the fact that some predator in his audience might decide to act on his suggestion. He and everyone who has rallied around him are blind to the facts of rape culture to the degree that the “right” kind of rape jokes would probably be lost on them, as well. And they’re all validating each other and giving virtual high-fives. And some of these guys are predators. Again, my personal context. But then, that’s the point.

      • Thank you so much for that personal context – I think you make a great point. I do however, think that rape jokes, and humor in general, have the power to turn power & privilege on its head & make fun of rapists, debunking & criticising rape culture in the process.

        But regardless of my beliefs, one thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is how easy it would be for the media to sensationalize the ‘rape jokes aren’t funny’ position as ‘angry feminists dont have a sense of humor’ & turn the discussion around to be about how uptight we are & how we don’t have a sense of humor, thus distracting us from the real issue which is how terrible rape jokes that perpetuate rape culture are. So while I completely agree, I think talking about how to make rape jokes funny is a strategic approach to keep the discussion focused on rape & rape culture and not on how humorless feminists are.

  2. YES! I agree completely. I’m really glad we’re talking about it. I keep thinking everyone’s said all there is to say, and then someone makes another awesome point. I love that this presents that opportunity. And in processing all the information around this, my viewpoint has evolved from “rape jokes are never funny” (which, honestly, my gut still thinks is true) to “rape humor has its place in the discussion (and deconstruction) of rape culture.” I’m grateful to you and JLP and all the men and women blogging about this and talking about it in various venues. And sometime soon I’ll join my voice to yours and what I say will be much different than it would have been without you. Thanks again.

    • I totally understand your gut reaction – it was mine, too. Looking forward to reading your blog, seeing your video, however you choose – I just encourage you to make something, anything, even if it’s terrible. Because guess what? If it’s terrible, you’re in good company – most of the stuff on the internet is terrible. But that’s secondary to the important part: you owning your expertise and sharing your voice!

  3. Isabel says:

    Thanks for this – always appreciate efforts to think through a difficult topic. I remember calling a prof out when he talked about a text being ‘raped’ – he started to defend himself when another student (female like me) agreed with me that he could find another word to better describe what he meant and then he backed down – the silence around us was deafening & I suspect not much has changed in the proverbial classroom of today.

    • I think power in numbers help us call men (and women) out on things like this. It’s a hard conversation to have – you’re not calling him sexist, just what he *said* was sexist. Good for you for calling him out publicly.

      • No, she makes me want to NOT watch the Nationwide series. When I watch the Nationwide cars I want to hear about enoeyrve not the Danica show. When she is on the track they cant seem to talk about anything but her. I would just assume not watch, or watch on mute, than hear about her for 2+ hours!

  4. Pingback: Surfing the Rape Wave: What Tosh Teaches About Humor, Power and Privilege | Fem2pt0

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