By: Amber Rowe
I walked into my floor’s lounge to find a group of girls watching a “funny video” that a guy had suggested they see. The clip was called Unforgivable and it clearly regressed a number of social movements 50 years.
It was a black and white film of a black man firing off a violent and sexist rant into the camera. He also played up a number of racial stereotypes. The little five minute clip was vile.
It was the type of humour that was so hyperbolic, you knew it was supposed to be funny, so you laughed. But mostly, I just winced and wondered approximately two things: 1) How can he even say half of the things he does? and 2) Do I really find the sexual abuse, the physical abuse, and the fact that he only refers to his girlfriend as “bitch” funny?
When I looked at the faces of the girls around me, I could see that they were wondering similar things. After the video was done, the girls laughed and emphatically said it was awesome. But I don’t believe for a second that any of them were comfortable with it.
This humour is a sort quite native to our generation. It is offensive without a doubt, but that seems to be the point – to offend to the point of laughter. But just because something is intended to be funny, does it really make it okay to say? I mean, I get the jokes, but they would be a hell of a lot funnier if they didn’t set women back a century.
It’s just like the jokes my friends use to tell all the time. They went something like: “You want to hear a joke? …WOMEN’S RIGHTS!” Or, “If women had just stayed in the kitchen where they belong, none of this would have happened” (this would be attributed to a random issue).
My friends definitely did not understand why these jokes sounded so horrible to me. One of them thought it wise to reassure me that he wasn’t sexist. Which was fine, but then why tell the sexist joke? I am sure he was witty enough to come up with something else, so why tell your friend a joke that degrades her gender?
My biggest worry is that girls are laughing at such offensive jokes because guys expect them to find it funny. I understand the appeal of being able to laugh at yourself, because it makes you easier to be around. It’s fine to make jokes about the time she wore a sarong to school, but the knot wasn’t tight enough, so long as she wasn’t traumatized. That’s hilarious and fair game.
But telling a woman she is only fit for the kitchen isn’t funny. A man hitting his wife or girlfriend isn’t funny. Sexual abuse isn’t funny. And trying to make it funny is simply the utmost of crass. Thus, I find it unfair that some men feel they can make jokes about serious abuses they’ve never had to confront, and then throw those abuses into the faces of women.
And worse? Expect them to laugh. We are not so far beyond the plight of our female ancestors that we no longer feel the sting. The keyword, especially in my case, is “too soon.”
My advice? Adhere to what is obvious: spare the woman of the sexist joke. If it is a subject that continues to make some cry at night, it is definitely not ready to be turned into a one-liner. It’s a simple act of consciousness and sensitivity to just mind your audience, and it is one that could save you a lot of awkward half-laughs or cold-shoulders. In short, we aren’t all there yet; if this is, indeed, any valid way of getting us there.
Link to “Unforgivable” Video: ca.youtube.com/watch?v=rKbsByPejP4