Oh goodie, you guys. We get to do the “no but for real, rape jokes aren’t funny and saying that doesn’t threaten your freedom of speech” runaround again. This time, Jezebel’s Lindy West is caught in the crossfire: she had the audacity to go on TV and say rape jokes aren’t funny, so naturally, the internet has responded by calling her names, threatening to rape her, and saying she’s too fat/ugly/lesbionic/man-hating to get raped.
I lost a lot of followers when I said Tosh shouldn’t have made a rape joke. And I’m prepared to lose followers over this issue again. Do. Not. Care. The facts are these:
- The comedy industry has a serious problem with representation by women.
- People in the comedy industry - Louis CK on The Daily Show, W. Kamau Bell on Totally Biased - think feminists are anti-comedy because we object to forcing rape survivors to laugh at their jokes.
- Somehow every fucking person in America becomes a Constitutional scholar when they get challenged on telling rape jokes. “What about my freedom of speech?” The First Amendment starts with “the government shall make no law…” which means that unless someone proposes a law against rape jokes you can go ahead and shut the fuck up.
Here’s the thing: There is no comedy slippery slope from saying “rape jokes aren’t OK” to there being NO MORE JOKES EVER AGAIN. We’re not saying don’t joke about murder or the Holocaust because you know what? Those things are taken seriously. Rape is not. Look at the rape statistics in the military, in America, in the world. Look at how rape is used as a tool of power against women. Look at how women are punished and demeaned with rape. Look at the dearth of resources for survivors. There are no museums to rape survivors. There are no monuments commemorating its victims. There are no walls with victims’ names carved in stone. Its victims are everywhere, and silenced, and taunted, and second-guessed, and dismissed. When people start telling the families of murder victims “but some people find the idea of murder sexy,” we’ll talk about murder jokes.
We don’t want you to joke about rape because joking is the only time you ever talk about rape. And it’s very, very rarely a joke about rape culture (which are allowed, even by us evil laughter-hating feminazis), and much more often a joke about someone you’d like to rape, or someone who deserves to get raped, or using “rape” as a funny verb because it’s a funny word to say. It usually triggers memories for people who went through a traumatic event and had no recourse against the person who perpetrated it or the society that all but encouraged it. Why would you do that on purpose? What’s funny or edgy about that? It’s lazy comedy.
So, again: stop joking about rape. Stop saying that feminists - who have almost zero representation at movie studios, TV executive boardrooms, comedy stand-up spots, and nighttime television - are threatening the comedy industry by saying a small percentage of the jokes are aggressively unfunny. Stop telling victims they have to laugh at your bad “jokes.” Just. Stop.