14 July 2012

rape is funny. you know, because it's true (not 'ha ha' funny).

On Thursday evening I posted this on facebook.  And unfortunately there was a "friend" who felt the need to speak out against it.  I responded (as did a few others) and that seemed to be enough; until the middle of the night when the post was hi-jacked by four guys acting just like Tosh and the other comedians (which makes sense as a few of them tell jokes on a stage while holding a microphone).  Needless to say, I un-"friended" them, deleted the comments and carried on with my day.  But I've had some time to think about it and I'd like to say this:
People deny the holocaust as well; that doesn't mean it never happened only that they are not ready to cope.
Women fear rape.  It is true and probably appropriate for them to do so because statistically it is pretty likely to happen to them.  To this point there are many who do so because it has happened to them (even though rape is grossly under-reported 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted, in my experience it is actually more like 1 in 2).  How does this happen?  What systems are in place that enable men to rape and oppress women?  Why aren't more people upset or acknowledging that it happens or talking about it?  What in the hell can we do to fix it?

In my experience, whether they acknowledge it or not, a good majority of women's interactions with men are a result of "rape culture" or things associated with it.  Especially things like outward appearance/self-image, dating rituals, and interpersonal relationships.  (FYI: just because you personally don't accept something it does not mean it is untrue.)  Women are taught to let the man take the lead and be timid when it comes to intimacy, as if they are just along for the ride.  Society says that women shouldn't make the first move because they wouldn't want to give the wrong impression or appear easy.  Men get to control our sexuality and dictate how it is expressed.

Women are also taught to be aware of their surroundings.  They are conditioned to constantly assess likelihood that they will be harmed or violated.  If they do not, it is their own fault for being irresponsible.  It is their fault for not defending their body (you know, because the rapist is really never responsible for his inability to control himself).  They are also taught that the sexier they dress/act the more it appears they are inviting an attack but all the while the media tells them that they are only valuable if they are sexy and desirable.  These are confusing messages which place blame on the victim.  It is very possible that her own guilt will make her less likely to report the rape, which compounds the issue for her personally and society as a whole.

Ultimately women are taught to fear men who they see in alleys or when they are outside at night. This is bad for both men and women...you guys aren't all rapists and we shouldn't have to fear the good guys because there are a few douche-bags out there. But when you guys spend all sorts of energy supporting and defending them it is hard to believe that you really get it, even just a little.  It pretty much seems that you're on their side.  That you like rape, what it does to women, and how we as a society function because of it.  If not you could just say "No, it wasn't okay that he joked about that woman being gang raped."  Or even just "I'm sorry that he said that."  That would make us all feel a lot better (probably enough that we wouldn't have to rant about it on the internet). 

As someone who has been raped I can say that I will never forget that experience.  I will always be conscious in someway that others have the ability to fuck my shit up completely if they so wish.  I know and will remember what it feels like to be at someone's mercy.  The twisting and turning that happens in my guts when I think about it will never be funny.  Not to me and hopefully not to anyone else.

As a "survivor" I wish that I didn't have to explain why this is a problem.  I'd like for you to understand that if you aren't part of the solution you're a part of the precipitate.  It isn't really that hard of a concept to grasp.  Women deserve to not be raped.  For that to happen society needs to send a message to rapists.  This shouldn't be pushed onto the shoulders of victims, we already have enough shit to carry around.  You can stand up and speak out against rape-culture.  You can help us with our load, our burden is to heavy to bear alone.

For those of you who insist on joking about rape.  This post on Jezebel will help you do it an not sound like a total asshole by most people's standards.  But please remember just like "you can say whatever you want" it is important to remember so can your audience. And as I recall, no one has said "hey you can't say that" they've just been saying that it isn't funny and that it does more harm for humanity than good. Most people I know, myself included, are all for individual rights and want you to have freedom of speech.  But that also means that we don't want you to say that we can't have the same right.  It is not okay for anyone to say what another person can find offensive or take away their right to express it.  (That sentiment right there.  That is oppression.  You are trying to say that we don't deserve the same thing you do.  Fuck you for that.  I will not take your shit anymore.  IT IS NOT OKAY!)

So, even if he was joking about the woman being gang-raped...it wasn't funny because she felt threatened (which yes, is probably more the result of our culture than the "joke"); however, most rape jokes are an issue because instead of challenging the fucked up nature of our society they accept, encourage, or trivialize it.  The complexity of the issue increases when you start to think about the percentages of male and female comedians and the prevalence of rape jokes (perhaps women don't think it is funny but since that seems to be a big chunk of people's material they don't necessarily see themselves as funny or think they'll be accepted so they don't even try?).  Additionally, it is hard to ignore Tosh's history as a proprietor of rape-culture(as illustrated by his half-hour rape joke special).  It seems like he's a repeat offender. 

Rape is gross, messy, and painful.  Just like people of color do not need to be reminded of racism constantly because they still deal with it on multiple levels women do not need to be reminded of the fact that you could violate them at any point because society pretty much takes care of it 24/7.  Making jokes about rape that blame victims, trivialize, or sexualize it are a part of why it is generally accepted by society in the first part.  You may think it is just a joke but ultimately it becomes a tool used to silence victims.  Period.

Also on Facebook, comedian W. Kamau Bell wrote:
For the record I’m anti-heckling & anti-rape but I’m waaaaaay more anti-rape than I am        anti-heckling. (If I have to choose. And apparently I do. Weird.) If every comic had to spend every minute of every set being heckled but nobody was raped, I’d be ok with that.
To understand this post better you could research:  systematic oppression, the wage gap, privilege, and the dynamics of sexual assault.  Rape isn't about sex, it is about power.  It is about fear, intimidation, and control.  Also worth reading is this post about the status of women and peace.

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