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It’s Not Just A Joke

Content warning: this article discusses rape.

Question: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: That’s not funny.

This classic anti-feminist joke illustrates a common stereotype: feminists are humorless harpies. Meninist twitter references this cliché whenever they need to justify their sexist content. The “obviously sarcasm” in their bio is used as a get out of jail free card; it allows meninists to spew whatever misogynistic bullshit they please and if feminists don’t find their mundane sexism hilarious, then that’s our problem because they said it’s OBVIOUSLY SARCASM, right? Apparently, in the language of brodudes, sarcasm is a magic word that can be used to separate any offensive joke from political and cultural context.

The prevalence and comfort of those spewing anti-feminist sentiment knows no bounds. When professional asshat and comedian Daniel Tosh shouted that it’d be funny if an audience member was “raped by five guys” during his stand-up, Louis C.K. defended him with the infamous “feminists can’t take a joke” line. You may have noticed that some of the boys you go to school with take after these comedians and roll their eyes when you inform them that sexual assault, contradictory to popular belief, isn’t hysterical. But, the funny thing is, it’s not that feminists can’t take a joke — we just don’t find misogyny repackaged as humor particularly tickling.

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Inside the realm of straight white brodude comedy, rape is portrayed as no big deal. This humor reflects the way rape is treated in society, rather than challenging it. Rape, unlike other heinous crimes, is trivialized and its legitimacy is endlessly debated. This is why rape jokes are different from other jokes that  use humor to address serious topics. For example, everyone understands the severity of murder. But, for some reason, it’s harder for people to grasp the severity of rape. Take 16-year-old Jada, who was drugged and raped at her friend’s house. When pictures of her unconscious body hit the internet they went viral and people replicated the photos, tagging them with #jadapose. On top of being terrorized and violated, she was mocked.

The general population fails to realize that rape isn’t sex: it’s an act of terror upon the victim’s body. It is the epitome of patriarchal control. And when one out of every three women will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in her lifetime and only three out of every 100 rapists see the inside of a jail cell, it’s simply not funny.

So, no, meninists and Daniel Toshes of the world, the fact that your casual sexism is delivered as a joke does not mean you are impervious to backlash. Humor is a powerful tool, and it can be used to deconstruct oppressive societal phenomenons or it can be used to reinforce them. And, as long as you use that power for good, feminists will be on your side.

Now, dear reader, I pose a question for you: how do you feel when someone tells a rape joke? How do you respond to something like that? Scroll down to the comment box and let me know what you think.

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13 Comments

  1. This blog demonstrates clearly what is a serious matter, which many areas of society do not take seriously. “feminists can’t take a joke!” is a statement which is thrown about so much and one that has no basis.

  2. This is very very well written! I honestly feel like if someone were to still think rape jokes were funny after reading this, they’d just say “see, feminists can’t take a joke!”
    When someone makes a rape joke I do not laugh at all and keep a straight face which makes the person feel awkward, then I call them out on it. It might make me look “bitchy” but I’m not going to let then think rape jokes are funny.

  3. honestly, every time I hear a rape joke it makes me consider suicide again. it just reminds me that only 1 of the 5 men who assaulted me is having to pay for what he did, and that even then, when he admitted to it and is pleading guilty, there are so many people that have told me to “just get over it” or that it was my fault or that I’m exaggerating or that I wanted it.
    what happened ruined my life before it started. I was 14. I spent the next two years in hospitals due to the 14 times I attempted suicide and am still in therapy. it’s not funny. someone forcefully controlling you is not funny. someone stealing my sexual independence is not funny.
    rape. is. not. funny.

  4. It makes me cringe for the person telling the joke, especially with other people in the room. I usually respond by shaking my head or say it makes me feel uncomfortable.

  5. i cant stand rape jokes. back in high school i handled it with violence and i gave a few bloody noses over rape jokes. its just something that I’ve experienced my whole life and i cant stand people treating it like its okay. the mere mention of rape in any conversation other than a serious one is upsetting to me.

  6. I feel disgusted, mostly. I feel scared, and uneasy. I feel that not only the the person telling the joke, but also the person laughing at it.. Clearly does not take sexual assault seriously. Thanks for the read. Sent it to some people who need help understanding.

  7. This was so well written! I’m so glad you wrote this article and actually brought real facts and logical points to attention. Rape is a serious issue, it’s not funny, it’s not something to brush off or make fun of and I’m sick and tired of people making jokes about it out of either pure ignorance or just to make the situation lighter for their own comfort. Thank you for this.

    1. I used to feel extremely uncomfortable and as a passive-aggressive person on the outside, I didn’t want to create any conflict. A few months ago, an acquaintance made a rape joke and i decided to not let it slide, the person then proceeded to tell me to “chill” and “why can’t you take a joke?” I no longer talk to this person. It was then I realized that it is far more damaging to stay silent than to cause conflict. Do it. Stir up things. It is not okay for people to continue to do these things thinkjng that joking about rape is okay. It is not acceptable and staying silent is just going to aid the ignorance.

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