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.
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.