Rape Jokes and The Oatmeal: Perpetuating Rape Culture
I’m sure that there are people who will accuse me of being so wrapped up in feminism, so focused on seeing misogyny wherever I look, that I’m just not able to recognize humor anymore. There are people who probably want to tell me that nothing is so sacred that you can’t joke about it, that “censoring” comics is the worst possible thing you can do, and that if I don’t “let” people make rape jokes then I’m some kind of fascist.
First of all, I would encourage anyone who thinks that to look up the definition of “fascist.”
Second of all, I don’t think that all rape jokes are bad. In fact, I even think that some of them are funny. The thing is, in order for a rape joke to be funny, it needs to do two things:
1. Not make rape victims the butt of the joke
2. Challenge the status quo, i.e. rape culture
Below is a video by Louis C.K. in which he makes a joke about rape that’s funny. If you are a comic, or aspire to be one, you might want to take notes:
See, what he’s doing in this joke is challenging the idea that rape is sexy or desirable. He’s challenging the idea that some men would leap at the chance to take a woman without her consent, while she is repeatedly telling them no, just because she’s giving out some kind of vibe. He’s challenging a culture that persistently insists that women don’t know what they want, that they play hard to get, that they lie and manipulate and shouldn’t be taken at their word.
That is a joke that challenges the way we think in a humorous way. That is what comedy should do.
Matt Inman did, thankfully, end up removing the rape joke panel, and tweeted the following earlier today:
Update: I removed the final panel to my last comic, as well as my "defense" of it.Both were fucking stupid. Sorry if I upset anyone— Matthew Inman (@Oatmeal) December 4, 2012
It’s not the greatest apology, but at least it’s an apology, you know? I wish that he hadn’t included the “if,” because obviously people were upset, no ifs about it; it would have been better had he just flat-out apologized for the fact that people were hurt and upset. However, this apology is better than nothing, and it’s waaaay better than artists who continue to defend themselves after they’ve been called out for inappropriate behavior. So I guess there’s that.
Sometimes stuff like this feels so relentless, like there’s no way to fight against it because you’ll just never win. Working to bring down rape culture feels overwhelming, because it’s literally everywhere. How do you fight nearly every movie you’ve ever seen, every book you’ve read, every casually misogynistic word that’s ever been spoken to you? Where do you even start?
Every once in a while, though, you do get someone who reconsiders what they’ve done and issues an apology, and that feels like it’s maybe the beginning of something. And like I said, maybe it’s not a great apology, but hopefully it will start people thinking. Maybe this will get fans of The Oatmeal really considering what that rape joke really meant, and why it wasn’t funny.
I think that if even one person who laughed at that comic sits back, thinks hard and changes his opinion, then this fight is worth it. If this post gets even one person to change their minds about how they view rape, and especially rape jokes, then I’ll be happy. Hell, even if this post does nothing more than get people who agree with me to start a conversation about this, then I’m good. The fact is that talking about this stuff, getting it out into the open and engaging people about it, is a huge first step to changing the status quo.
And I really, really want to change the status quo.
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