Rape Isn't Funny: Why You And Everyone Else Should Be a Feminist

Recently I've become a raging feminist.

But wait! Let me explain!

The internet is an interesting world: a juxtaposition between a wealth of useful and helpful information, benign pictures of cats and 60s Spiderman reimaginings, and hateful abusive attacks on culture, gender, and sexuality. Usually I steer clear of these aggressive conversations, because I've realized that it is impossible to reason with the unreasonable, and usually it's just 14 year olds who want to cause trouble and swear online, so it's easy to not pay much heed.

But I've noticed more and more that women are still - STILL! in 2012! - not represented well /respected in the media and I've decided that my rights are something worth fighting for. I've wanted to post about this for a while, but I've been finding it difficult to both express how I feel about women in society in 2012, and understanding exactly what it is that has made me so outraged about women's rights in the past 3 months.

And then today I came across this post, "So a Girl Walks Into a Comedy Club". If you have a chance, you should give it a quick read, but in summary: a girl and her friend went to the Laugh Factory where comedian Daniel Tosh was performing. He made the statement that "Rape jokes are always funny," to which the girl shouted back "Actually, rape jokes are never funny!" In response, Tosh thought for a minute and said to the audience, "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by five guys right now? Like right now?"

(I should preface the preceding post by saying I am no prude. I absolutely love stand-up comedy and I appreciate transgressive humour if it is clever and unique. Rarely am I made uncomfortable by swearing or jokes about sexuality, race, or gender, regardless if I find it funny or not. I have seen a lot of Tosh's stand-up and by and large enjoyed most of it.)

I was completely outraged when I read the post about the woman's experience with Daniel Tosh. I think my anger is twofold: First, talking about the act of rape actually isn't funny. It's disappointing that a comedian who I thought was witty has resorted to making "jokes" about abusive, invasive, violent, and physically and psychologically damaging acts. It requires no effort to write a joke about rape, because if you're trying to be transgressive, you don't have to work hard to get a reaction. It is a cheap, degrading joke to bring into a comedy act.

Secondly: It is a direct attack on and about women. While I know that there are men who have been raped, when it is addressed as capital R rape, it is always portrayed as men who have forcibly attacked women. Joking about five men raping a woman for speaking out reinforces the power structure of male dominance over females, both physically and socially.

I am sick of it, to be honest. I am sick of the fact that even though women are supposed to have gained equality, we haven't. Why are only TWELVE of Fortune Global 500 CEOs women? Why is the highest paid female CEO's salary less than HALF of the highest paid male CEO's? Why are women vloggers like Laci Green being threatened for stating her (highly controversial) opinions, while male counterparts are considered to be clever and witty and have millions of followers? Why are there so many harassment suits being filed by women in the RCMP? Why do women bring each other down by making blanket (and epically false) statements like "Women aren't funny!"? Why do I not feel safe walking by myself in the evening, but do feel safe with a man? Why do we, men and women alike, let our society continue on like this? Why aren't we demanding more of each other? Why is nothing changing?

I'm by no means a bra-burning, stick-it-to-the-man, eliminate-all-the-boys feminist. I like men. I like being a woman and I like chivalryBut I wish more men - especially more young men - were educated on women's issues. I read a great interview with Louise Brealey, actor in Sherlock and a journalist and militant feminist, where she said:
"Seriously, though, I'd like every man who doesn't call himself a feminist to explain to the women in his life why he doesn't believe in equality for women."
She goes on to call out women, too, and challenges everyone to start seriously redefining gender roles, rules and restrictions. Women alone can't change society; men need to change their perceptions as well, and then MAYBE we can start to make some serious progress.

I know there is so much more to be said about equality: gender, sexuality, race, religion, ethnicity, economically. I think these are all battles that are worth it. I am taking up the mantle: will you join me?

Number of books read in 2012: 15
Current TV series: The Final Enemy
Current Nail Colour: Essie's "Cute As a Button"


Beth Hynes said…
While I certainly believe in equality for women and men (whatever that actually means, as human beings are all so different, it's a bit hard to stick them all on one scale and decide how to make them equal) I don't think that the fact that there are only 12 Women CEO's on the Fortune 500 list is a reason to think that we aren't getting equal opportunities. Perhaps all the women qualified to be those CEO's would rather do other jobs so that they can pick their kids up after school and go to their ballet recitals. I'm saying maybe there aren't equal numbers of men-women CEO's because women don't want to be CEO's, maybe they want to stay with their kids, maybe they just like the job they already have. Maybe they'd rather be a blogger or a car mechanic. Perhaps the companies who're hiring can't find a woman who's as qualified as a male applicant. It isn't their fault for not hiring a women if there isn't a qualified one available.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that equal rights and opportunities for women won't translate to everything on the face of the earth have a 50-50 man-woman ratio. We should be able to pursue any career we want, but that doesn't mean it'll be the same careers that men want.

This article from The Atlantic was really thought provoking for me as to why women don't seek higher powered jobs.
Beth Hynes said…
In addition to which: as far as Louise calling people out to redefine gender roles, rules and restrictions. I'm pretty sure the culture is doing that already. Maybe we're not getting there fast enough for her liking, but we're well on the way. :)
Anonymous said…
I wouldn't tar all of us with the one brush. I like a good joke and I can find some pretty crude stuff funny but that was definitely over the top. I'd be interested to hear the reaction of all the men in the audience that night. The comedian obviously scrambled for a comeback that he was quite far off the mark with, and I can almost guarantee he didn't get laughs out of the majority of the crowd, Man or woman. It doesn't make it right by any means but you're always gonna have idiots around who don't share the opinions of 99% of the population.

I think woman are regarded higher these days than ever before and its awesome. Not high enough but its slowly changing. I could say a thing or two about how men are portrayed in just about every cartoon, sitcom or other tv show these days too. Society's pretty messed up. Super cool blog though, lots of good points :)
Anonymous said…
Right on Jill.
Jeff Sexton
Jill S. said…
Beth: I know, there is another side to this argument, that women don't want these jobs. And fair enough, maybe a majority don't. But I think maybe it's the case that women are not afforded the same opportunities as men in the work place, and thus cannot advance in the corporate world.

I don't have the source offhand, but I heard an interview with a woman executive who said that the ratio of women-to-men CEOs in the Netherlands (or maybe it was Norway? Can't remember exactly) is pretty close to 50-50, while in America it's something like 3%. I believe equality means society not dictating what you can or cannot do based on the Big Three (race, gender, sexuality), and I think that's not enough being done to change the structure of the way we've been functioning since the beginning of time.
Anonymous said…
I completely agree with you. I have always considered myself a feminist for the same reason. I hate hearing women always preface statements calling for equality by saying "I'm not a feminist or anything but..." It's not a dirty word! It doesn't mean you think women are better or superior. It means you think women and men should have equal rights.

As for the Daniel Tosh incident, I witnessed something similar in St. John's, Newfoundland. I was at Yuk Yuk's with a friend and there was a table of girls near the stage, one of whom was texting or something similar during the act. I understand that this is annoying to the performers, but the way the comedian handled it was out of line. The comedian called out the girl and told her he was going to rape her later. When she got angry and spoke back to him (I couldn't hear what she said), he became more graphic and began to describe exactly how he would rape her, along with physical threats to punch her. All of this while the audience laughed at his "jokes". I left and have never returned. When I tried to speak to a staff member outside, they basically rolled their eyes and walked away. It was disgusting, though judging by the audience reaction, I was one of the only people who thought so.
Kenmore said…
I'll respond specifically to the quote of the post (and in a way, to the quote from Louise Brealey.

The quote you have for this post is: "Feminism - the word - can give us a handle, a rallying point, a common ground, and help us build a bridge. Why not claim the gift of the word as a place to begin?"

I don't claim the gift of that word because it's not just a rallying point, or a place to begin anymore. It's not an empty field to meet in and collaborate in, and build something better in. It may have been in the beginning, but at this point people have been building there for decades, and while most of what they built is excellent, some of the fringe stuff makes me uncomfortable.

I hold what I might call "Feminist sympathies" but I don't identify as a feminist. There are other things which I am concerned with, which I am throwing my effort into. And just because I'm not devoting my energy to the Feminist 'project' does not mean I'm slowing it down or trying to get in it's way. Those who are feminists can do their thing, and say their piece, and I'll listen and learn and be glad for having heard it, but I'm not terribly interested in pitching a tent in their camp. And I think that's okay.

So, Louise Brealey, I don't call myself a feminist, and this is my explanation. It's not that I don't believe in equality for women. Quite to the contrary. I'm simply uncomfortable identifying under that term. As a feminist, I imagine you might empathize with such a dislike for being coerced into wearing certain labels.

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