Anonymous asked: something I don’t understand about people who say rape jokes normalize rape and make them feel it’s okay, they clearly don’t feel this way about other stuff. Like the popular shiba inu on tumblr that will “bash ur fukin head i swear on me mum” does that normalize violence and make people think it’s okay to bash people’s heads in? OF COURSE NOT
If rape was normalized it wouldn’t be the subject of dark humor. There aren’t very many jokes based on taking out the trash or cleaning the dishes and other normal day to day chores. The reason dark humor like rape jokes elicits the reaction that it does is exactly because the subject of the joke is not normal. It’s absurd, it’s shocking, it’s offensive and it forces a gut reaction. If rape ever became normal then it would cease to be the subject of jokes.
This was an ask response on a tumblr titled “Gender Egalitarians,” run by a guy, Morgan, and a girl, Liv. Directed there from a friend’s reblog, I found that they pick and choose the worst strawmen from the feminist movement under the guise of equality and, what a surprise, really frustrate me. I then hit this post, which concerns my two favorite topics (jokes and shibes) so I figure it’s my best chance to not flail around like a fool in my reply.
Even though Morgan is under the impression that dark humor works because it offends, I’m not going to rehash the difference between offensive and harmful. I’ll link it instead. I’d rather talk about why it’s ridiculous to compare this picture:
to rape jokes. It’s not as straightforward as it seems, and even shibe cannot blind me from the truth of the matter.
I went to an open mic down the block from me last week, to watch and take in the atmosphere before I make my grand debut a couple decades from now. Out of the twenty people I saw storm the stage, maybe four of them could get real laughs from the crowd, and nobody killed it for their entire 180 seconds. I was shocked at the wasted stage time (and like, even a little offended bc i’m an artist), but took the opportunity to figure out why so many comics were in trouble. Obviously none of them rehearsed enough since avoiding work is the whole reason people assume the comedian mantle, but I found another consistency: from the multiple comediennes who related catcall stories to the guy who stammered about how stoned he was and then abandoned his set with a third of his time remaining, nobody was convincing me of anything.
Watching American: The Bill Hicks Story the next day only hammered it home. Hicks is my favorite comedian. My love is always focused on a different quality whenever I binge on him, and this time I paid attention to his sales pitch. The sort of shit he successfully pushes on his audience is amazing. This is a guy who would plead for ad-men in the room to kill themselves and then, not one to be outdone by himself, plead for everyone in the world to kill themselves. If the mind is a house, his was three stories of dark, unfinished basement, but the power of the mic and the stage and his presentation of his ideas always kept the audience on board. That second video isn’t even a joke, it’s him exploding at a heckler, and there are still real belly-laughs underneath his throat-ripping screams. The kind of laughs you get with you, not at you.
It’s not because his intense hatred stirs up “a gut reaction.” If dark humor only needed to “shock,” the Kings of Comedy would be literal gibbering street-preachers rather than figurative ones. Instead, the true talent of Hicks came from the vast gulf between how venomous he could be during his dark, black, midnight comedy and, despite that, how he managed to appeal to all of us, keeping us feeling something like happiness (his guiding love for humanity winds through all of his material, but I’ll admit that taken piecemeal like above it’s hard to tell).
The vast majority of (good) comedy begins when the comedian shares an unorthodox opinion. The fun for the audience comes from watching the comedian justify and rationalize this opinion— “oh boy, how’s he gonna get outta this one?” This can be as violent as Hicks suggesting ad-men chomp a Glock or as chill as Jerry Seinfeld telling you that handkerchiefs are ridiculous (btw “There aren’t very many jokes based on taking out the trash or cleaning the dishes and other normal day to day chores?” uhhh the entire genre of observational comedy would like to introduce itself to you). So, like, in a weird way, we all go into comedy shows looking to be convinced. It’s ingrained in the medium.
A joke normalizes its subject by casting a light of acceptability on it. If you use rape as one of your convincing justifications, you’re suggesting, to some degree, no matter how infinitesimal, that rape is okay. It’s something that came to your mind in the development of the joke. Even in a joke, it is a solution. An audience member needs a solution to his obsessive lust or a solution for her dry spell, and, some time later, when he/she is trying to come up with one, the comic’s voice might turn up. The voice could be a whisper or a scream, it could be one of many or a monologue, but all the voices are inadvertent contributions by what we know as rape culture, and eventually the voices might get loud enough to be heard: “it is a solution, we’ve been saying that all along.” Not to mention that a comedian holds more power to sway opinion than nearly everyone else in the world, lending their words a lot more gravity. (as long as they don’t suck)
Compared to the Shibe (which is also not a living, breathing orator and is, in fact, a dogge), a comedian should be held a lot more responsible for the normalizing affect of his words.
But here’s the blow-your-mind plot twist: the Shiba picture actually does normalize violence. It’s not overt, since it frames the aggressor as a silly lil shibe, but it’s far from satirical and it suggests that violence can be entertaining. Same as Tom and Jerry, American Gladiators, Yeezus and The Lord of the Rings. And there are people out there who care about the damage of violence culture on the same level as rape culture: if I had photoshopped out the “fookin” and brought a printed copy of that shibe to my Quaker middle school to hang it on my locker, I would possibly have been sent home for the day while they figured out a suitable week-long punishment, minimum. All because of the violent sentiment of the message. Hell, they had a blanket rule of “No Touching” just in case someone’s bullying was disguised as play.
Are you thinking to yourself “that’s fucking crazy?” Good. Because that’s exactly what people think of you when you take the necessary measures to fight violence. That’s how normalized violence is. Quakers look fucking insane for a zero-tolerance violence policy because everyone else’s lives are 100% tolerant toward violence! We live in a world where bullying can possibly be indistinguishable from child’s play because violence has pervaded everything, kids’ games and interactions included. (heh “fight violence”)
(“Who could ever have trouble telling bullying and playing apart?” Imagine a bully slinging an arm over his younger, shorter victim’s shoulder, and giving a shit-eating grin as he explains to the teacher “we were just messing around, teach. Isn’t that right, Jacob?” He pulls Jacob in closer with mock camaraderie, demonstrating his strength and intimidating the younger kid before he vouches for his own antagonist. Then they go back to “play” and hopefully the teacher keeps a closer eye on the bully. That’s the sorta shit I’m talking about. I’ve worked with children of all ages for over a decade, so please trust me.)
So the shibe doesn’t really normalize violence because violence has been normalized. The shibe does maintain the status quo, which isn’t good, but you have to pick your battles. I vote for people who support global nuclear disarmament, but I don’t bring up my support in discussions about international relations because I won’t be taken seriously: nukes are the norm. Feminists, in challenging rape culture, are pushing back at something that isn’t quite entrenched and actually finding success. (I like to imagine the public being like “ugh fine we’ll finally stop being flippant about rape, you can have that one, whatever”) Which is wonderful, because imagine a dystopian timeline where humanity is as infatuated with rape as it is with violence. Summer blockbusters. Video games. Ads on Spike TV. I shudder.
That’s the danger of normalization. We, as people, all of us, somehow, maybe through a Facebook poll that I missed, decided that the physical expression of evil was more integral to our lives than peace. If we’re capable of that, why, there’s nothing we can’t normalize!
I think violence (and, namely, war and soldiers) will be comedy’s last idol to topple. But that’s another essay for another night to waste.