So yeah, I’m not a fan of those stories. I don’t like the way they distort the reality of life. It makes black life seem like a burden, instead of a life with ups and downs. It messes up the way we view other peoples, and that trickles down to how we interact with them on a personal and foreign policy level.
To sum up a very well-written and thought out piece: public shaming both a.) puts focus on the racists rather than the oppressed deserving appreciation and b.) still positions minorities as the Other, associating their accomplishments with a “struggle.”
And while I agree that these type of shaming posts are largely shared in order to circlejerk, it can’t be dismissed that shaming is a powerful and contemporary tool for equality. It shows one person and, by extension, everyone else in his/her life, that certain behaviors are going to rain down as much disapproval as yelling slurs does. Pretty much everyone featured on Public Shaming deletes their twitter accounts soon after. The problematic part isn’t the concept behind the lists, it’s how people consume the lists.
That said, now that Buzzfeed realized that there’s an audience for them, we will likely see many more easy-to-pass-along social media invocations of our own purity that offer little commentary on the actual content. I personally don’t share them on Facebook, and the only time I’ve reblogged Public Shaming was to vent about Steubenville. My reasoning is that my friends are great people who likely will not glean anything new while I only page through them because I think keeping these sorts of issues at the front of my mind helps me conduct myself with empathy (which I think is another way that shaming can positively influence the individual).
so basically i’m not complicit and the best person lol
But this article showed up on my tumblr dashboard at a good time. Mere minutes before finding it, I laughed at someone’s observation that “being a mermaid would be great because you have no period, no legs to shave, and you can lure men to their deaths.” It bubbled up a frequent self-evaluation of mine, the worry that I enjoy this sort of humor and progressive topics in general more because I like the feeling of being smarter/better than others instead of real desire to help.
Thankfully, framing the question in comedy (and reading this article) helped me arrive at a (gloriously self-serving) conclusion.
When I laugh at some variation of the phrase “kill all men,” it is not out of a place of male (or white, or cis, or swag) guilt or separation from the plebes or even hoping some feminist will appreciate my rhetoric enough to whip them thangs out. It comes from the surprise of hearing a fresh joke, a joke that could not be made until very recently.
I like to read jokes. My thesis traced a particular genre of humor from the Roman Empire to Louis C.K. I’m realizing now that maybeI dig this stuff so much because I’m a little bored with the jokes straight white dudes have been making for the past few millennia, and, up until the internet, there was no platform or audience for comedy attacking straight white dudes. (Please note, I don’t consider “black guys do this but white guys do this” as an attack. It’s a subversive observation, but it ain’t biting.)
I haven’t read every joke in the world; I know there have been feminist humorists throughout history. (I’ve even studied some!) It’s not about whether the jokes were told, but whether they were successful, processed, understood or accepted.
It so happens that they finally are (as evidenced by my own reaction to “kill all men” and the sudden arrival of its prevalence as a punchline [which also may get boring real soon, who knows?]) which I hope indicates a major change: the genre of humor I followed in my thesis is “utopian” (self-coined, source me if you refer to it in an academic paper dawg). Comedy that attempts to elevate humanity and asks us to consider other points of view. Lenny Bruce. Richard Pryor. Bill Hicks. George Carlin. Louis C.K. Bizarro World Daniel Tosh.
My conclusion then and now is that the direction comedy is heading, the value that will soon be at heart for the highest-regarded comedians, is a call for unity. That humanity is so connected these days that we’re finally kinda able to put ourselves in others’ shoes. The jokes shouldn’t be touchy-feely and kind-hearted, they need to shake us. They require the daring required to break from thousands of years of tradition. They’re jokes that, despite everything you’ve been told about jokes, actually matter.
Damnit, y’all. I’m choking up.