Rape culture and the double standard

April 15, 2013 4:43 pm

If you’ve been anywhere around the Internet this past summer, you probably heard about the controversy surrounding Daniel Tosh’s rape joke at a comedy club. Personally, I’m not really into stand up comedians and prefer to get my humor elsewhere – usually from television shows and films. But I’m familiar with the notion that comedians get a free pass on all topics, and those of us who are offended need to “learn to take a joke.”

Now, when someone tells you to “learn to take a joke” after you express your disgust, they are – to put it frankly – a rather horrible person. They are showing that they completely disregard your experiences, which is one of the most (non-violent) ignorant things a someone can do. Now, if the joke is about rape and someone says “I’m a woman, too, and I’m not offended!” they are ALSO a pretty horrible person. Women are not programmed to think and feel the same things. We all deal with the same crap society throws at our gender, but we process it very differently. And those ladies who stick up for sexist men by saying stuff like “well I’m a woman and I agree with you. Girls just need to lighten up. Your joke was funny/sexism is dead/etc., etc”? I sort of despise you. (And it’s unfortunate that society has conditioned us to respond in this manner.)

Anyway, back to Daniel Tosh! So, a blog post started circulating about a woman who attended one of Tosh’s shows and vocalized her opinion on rape jokes. Tosh responded by saying something like, “wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by five guys right now?” And the woman left the show.

rapeThis was all over the web in no more than a day. Tosh apologized via twitter – after noting he was misquoted, of course. (If you take a look at this article, you’ll see what he apparently REALLY said is much worse.) His fellow comedians started sticking up for him, and the media generally seemed really biased by using his apparent misquotation to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now, of course, the reason is: Comedians get a free pass. On everything. We should all learn to take a joke because, look, other people are laughing so it must be OK!

That is beyond wrong. What’s the big deal about comedians, and why should have to give them an exception for the problematic material they use in their routines? I was unaware comedians held this authority over the general public.

A couple years ago, Kristen Stewart made a comment that compared being hassled by the paparazzi to rape. Was this an insensitive thing to say? 100 percent yes. Everyone flipped out, including a rape crisis groups. Kristen Stewart apologized profusely and acknowledged her mistakes. Lesson learned. I don’t think anyone really jumped to her defense like they did with Daniel Tosh. Keep in mind Daniel Tosh publicly harassed a woman and either said: it would be hilarious if five guys raped or, or that she had clearly already been raped by five guys. Depending on which account you believe. Kristen Stewart compared her invasive and frightening experiences with the paparazzi to rape. Both are insensitive and should not have been said, but one is not like the other.

I look forward to seeing if these same people who flipped out on Kristen Stewart react similarly to Daniel Tosh’s “jokes.” Or is Kristen Stewart supposed to be more sensitive to the issue because she’s a lady?

Either way, everyone’s excuse seems to be “but he’s a comedian and he’s allowed” and “if you were offended you’re just too sensitive” (according to the lovely Dane Cook it would be better if we just killed ourselves). What these people don’t realize is  they come from a privileged place and cannot even pretend they understand what women have to deal with in regards to rape and other forms of sexual assault. If we haven’t been assaulted, we live in constant fear of it. If we have been assaulted, a mention or a joke can be extremely triggering. And yet, these comedians think they can police how we’re supposed to feel about it without even BEGINNING to understand the fear that comes with being a girl.

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