Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Are Rape Jokes EVER Funny?

Like many of my friends, I am sick to death of being told that I have no sense of humor because I don't find jokes about rape funny. I wanted to take a moment to clarify, once and for all, why jokes about rape are (generally) not funny. The best way to do that is by focusing, first, on the exception to the rule...


This clip from the Daily Show, that uses the word rape several times, is incredibly funny (and thank goodness for that, because the source comments are so horrendous that I need Jon Stewart's sarcasm to restore my faith in humanity just a bit.) This clip is funny because the butt of the joke is not the survivors of rape, it is the people who make light of rape and belittle survivors to make a political point. Not funny? Jokes that make the SURVIVOR or the act itself, the punchline.

For example... The other day, through comments of a post on xoJane (a website that has published some POWERFUL posts about rape), I am directed to one of the editor's twitter feeds. On her twitter is a rape joke that she tweeted the day before:

Here's an article about the assault that this joke refers to. The woman in question was robbed, sexually assaulted, and then had her life and the lives of her loved ones threatened if she dared to report the crime. The LAST thing this woman needs, on top of everything else, is people joking about how she probably ENJOYED her rape. 

THIS joke is not funny. As someone who has spent countless hours supporting rape survivors I will never, ever be able to find a joke funny if the punchline is at the expense of the survivor of an assault.

Also not funny? The awful memes about rape that have been popping up on the Ramapo College meme page. I understand that a lot of people call the creepy-looking trail behind Makin and Bischoff the Rape Trail. (I don't do so because I don't find rape funny, nor do I think rape should be used to discourage people from going anywhere... but I understand that this is a shared cultural reference.) However, the rape-memes on this page are not funny to people have survived rape, or to people who have loved ones who have been through this because rape is not a punchline.


If nothing else this image, and the resulting comments, means that I could never feel comfortable talking to the three guys who commented because their comments indicate that they find rape trivial at best and funny/enjoyable at worst (especially: "Lol!! I guess when going down the rape trail, one then becomes the ultimate rape master.") I suspect that, if pressed, the people who made/commented/liked this image would emphatically claim that they do NOT support rape. I'm sure they have a leigon of people who could tell me what good guys they really are.That doesn't matter though, because when I am looking at a rape meme you made or reading a comment you wrote in support I don't know anything about you other than, in this moment, you think rape is a funny joke instead of an awful, painful thing that happens to people every day. Yes, even people on your campus.

Jon Stewart's piece is funny because the punchline is making fun of the ridiculous individual who claimed that military women were being raped "too much" (as opposed to "just enough" rape?) In this context the idea of rape is seen as abhorrent, unacceptable, awful... as it ought to be. In the instance of this tweet, however, the survivor of the rape is the joke. The example tweet and meme are not funny because they belittle the experiences of real survivors by telling them that their assault is funny and, therefore, their pain is invalid. 

 This is what makes it so hard for people to feel empowered to report their rapes in our society. This is what empowers rapists to hurt people, secure in the knowledge that their crime will likely not be taken seriously at all. This is what makes me sick to my stomach. So maybe I frown just a little more often than people who don't care about rape jokes... I'd still rather frown than hurt another human being with my laughter.

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