k_crow: (PureTruth)
[personal profile] k_crow
Brilliant blog post by Harriet Jacobs found via link on Facebook: http://fugitivus.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/a-woman-walks-into-a-rape-uh-bar/

It's a long blog post, but it says so many things about one part of the rape culture that we're swimming in. Why am I linking to it? Because not only was I impressed and amazed by the writer's candor and honesty, but a lot of what she had to say resonated for me. My own experiences don't include what I would define as rape, but they do include experiences that push the boundaries of what is and isn't rape. I do get uncomfortable when friends make rape jokes, or even references to rape that are supposed to be funny.

One recurring joke comes up during gaming when someone refers to extreme damage done to an enemy. And I flinch, every time. Because it reminds me very strongly of one of those "not rape, but pushed the boundaries nonconsensually" experiences that I have had. And I know the people who use the joke/phrase i'm referring to aren't trying to make me flinch. But even if the link above is TL;DR, I'd like my friends to think. I strongly believe that thinking is a useful and worthy pursuit. For this reason, I've included an exerpt below.

So, here is my challenge for those who want to tell rape jokes:

Ask every woman in your life if she has been sexually assaulted. Ask her to tell you her story. This means your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your grandma.

Once you have heard all their stories, go watch a movie with a rape scene in it. One you didn’t mind before. One you thought people were overly offended by.

Now tell me a joke.

Date: 2009-07-24 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
(Though to be perfectly honest, it scares me to post this. I dont want to be thought of as humorless, or feminazi, or any of a dozen other things. And I know that's internalized rape culture talking, which is why I chose to set the mood as 'defiant', because I'm defying both my own fears, and the general proscription that one doesn't talk about these things.)


Date: 2009-07-25 12:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ithisia.livejournal.com
To be perfectly honest - I think your feelings are very justified and that article is a wealth of higher awareness.

I think anyone who knows you, knows that you have a sense of humor. Sometimes it's just good to make sure folks know that there ARE things that are important. We all have stuff we're sensitive about because it has impacted us deeply and directly.
And, in sharing what that is, you can raise collective awareness about ways to prevent you and many others an uncomfortable set of situations.

Throwing a stone causes ripples.
I for one, am glad you posted this.
This is because it has impacted ME, and even if the topic wasn't direct and personal to me, I think I would want to know how to approach it and not to approach it for those that it has.

Edited Date: 2009-07-25 12:20 am (UTC)

Re: This

Date: 2009-07-26 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
Thank you. It was something that touched me, sent ripples into my thoughts, and I wanted to send those ripples on.

Date: 2009-07-24 10:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gfish.livejournal.com
That's a very good article.

Is it just me, or is (part of) the web suddenly growing up in regard to issues like this? I'm sure seeing a lot more very serious, very advanced talk recently. Ever since RaceFail, really. Which is odd, because at the same time it seems like comments on general-purpose public fora have reached a new low. The internet just can't anything by halves, I guess.

Date: 2009-07-24 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
Thank you. :) Positive feedback about it is very good to hear.

I'm uncertain if it is part of the web growing up, or if it is a combination of two other factors. There's Sturgeon's Law, that 90% of everything is crap. The internet is allowing a lot of crap to be generated by a *lot* of people, but also allowing for a proportional 10% that *isn't* heinous. The other factor being that with more people being interconnected, it's easier to get good and thoughtful ideas out of their intellectual ghettos, and integrated more into the mainstream. In other words, people are better able to find the 10% that's good, and to share it with their friends.


Date: 2009-07-25 12:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loba.livejournal.com
Thank you for posting; it is articulate, well-thought-out, and just plain good.

As for an answer to your implied question:
Ask every woman in your life if she has been sexually assaulted. Ask her to tell you her story...

Here's one of mine.

Re: **applauds**

Date: 2009-07-26 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
You're welcome. Thank you for sharing one of your stories.

Date: 2009-07-25 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] avhn.livejournal.com
Thank you for the link. I've been thinking a lot about this lately and hadn't seen that blog before.

Date: 2009-07-26 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
You're welcome.

Date: 2009-07-25 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lerryn.livejournal.com
I'll just note that I don't think your pointing this out makes you humorless. Despite being male, which I admit usually places me at one remove in discussions like this, I'm uncomfortable when (for example) in an online game someone says the group is "raping" a mission, and I point out that I consider it offensive. Similarly, I really don't like it when in Amtgard fighters refer to pole arms as "rapesticks." IMO, terms like that trivialize the offense and make a joke of it.

Date: 2009-07-26 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
Indeed they do. Thank you for being willing to call people on that.

Date: 2009-07-25 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] circuit-four.livejournal.com
I agonized and agonized over what sort of comment to leave here, if any at all. There are so many things I could have asked or said, and I felt they were all landmines. But I can't help pointing out that the very first exchange in the comments involves a piece of inadvertent humor from a spambot... that centers upon the incongruously awful and coincidental use of the word "rape."

So I guess that sums up how I feel. I am with you and Harriet 99.9% of the way on this issue. I think rape jokes based on an assumed detachment or callousness towards the survivor are not only tasteless and hurtful, as a rule of thumb, they're generally not going to be very good jokes anyway -- they generally rely on shock, and look at the mentality they cater to!

On the other hand, it makes me really queasy to hear people saying things of the form "X is never funny/appropriate/worthwhile," where X is any topic. I've laughed about human beings being ripped into hamburger by artillery fire. (Catch-22) I've laughed about quadruple amputees and bubonic plague (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). I've laughed about sweet old men whose minds were slowly turning into mush. (The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat). I've laughed at heroin overdoses. (Trainspotting) It goes without saying that in none of these situations was I laughing at the misfortune of those suffering. I also didn't need to go through the horrors of war, pestilence, famine, and madness myself in order to laugh at these things with a clean conscience. (I also understand that it might not be a great idea to watch these films with a recovering addict, wounded military vet, medieval plague victim, et cetera. :) )

And if a film or novel injects a note of humor into the absolute bleakness of sexual assault, I'll probably laugh at that too, especially if it's handled in a sensitive and thoughtful way. What can I say, I like black comedy. I think humor grants us forms of insight and relief that are worth the risk of wounded emotions. I think the important distinction is what you're being made to laugh at, and that's a criterion I do kinda wish Ms. Jacobs had spent more time on.

For me, it would probably have to be something that takes the awfulness of the act and the humanity of the victim as a given, rather than shutting down all compassion first. It would have to find something bitterly funny in the surroundings or circumstances, and not the violation itself -- because let's face it, life is that way. Humor comes in dark places. That's how people survive it. You find the strawberry ten seconds before the tiger eats you. That's pretty funny, really; the agony of the fatal mauling is not diminished by the irony of the strawberry's deliciousness, nor vice versa.

If all that is implicit in there somewhere -- that exceptions still can be made for context, skill, and intent -- then I agree with you and Harriet a full hundred percent. But I accept the statement "X is never Y" on very few occasions, usually involving Newtonian physics, and never involving any matter of human culture. :)
Edited Date: 2009-07-25 01:56 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-25 02:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] circuit-four.livejournal.com
(Wait, no, still 99.9%, because I have some bones to pick with her about the lynching example, too. I think she's a little bit too quick to pass judgment on people for using humor as a source of nervous release -- a largely involuntary act to start with. -.- But I think I've called down enough hell for one evening already. :) )

Date: 2009-07-26 06:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
No hell from me on this. :)

And if a film or novel injects a note of humor into the absolute bleakness of sexual assault, I'll probably laugh at that too, especially if it's handled in a sensitive and thoughtful way. [...] For me, it would probably have to be something that takes the awfulness of the act and the humanity of the victim as a given, rather than shutting down all compassion first. It would have to find something bitterly funny in the surroundings or circumstances, and not the violation itself -- because let's face it, life is that way.

If the conditions you give were in place, then yes, I could probably also find humor and laughter there. The problem is, in 99.9% of cases, your criteria aren't even given a nod, much less met, when a rape joke is made. Part of what's so screwed up in our culture is that neither the awfulness of the act, nor the humanity of the person it is perpetrated on *IS* a given. Otherwise, yeah, I am more than willing to grant that the possibility of a funny rape joke *can* exist, under the more enlightened criteria you posit.

The other problem though, is that for someone who was raped, and who has been subjected to the umpteen not-funny jokes, I wonder if that person would be able to recognize the exception, simply because of the prevalence of the not-funny ones.

Date: 2009-07-27 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] circuit-four.livejournal.com
Yeah, I think we're pretty much on the same page here. Thinking more about the subject, I decided the most important thing here is the premise. And let's face it, yeah, a large majority of humor involving rape is based on precisely the callous, dismissive premises that Harriet complains about. But I think that does mean that humor about the subject's not the problem -- of course, the underlying attitudes about sexual assault and the objectification of woman are the problem. Of course, objecting to ugly humor is still a legitimate way of combating those attitudes...

As for the reaction of someone who has been sexually assaulted, I think it's a matter of "good but not perfect." Yeah, people who have experienced that trauma themselves -- a horrifyingly large number of women, unfortunately -- have every right and reason to not treat this particular issue with the same calm dispassion as someone who hasn't, and they deserve every respect and accommodation for it. I just don't want that to become a normative thing that blocks out all of a category of potentially transgressive -- and thus both potentially offensive and potentially artful/insighful -- speech, just for being on an offensive topic.

Again, though, IMHO any attempt at humor or satire that took the mainstream sexist view on sexual assault is already profoundly likely to be crappy humor -- on the grounds that it's ALREADY failed the insight test from step one, by failing to look beyond or challenge social norms like good satire should. So yeah, I mostly just want this proviso around for those uncommon -- but very important -- cases where somebody actually wants to say something offensive and uncomfortable in order to provoke insight about women's bodies, not just reinforce dumb sexist notions about them...

Ramble ramble ramble. n.n

Date: 2009-07-25 03:52 am (UTC)
maribou: (Default)
From: [personal profile] maribou
Just agreeing that you are very brave for posting this despite your anxiety, and that I don't think you are humorless or otherwise overly controlling for having posted it.

Date: 2009-07-26 06:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
Thank you. :)

Date: 2009-08-05 03:35 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-08-05 04:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-crow.livejournal.com
Thank you for sharing this link. I read it, and the other two articles linked within it. I'm.. processing at the moment, but there are valuable things in these as well.


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