Let me start out by explaining that I’m a pretty ardent first amendment advocate. I believe it IS absolutely your right to publicly spout whatever vile bullshit you so choose (so long as it isn’t slanderous, etc). But I also believe just as strongly that it’s ABSOLUTELY my right (and responsibility, and perhaps even privilege at times) to call you out for your horseshit, dissect it for lies, half-truths, and failures in reason, and then hold you up for as much ridicule and public shaming as I can muster. Freedom of speech always has two edges. Rape jokes are very much the same for me. I will never argue that it should be illegal to make a rape joke, but you better believe I’ll be watching you like a hawk for a reason to verbally eviscerate you if the joke falls into sad, tired misogynist tropes of victim-blame and rapist-apologizing. Unfortunately, the stand-up community seems to heartily misunderstand a distaste of victim-blaming “humor” invoking rape topics as a desire to censor…and that’s just simply not the case. We’re just looking for a little congnizance, a glimmer of recognition of the problem at hand.
Cue today’s reblog from Patton Oswalt. I happen to think that Patton is a very funny and intelligent guy, and I believe we see eye-to-eye on lots of things. So when I stubbled across a lengthy blog post from him with “rape jokes” in the title, I was more than a little concerned that I’d be reading yet another length defense of rape humor, and more indictments of feminists as a bunch of folks out to push censorship onto humor. Happily, I was rather taken aback at what I read, and completely impressed by Patton’s very public missive about the realization he had made, and the enormous shift in his views on the matter. Even more impressive was level of responsibility he takes for his actions, and his admission of the mistakes he had made. While it’s a lengthy posting (Mr Oswalt makes my writing look concise by comparison), it’s absolutely worth a read. But I’d like to share the one bit that stood out to me, and absolutely made my day:
Let’s go backwards through those bullshit conclusions, shall we? First off: no one is trying to make rape, as a subject, off-limits. No one is talking about censorship. In this past week of re-reading the blogs, going through the comment threads, and re-scrolling the Twitter arguments, I haven’t once found a single statement, feminist or otherwise, saying that rape shouldn’t be joked under any circumstance, regardless of context. Not one example of this.
In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punchline, and make sure it isn’t the victim.
Why, after all of my years of striving to write original material (and, at times, becoming annoyingly self-righteous about it) and struggling find new viewpoints or untried approaches to any subject, did I suddenly balk and protest when an articulate, intelligent and, at times, angry contingent of people were asking my to apply the same principles to the subject of rape? Any edgy or taboo subject can become just as hackneyed as an acceptable or non-controversial one if the exact same approach is made every time. But I wasn’t willing to hear that.
Thank you, Mr Oswalt. Your introspection and willingness to admit your mistakes in such a public manner have earned you a huge measure of my respect. I hope the rest of the stand-up community takes a cue from you.