A friend pointed me to the latest media uproar over a rape joke. It involves Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, which I generally quite like. But like too many successful entertainers (and everything-elsers), Inman lacks a basic understanding of what rape culture is, and how it manifests itself in mainstream culture and media. (He also doesn’t know how to apologize; Another common deficiency best solved with a little therapy at best, media training at minimum.)
It should be simple. Jokes at the expense of the powerful (the rapist, in this context) have the potential to be both funny and ethical. Jokes at the expense of the powerless (in this instance, the victim,) not so much. That’s not a feminist rule, it’s how comedy works. As George Carlin explains, “it all depends on how you construct the joke; what the exaggeration is.” In response to the recent Daniel Tosh rape-joke brouhaha, feminists Kate Harding and Lindy West explained how to construct a rape joke that works, and provided 15 examples.
Alas, discussion of the issue is still plagued with ‘comedy has no rules’ rants that leave no room for the nuances of joke construction, and on the other side, rage over blatant misogyny hiding behind the guise of “humor” that leaves many feeling there’s no such thing as a funny rape joke. We’ve managed to grow past this point with jokes about other innate traits like race and sexual orientation, but for some reason we’re still stuck on what is fundamentally a gender issue.
There’s no neat little bow with which to tie this one up, but it’s a nice introduction to a post I’ve been working on for a while. So as a segue, I’ll leave you with this… How would this issue be different if there were more mainstream female comedians? Think on it, and stay tuned…