If you are at this page, it’s quite likely because I linked you here after a conversation online. Go ahead, vent. I’m the “thought police” or this is “political correctness gone mad” or I’m a “Social Justice Warrior” (What does that make you? A Social-Justice-Warrior Warrior? Good luck with that one pal.) If this is the case, please scroll to the appropriate heading.

I want to point out a few behaviours that are not okay, and try to explain why. I’ll do this a bit through links, because a lot has been said on these topics already, so I’m going to pull from a few sources who have very eloquently said what’s the problem.

“Edgy” jokes or “There’ll be nothing left to joke about”

Hi guy (I mean this as gender-neutral if that’s alright with you). Your joke about race wasn’t funny because it was racist. A racist joke is one that plays into stereotypes about a broad category of people based on their ethnicity, where the oppressed is the butt for the joke rather than the oppressor.

Least you start whining that “political correctness” is going to ruin comedy and then we’ll have nothing to joke about, let me first point out that comedy isn’t sacred. Now, on to a non-exhaustive list of comedy styles that would not be affected were no-one ever allowed to make jokes at the expense of oppressed social groups again.

  • Black comedy
  • Blue comedy (including that which uses using sexism, racism, and homophobic views, as long as the butt of the joke is not the victim/oppressed)
  • Character
  • Cringe
  • Deadpan
  • Improvisation
  • Mockumentary
  • Non-sequitur
  • Observation
  • Satire
  • Spoof
  • Sitcom
  • Sketch
  • Slapstick
  • Surrealism
  • Wordplay/wit

Keep in mind, this does not mean you cannot make jokes about race (or rape, or whatever), it simply means it is inappropriate when the butt of the joke is the victim/survivor, or oppressed person, rather than the person doing the oppression or committing the crime, or our society, authority, or ideals. You can still do a rape joke or a race-based joke, just don’t be a dick about it.

If you’re trying to be “edgy” maybe you should find another way to do it, because this could easily go wrong. At the very least, if you’re going to make jokes about rape, as Lindy West says (she covers the rape joke controversy pretty well in my opinion), be prepared to be called out. The same goes for race. If you’re not a professional comedian, or funny person for a profession, you will very likely fuck it up (and even the pros do. All. The. Time.)

David Cross has a fairly decent joke about rape that makes fun of authority rather than victim and Louis C.K. one that is essentially about not being a rapist. The sometimes-controversial Louis C.K. gets away with quite a bit because, as West says: “[He] has spent 20 years making it very publicly clear that he is on the side of making things better. The oppressors never win at the end of his jokes.”

Trolling

When did “trolling” become an excuse for people to be outright assholes? I feel like trolling has become so accepted that we just write it all off instead of understanding that that person is being a dick. I also often feel like people use trolling as an excuse to say whatever they like and face no social consequences.

Let me be clear — if you are trolling people based on racism, gender, ableism, religion, sexual orientation, you are an asshole. You are not funny. You are perpetuating harmful ideas, and people often can not tell you don’t believe those ideas (in some cases, even you possibly).

stoppit

This excludes sarcasm and satire. Just make damn sure people know it’s sarcasm.

Reverse racism or “White people face racism too”

No. No they don’t. Any example that you try to come up with to prove your point here is not going to work. Either, because it’s going to make you look like even more of an asshole than you already are, or because it will make you look ignorant to people who know better, or both. White people need to learn the difference between someone being rude or mean to them and racism.

Racism ≠ Xenophobia

Someone simply calling you white is not racism, much like the act of describing someone as black or African American or Indian is not racist. If you follow an ethnic determiner up with stereotypes or inferences about them based on their race, yeah, that’s racism, but merely mentioning it? No, not if you have a good reason (like you’re trying to describe someone). Actually, interestingly, if you avoid mentioning race when necessary to describe someone, you might appear more racist.

Because a lot has been written and said on the topic of “reverse-racism” already, I’m going to link to a few things here.

I like this one because it’s short and succinct:

Let’s start from the beginning. Your first step is to accept that “a hatred or intolerance of another race” is not the definition of racism. The dictionary is wrong. Get over it.

Racism is when intolerance in government laws, attitudes and ideals of a society are ingrained in a culture to the point where patterns of discrimination towards a certain race are institutionalized as normal. If you keep this in mind, you’ll understand that reverse racism doesn’t — and can’t — exist.

I feel like everyone in the world has probably seen this by now, but I will add it because I think it illustrates my point perfectly:

Although I don’t 100% agree with everything said about class here, the basic concept is good:

When a group of people has little or no power over you institutionally, they don’t get to define the terms of your existence, they can’t limit your opportunities, and you needn’t worry much about the use of a slur to describe you and yours, since, in all likelihood, the slur is as far as it’s going to go. What are they going to do next: deny you a bank loan? Yeah, right.

So whereas “nigger” was and is a term used by whites to dehumanize blacks, to imply their inferiority, to “put them in their place” if you will, the same cannot be said of honky: after all, you can’t put white people in their place when they own the place to begin with.

Power is like body armor. And while not all white folks have the same degree of power, there is a very real extent to which all of us have more than we need vis-à-vis people of color: at least when it comes to racial position, privilege and perceptions.
[…]
Objectification works against the disempowered because they are disempowered. The process doesn’t work in reverse, or at least, making it work is a lot tougher than one might think.

There’s a world of resources available on this topic, so I’ll leave it here. Please educate yourself. Google (and Bing) are there for you.

Tone policing or “I would’ve listened if they hadn’t been so angry”

I’ve seen this one a lot: “It’s a shame you can’t be less emotional about this,” and its sneaky cousin “Why are you getting so upset?”

This is a tricky one. On one hand, I’d strongly encourage people to try to be more polite and understanding to each other as often as possible. This does mean that it’s a good idea to try to disengage from your emotions and try to be as nice as you can muster. This can be exhausting and confusing though … and again, it’s all about power, and who has it within existing structures.

Most of the time when I’ve seen this tactic employed, it’s a silencing tactic; it’s nasty, underhanded and manipulative. It’s usually people with privilege telling people without privilege that they’re getting their knickers in a twist and they should be reasonable.

You know what? I don’t think you’re reasonable if you expect someone whose life is impacted daily by a social problem (let’s say racism) to not react emotionally to that. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have feelings about things that affect you. Women get these accusations of being upset a bit more than men in my experience. Women of colour even more so ( “I’m not being racist or anything, but WOC are just angry, y’know?” No, I don’t know.)

I do think it’s unreasonable when white people think race jokes are hilarious and refuse to admit they can hurt people, tell POC (people of colour) not to get so upset. This is tone policing. This is a shitty thing to do. Maybe someone’s anger makes you uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean it’s their job to alter their feelings.

On tone policing:

Marginalized people often do not have the luxury of emotionally distancing themselves from discussions on their rights and experiences.
[…]
Tone policing is the ultimate derailing tactic. When you tone police, you automatically shift the focus of the conversation away from what you or someone else did that was wrong, and onto the other person and their reaction. Tone policing is a way of not taking responsibility for fucking up, and it dismisses the other person’s position by framing it as being emotional and therefore irrational.

I hope you have found this post helpful in some way. I apologise for the swearing. I was a bit angry. But my points were still valid.

Advertisements