Sunday, June 9, 2013

Using rape jokes to make a point

While writing about rape jokes several related things came up that seem to be noteworthy. Or at least related to the previous discussion.

It turns out that this back and forth happened on Twitter:

When confronted, Glenn Greenwald doubled down:
Zerlina Maxwell discusses the subject:
“Leveraging rape in that manner is unconscionable,” Gandy told theGrio. And there are certainly racial overtones to the comment, considering the historic narrative of black men being sexually aggressive and even accused rapists in the Jim Crow south. For the first black president to be disparaged in this way is wholly unacceptable.
“All [Greenwald] had to do was apologize,” said Gandy.
Disagreements with the administration for drone attacks that kill innocent civilians, the detainment of terror suspects, and the prison at Guantanamo Bay remaining open are par for the course. Healthy debate on substance is always important. What is not par for the course is a prominent blogger not only condoning a disparaging comment about the president and rape, but reiterating that it is a valid point to make.
Rape should never be employed to make a point — any point — no matter how noble the intent. It is not a tool to be leveraged as a metaphor. Rape is a vicious crime, and the casual nature in which Greenwald condoned the use of rape to attack those who have a different opinion from his own is deeply disturbing.

As an aside, who is Zerlina Maxwell? If the name sounds familiar, it's because Jill Filipovic said she disappeared due to sexism in the workplace. Apparently the best example of sexism in the workplace (in particular, the tech industry) is a seemingly self employed political writer.

But more on that another day.

Back to how awful it us to use rape to make a political point.

Just who would do that? Jamie Kilstein would! Previously, in a way reminiscent of Greenwald's nun rape comparison, Kilstein joked about Obama randomly stabbing strangers.

Would Kilstein stoop so low as to use rape to criticize his opponents?

In a word, yes.
And would Kilstein make a more run of the mill rape joke?

Of course.

And then PZ, of course, won't be left out:

PZ Myers says: "After a rape, you know, you want to wash yourself off and clean up" (groans and laughter)

Once again, the "progressive" and "feminist" heroes fail to see in themselves what they would criticize in others.



  1. Not really, as usual context is something you are unable to understand for some reason. Presumably as you want to score some cheap point you claim the position is that rape jokes are never funny... Admittedly no one on FTB will assert that rape victims should or will ever find them funny, some might.

    So reading comprehension and actually knowing what your targets think and believe might make your critique of them more effective.

    Poll on rape jokes - majority say sometimes funny.

    A flow chart! Tell me how PZs joke ends up as not funny in this chart? It doesn't as the victim is not the butt of the joke.

    Finally Greta commenting on how Lindy West says pretty much the same thing - context is important.

    If you want simple binary morality I suggest taking up a religion or two. In the real world things are rarely that simple.

    1. My original post about rape jokes was sourced in hyperventilating from writers + commenters on Jezebel.

      And I'm aware of the excuses they'll make (see fifth paragraph of )

      Presumably, Daniel Tosh is an evil villain for wishing the worst on a heckler.

      However, what the 'feminists' missed is Jamie Kilstein saying the women hecklers in his audience didn't have a personality because they had a vagina.

      And then there is the other Onion saga ( )

      I think it's cute that FTB more or less agrees with my position about rape jokes.

      However their friends, Skepchick, Jezebel and the Atheism+ forums, may not.

      This stuff is triggering, this stuff doesn't create a 'safe space' and this stuff is assured to be against conference policy.

    2. Well as for A+ I said rape survivors won't find any mention funny as they can trigger PTSD.... So clearly a safe space for people that include survivors is not a place for trying out your new rape joke. Same for a conference where there may be rape survivors. Its rather different if you are consciously going to an "edgy" comedian. What part of a professional conference needs rape jokes! Ban them otherwise you end up with fuck ups like this -

      I'd say its pretty common on A+ forum and elsewhere to have no problems with rape jokes that punch up. That's the clear rule and I've not seen many deviations from that. How else to you explain the acceptance of Wanda Sykes "detachable vagina" routine being seen as OK and Louis CK getting away with rape jokes? Any that make fun of rape culture and not the victim are usually seen as fine...

      Seems weird for this to be such a big deal, what is funny about someone being raped FFS.

    3. It my other post I itemize other types of jokes that may be problematic. Do you also have a problem with jokes about Roman Catholic priests, Chris Brown and dead babies?

      I'm guessing not, as if a conference was to be really be made safe for the easily "triggered", it would be best for PZ, you and I to be absent.

      In fact, as you seem to be suggesting, perhaps a true A+ conference would only have 1 or 2 FTB people. The rest of them seem keen to awkwardly laugh through PZ's "shower after rape" joke.

      Also, what is funny about a gas chamber? I've heard that come up in jokes a lot.

      If we're going to dissect comedy, let's get to it.

  2. So I assume that no feminist has ever used the term "rape" metaphorically to talk about patriarchal dominance?

    I'm curious, why is it never okay to make a rape joke or use rape as a metaphor when it's apparently perfectly fine to use other horrible things as metaphors, such as murder or, say, cancer? Because it's "triggering" to rape victims and trivializes their pain? Well, I imagine that casual references to murder or cancer are can be quite hurtful to those who've lost loved ones to either one, and in the second case also to people with cancer. Actually, I read a book a while back by a woman whose son was killed in a random stabbing on the New York subway (back when it was a pretty crime-ridden place), and she mentioned that every time she sees a humorous reference to murder (like an ad for a mystery play that says something like, "An evening of murder, mayhem, and good old-fashioned fun!"), she feels like it twists a knife in her gut.

    So why is rape different? Because women are so fragile they'll crumble from a joke? It's kind of ironic that this attitude actually perpetuates a very archaic belief about rape as "a fate worse than death."

    (Also, personally, I think rape is far more trivialized by feminist rhetoric that equates unwanted sexual attention with rape than it is by a rape joke based on the premise that rape is a horrible act.)

    1. Precisely!

      These people that would make the rules for us don't really think them through. Instead of merely stating what they find offensive, they go as far as to state that what they find offensive is the most offensive of offensive things. It's entirely shortsighted and they can't recall their own transgressions of their own rules.

      And as you say, they're really good at trivializing rape and using it as a football.

    2. The more I think about it, the more this whole "triggering" fuss seems stupid and annoying. It's impossible to go through life without accumulating at least some painful experiences and memories that may be "triggered" by certain mundane things. The barrage of Father's Day and Mother's Day advertising in the weeks leading up to those holidays can be an ordeal for people who have recently lost a parent (particularly ads that say things like, "There's still time to buy a gift for Mom/Dad!"); I went through this two year ago when my father passed away three weeks before Father's Day. The sight of young children can be excruciating to people who are dealing with miscarriage, infertility, or even the death of a child. There are countless other examples. The reality is that, as an adult, you learn to deal with those things rather than ask all of society to avoid certain subjects to spare your sensitivity. If a person is so badly traumatized that they fall to pieces when something related to their trauma is mentioned, I feel terrible for them and I hope that they will get help, but when they try to censor others to mandate deference to their condition, my sympathy evaporates.

    3. Indeed, because of these people, the word 'feminism' itself triggers something at least in me, and therefore presumably in a not small segment of the populus. Coming to sex-positive sites that declare themselves feminist makes me look for the hidden patriarchy-believers.