How far is too far?
Once again, technology has allowed us a platform where points can be argued without us having to unravel from the cocoon of blankets formed as protection from the cold. Hurray, technology (for now)! However, it seems like we humans may still need a little more help regarding what we allow as a part of our culture.
Recently, in a whatsapp chat group, the issue of rape reared its head in the form of a joke. This was a demostrational drawing, giving instructions on how a man should defend himself if ever a ‘female rapist’ should try to steal his ‘precious seed’.
Some of us found it funny – some, not so much – and some (i.e. me) were left feeling rather confused at how to react. I could not tell whose side the joke seemed to be rooting for. This put me in the perfect position for observation when the ‘Why this rape joke is offensive’ debate ensued.
“I agree that it seems offensive, but…”
One side of the argument stated that offence and/or shock value of this image was used as a tool for awareness. This is true for many social issue campaigns that have been crafted throughout our generation. For example, an anti-prejudice campaign shows four babies in a nursery. Three of the babies are dressed in diapers but one baby (who appears to be hispanic) is dressed in domestic worker uniform. There is another one, from the same campaign, with a black baby dressed in contracter’s uniform. At the top left corner of each advertisement, there is a caption that reads “Your skin colour shouldn’t dictate your future”.
In a nutshell, this side argued that the material forwarded to the group actually forces the recipient to think twice about the issue, seeing it in a new light, rather than just brushing it off. It also awakens the public to rarely spoken issues such as male sexual harassment.
“It does not seem offensive; it is offensive.”
On the other side sat Samantha, whose nimble fingers jabbed at her touch screen to string together some powerful points. The point was that the image actually trivialised the issue by turning it into a joke. Not just any joke; one that perpetuates rape culture.
The thing about the image is that it involved the man in defence grabbing the woman’s breasts, with captions instructing him to kick her ‘right in the front butt’. The image did not contain any other captions about the seriousness of victimisation and sexual harrassment. If anything, the man in defence seemed to be the one enjoying it (to me, anyway). Ultimately, all of us could not help but agree with Samantha’s point. For a serious issue such as this, if there was any intention to teach, this intention took a detour and it never came back.
Sometimes we can get so lost in fast and sinister humour that it takes time to recognise when something is just not okay. With the internet and social media making it easy for anything to go viral, where do we draw the line at what we, or the public should find funny? How far is too far and (more importantly) if things are to be done in good taste, what must be done?
Sam made a good point; if someone had not interjected, the conversation most likely would have continued down the road of why a white boy is wearing a loin cloth. It is likely that nothing would have been said about the harmful nature of the joke.
There is, indeed a time for meaningless humour, and we can all laugh as much as we want, so long as it is not harmful. And if it is a serious issue that our society struggles with, spreading it around for laughs is really not the way forward. When something serious in our culture is being expressed so lightly, we should be able to see it, recognise it and nip it right in the bud before it flourishes.