In his interview with Russia Times, Doug Stanhope, who will be part of The Amazing Meeting’s entertainment at 9pm Friday night, gives full-throated defense of Daniel Tosh’s right to make rape jokes — which right nobody has actually denied.
But not just rape jokes — also the right to suggest that it would be humorous if five men suddenly started raping an audience member who dared to say that rape jokes aren’t actually funny.
What’s interesting is that there are, in fact, funny rape jokes — but those jokes usually involve sniping at the purveyors and maintainers of a rape culture that allows rape to happen, rather than at the victims of rape (who are largely women). Punching up vs punching down is important if you want to make jokes about a topic without being seen as a complete and utter asshole. When you are privileged with not having to think about and/or actively avoid being raped, you have to consider that some other folks do not have that privilege, and making jokes at their expense is punching down.
And not just for jokes on the topic of rape, but also jokes about mentally handicapped folks. (As though anyone said anything about the word “retard” prior to Stanhope bringing it up.) You can make jokes about mental handicaps without kicking underprivileged or neuro-atypical folks. It’s been done. George Carlin and Richard Pryor come to mind immediately.
The interesting thing is, nobody has ever said these comedians don’t have the right to make these jokes. What they’ve said is that people will probably judge them to be terrible human beings for it. What the heckler/blogger expressly said was that she does not find jokes made at the expense of victims of rape funny, ever. And her view isn’t unique — neither do I.
This isn’t even a case of someone using slurs in an environment built to disarm them, like Tim Wick’s Vilification Tennis — where everyone involved agrees that the insults are terrible and nobody should make them (and that’s why nothing is off-limits). This is a full-throated defense of the right to make these insults as though the insults carry no import or meaning, and that to judge someone’s messaging as odious is to deny them the right to craft that message.
Interestingly, Stanhope expressly slurs The Amazing Meeting and its attendants as a place where bitter and miserable skeptics and atheists who like rape jokes get together. Now while this isn’t necessarily an unfair assessment, doesn’t that make it seem as though — via the same availability heuristic cognitive bias that DJ blames for lowered TAM attendance by women — the convention is populated only by bitter, miserable people who like jokes about rape? Considering how few women apparently enjoy rape jokes themselves, and how many might avoid a venue filled with people like that (or even just the perception that it is filled with people like that!), couldn’t that sort of thing be exactly the same kind of “irresponsible messaging” that DJ Grothe blamed on female bloggers discussing convention harassment? Couldn’t that sort of messaging also contribute to the “mistaken” impression that TAM is not a particularly welcoming place to women?
I look forward to DJ’s take on this comic’s assessment of TAM. I am under no illusion that it will happen because I asked for it, though.