It’s more than just ‘a joke’. Humour is old, humour is new. It can be basic, convoluted, quick, long-winded and it can be dogs that look like fried chicken. For those who devote their lives to it – it’s a daring step into unknown and unsettling territory. But whilst humour (and the internet) are forever, sexism, racism, transphobia, ableism, transmisogyny and queerphobia don’t have to be.
An inappropriate joke isn’t ‘just having a laugh’. We shouldn’t have to ‘lighten up, relax,’ or listen to ‘it’s ok, I don’t actually believe it.’ Because no matter what you say they are always doing harm – maybe not to those who hear the joke, but through these every day passing comments they normalise the inferiority of wom*n and non-cis male bodies in a casual, ‘socially accepted’ way. These jokes dominate our social spaces and perpetuate the way society still sees us as second-tier, from when we are children, through education, our workplaces, on the street and even our own homes.
As Sexual Harassment Officers, one of our main focuses this semester is to draw awareness to the harmful nature of oppressive comments and jokes.
Offensive jokes follow us everywhere. They might be in a tute, something going viral on social media, a meme, an ad, a lewd caption on a Tinder profile, in your favourite show, or maybe just a conversation at the dinner table with unfortunate family members. Some are subtle, some are more explicit – but all are wrong. There are many different types of uncomfortable – but if you feel hurt, humiliated, offended, uneasy or even if something just doesn’t sit right when you hear one of these ‘jokes’ – it’s always right to let them know. (If you feel safe and comfortable doing so!)
It’s always more than just ‘a joke’.
Olivia Borgese and Gina Tran