Trigger Warning: Rape
Writer and comedian Lindy West is finding herself faced with rape threats. Why? Because she dared to call out rape culture in comedy.Last Thursday, West (below) appeared on FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell to have a debate with comic Jim Norton about censorship in comedy, with focus on rape jokes in particular, and how they contribute to rape culture. The debate has caused a great deal of controversy. West described the feedback as:
“And how did they try and prove me wrong? How did they try to demonstrate that comedy, in general, doesn’t have issues with women? By threatening to rape and kill me, telling me I’m just bitter because I’m too fat to get raped, and suggesting that the debate would have been better if it had just been Jim raping me.
This isn’t just coming from anonymous trolls. Local comics — whom I know and work with — have told me to shut the fuck up. One hopes I’ll fall down a flight of stairs. (He later apologized—to my boyfriend, not me.)”
This is rage inducing for so many reasons–West’s point was that one has to understand the situation behind a joke before they make it. When people don’t get the joke, taking it too seriously or calling the offended “too sensitive,” it contributes to a big problem. Telling someone they’re “too fat to be raped” or “it would have been better if the show was just [Norton] raping you” is unacceptable, especially when the response is to someone saying they’re uncomfortable with a very violent sexual act. The reason rape jokes are particularly sensitive as it’s so complex–the way our society handles it is women get taught “don’t get raped,” rather than teaching men “don’t rape.” (Men get raped too, and women can be rapists, yes, but the prevalent problem seems to be with men raping women.)
These responses are only proving West right–our culture is so messed up when it comes to dealing with rape culture. This isn’t a matter of whether or not she’s hypersensitive, this is a matter of a woman who is being threatened with violence simply because she didn’t agree with a man’s take on rape jokes. It happens more often and in more subtle ways than outright saying “I’m going to rape you.” On Twitter a few weeks ago, Katy Perry commented that she wasn’t a fan of Chief Keef’s song called “I Hate Being Sober.” Keef’s response?
“Dat (sic) bitch Katy Perry Can Suck Skin Off Of my Dick […] Ill (sic) Smack The Shit out her.”
Instead of calling him out on his vulgar attitude towards her, Perry wound up apologizing to him. Katy Perry apologized to Chief Keef. Not the other way around. The scary thing is, Chief Keef is only seventeen, and thinks it’s acceptable to talk to women or anyone like that. “But he’s just a kid! He doesn’t know any better, he’s just being stupid” some people may think upon reading this exchange. Yes, he is stupid, but that’s no excuse for talking like that.
West and Perry’s experiences are examples as to why we need better education about rape and rape culture. West and Perry should not be faced with threats of sexual violence for expressing distaste over an opinion/song. Perry had no reason to apologize to Chief Keef. She was the one being threatened, not him. I’m finding more and more people who think it’s okay to use rape as a verb. It’s not. It’s not just a word, it’s an act of sexual violence that our society doesn’t seem to have a real grip on for whatever reason.
What’s your take, LivLunatics? How can we teach about rape/rape culture in a way that will get people to stop making light of such an awful and complex thing? What do you think of West and Perry’s individual responses?