kirideth: (Horrorshow)
2011-09-16 11:34 am

On jokes made in poor taste.

I moderate a gaming chatroom. I see a lot of shit. Mountains of really crappy "jokes" made in an attempt to fit in with the community. Made under the pretense that people will respect you if you have the courage to say something controversial. The problem with that pretense, naturally, is that it's not all that controversial. These jokes are "safe" in that if someone tries to claim that they're offensive, that person is depicted to be in the wrong. So which is it, guys? Is it offensive and controversial, or isn't it? Are you actually taking a risk making those jokes? A risk that would merit the respect you seek? Or are you taking the easy way out? Conforming to what you think the group expects of you? You know. Since you always seem to claim that you don't ACTUALLY believe those things. They're just jokes, right?

We'll go with that for now. You can have the benefit of the doubt, and I'll assume you don't REALLY believe all those jokes you make. But you know what? There are people out there who do. I'm sure you've met them. I could probably name a regular or two in that chatroom I mentioned earlier who really, actually believe these things.(And if you're FROM said chatroom, I'd be willing to bet you could, too.) And there are probably more who've never outed themselves. Pick one. Any of them will do. Give yourself a concrete image of THAT PERSON. You know. The one who lives by those jokes, oblivious to the fact that they're supposed to be JOKES.

When you make those kinds of jokes. THAT PERSON thinks you agree with them. When you overreact to someone not liking your joke, claiming they're being too sensitive because it's obviously a joke? You're giving THAT PERSON a way to hide that they're not just joking. You're adding to the atmosphere that will assume that they're just joking, too. On top of that, you're making it harder to distinguish between the people who would never believe those things, and the people who do. And that has consequences for you. It means that fewer people are going to give you that benefit of the doubt. Because they can't tell if you're actually just joking, or if you're trying to hide being a jerk behind a joke like so many others do.

As for my experience. More often than not, it turns out that the person joking really is hiding hostilities behind the safety of "just joking". I can't speak for other groups that have jokes made about them. I can't even speak for all women. I can only speak for me. But as I understand it, I'm not alone. Nowhere close. I've been told "I'm just joking" or "I don't mean YOU" more times than I can count, only to later have this person demonstrate that their like or respect for women only lasts as long as the women in question conform to how they think women should act. And more often than not, this means never complaining about sexist jokes. Even better if they make the sexist jokes, themselves.

Maybe this doesn't seem like such a big deal to you. But it bothers some people. Indeed, it bothers a lot of people. Though a lot of these people get dismissed as per the "we only care about you if this doesn't bother you" mantra above. I wonder how many men would be upset if a group they wanted to be part of required them to make jokes about how men are idiots to fit in? I'm sure at least a few would.

Anyway. Joke on. But, please, do try to be aware of the context you're joking in. If it's an open forum, like a public chatroom, people may not know you well enough to be able to tell you from the assholes. Indeed, even your friends might not know you well enough. And please. If someone tries to tell you you're making them uncomfortable, try to consider that they might have reason to be, and that "HOW DARE YOU NOT ASSUME I'M JOKING" is a bit of an overreaction.