Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…..
Posted on January 16, 2010
I disagreed with a whole heap of stuff in Ellie Levenson’s “The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism” when it came out last year (see my Mswoman comments under this CiF piece for specific examples), but apart from her odious assertion that “we do women an injustice when we say that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It is, after all, just a penis.” top of the list was her claim, repeated in the Independent, that in some contexts so-called rape ‘jokes’ can not only be deemed to be acceptable, but they can also in fact be funny.
Because they’re not. Ever. They never have been and they never will be. They’re not funny when Ricky Gervais tells them, and they’re not funny when a Tory Councillor tells them either.
Here for example is Eddie Wake, a charming man who, up until Monday evening, was a Conservative councillor at Sunderland City Council (and who’s still a school governor at Oxclose Community School):
Wake was expelled from the Conservative party on Monday after word got out that a few weeks ago, at the end of a meeting where councillors had been discussing rape prevention measures with police, he decided to crack a rape ‘joke’, to a senior police inspector no less. A rape joke that was so cutting-edge and side-splittingly fucking hilarious that it led to a female councillor leaving the room in tears.
Interestingly, actually no, not interestingly, more like boringly soddingly predictably, Wake refused to apologise at the time. Instead, when he was challenged about his comments by Labour Councillor Dianne Snowdon, he whined “Come on, Dianne, you can’t joke about anything these days” and proceeded to tick off the list of oh-so-funny subjects the pc gawn maaad brigade have banned him from pointing and laughing at: like women and black people for instance.
It’s only now, now that he’s suddenly found his name splashed all over the papers and his fellow Conservatives treating him like he’s just stepped in something really really noxious, that Wake’s decided to come over all repentant.
Except that he hasn’t, not really, not when you look at the actual content of his pathetic apology:
“I made the remark when the meeting had closed, to a colleague.”
That’s not an excuse, as anyone who holds public office should know.
“It was an old joke and not a very good one and I bitterly regret the offence it has caused.”
This just comes across as an apology for telling a crap joke, not an apology for the offensive subject matter of the joke. And if he was really sorry for causing offence, then why didn’t he apologise at the time to the person who clearly was offended, instead of justifying it with all that pc gawn maaad Daily Mail shite?
“I am an effective councillor who asks awkward questions and I am not politically correct in any way but this time I have allowed that to cloud my judgment”
Translation: “I’m a bit of a tosser and I don’t intend to change, but in future I’ll try to be more careful about who I tell my sexist racist little anecdotes to. Maybe a council meeting where I’m likely to be overheard by a humourless femnazi isn’t the best place, but I bet the lads down the pub’ll still appreciate them.”
Or in other words “I’m sorry I was caught out this time” not “I’m sorry to any rape survivors out there who may have been upset by my crassness and complete insensitivity”
So anyway, to get back to Ellie Levenson and her view that so-called rape ‘jokes’ help break down the “rape taboo”, and that “humour is one of the natural ways humans work through their thoughts and feelings about difficult issues”: as I made clear at the beginning of this piece, I fundamentally disagree. After all, people like Eddie Wake aren’t interested in breaking down taboos, they’re only interested in demeaning and insulting women: rape jokes to men like them are just another weapon in an already vast arsenal.
As any survivor of sexual violence will tell you, there’s nothing funny about being raped. There’s also nothing funny about listening to yet another sexist bore trying to make light of it. And one of the last things we need in this context is alleged feminists giving the green light to such twisted misogynist bullshit.
But anyway, I’ve got a joke now, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a man walks into a council meeting and spouts a load of sexist tripe. Next thing he knows he’s been expelled from his party and is being investigated by the council’s standards committee.
What? What do you mean that’s not funny? Personally I think it’s fucking hilarious!
I first read this on LibCon and was mightily amused at your outing of the troll 🙂
Has a white dude in politics ever told a ‘dead British soldier’ joke and then accused those who didn’t find it funny of being oversensitive or part of the ‘PC police’? No? Didn’t think so.
Spot on Cath, as usual.
(ooops for the first effort)
I hope you didn’t lump me with the other comments made on LibCon. You probably didn’t even notice.
I may disagree with you on this topic, but you writing on Cif is brilliant and this http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/02/goodbye-noughties-global-capitalism
I agree with; hope.
Noble Savage, I am so remembering that comment for the next time someone accuses me of that!
No worries George, and thanks.
As for that LibCon thread – Jeez!
Can I echo George’s comments and also to apologise that my own personal troll made an already seething mess of comments even worse.
I was present at a LibDem candidate selesction meeting when the constituency leader, in the chair, made a sidesplitting remark about how, if our KLA friends, set up a brothel staffed by children kidnapped from Kosovo he would be eagerly in line. So basicallly rape jokes are wrong, child rape jokes may be wrong, but only when the victims are British.
Maybe it’s because I’m an American who only all-too-intermittently stays to be in the UK, but I think rape jokes are wrong no matter who’s the subject of the “joke” (even men! I’m sure the MRAs are shocked by that). Misogyny, racism, and rape culture is to be found everywhere, even among liberal/progressives/radicals (yes, I’ve even seen some disgusting examples re: rape from women who identify as feminists aimed at those they consider to be unworthy of feminism). No one becomes magically exempt just because they have a certain political view.
great article cath. nothing to add really. i’ve written about this on my blog and was surprised at people defending rape jokes, i just don’t get it!
I think Neil was being sarcastic Lucy.
“we do women an injustice when we say that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It is, after all, just a penis.”
That is one of the most appalling things I’ve ever read. That author shouldn’t even call herself a compassionate human being, let a lone a feminist/humanist.