Do Unto Others

Rachel has a good take on the whole Tosh thing. And I read the account of what happened and it seems like the woman genuinely did not know who Tosh was or what his schtick is.

But I’d be surprised if he lead off with the rape “joke.” Which means she sat through some minutes of his stereotypes about black men and Asians and gay guys and on and on. If you’ve seen his show, you can imagine how his stage act goes. He built up to his rape “jokes,” I’m guessing.

And yes, I get why people are disturbed that people in the audience laughed and didn’t also leave when Tosh was all, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

But why doesn’t anyone get up and leave when he says the first racist thing?

I’m not trying to turn this into the Oppression Olympics. In fact, I’m kind of trying to ask the inverse of that–if you want to live in a world where people don’t say bullshit evil things about you as a “joke,” why would you sit there through the parts where he’s saying bullshit evil things about other people as a joke? Why isn’t it worth leaving at the first sign of bullshit?

We need to be better about this kind of stuff. This woman, fine, she didn’t know who he was. (It’s hilarious that she thought he was some kind of terrible amateur). But if you do, just think about how fucked up it is to sit around saying “Oh, I can listen to his racist jokes or his homophobic jokes, because they don’t really affect me and I find some of them funny, you know, in a hipster, ironic way” and then be all “My god! He’s making rape jokes. He must be stopped!”

Rachel has a call to action over at her place. Here’s my call to action. When you are watching something or listening to something or reading something and you kind of think “hey, this is a little fucked up,” don’t just ignore that feeling or think you’re making too much out of nothing. Consider it carefully. Decide if it really is fucked up. And if it is, go ahead and let it be ruined for you. Let it be ruined for you long before someone is standing on stage speculating about how hilarious it’d be if that girl got raped. Let it be ruined for you at the first signs of bullshit.

You don’t have to go through life at the default of “everyone deserves to be punched in the face.” But you can stop giving repeat offenders the benefit of the doubt. When they tell you who they are, believe it.

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16 thoughts on “Do Unto Others

  1. He makes rape jokes *all. the. time,* so I’d say starting off with that is equally as likely as any of the other types of hateful, bigoted shit he says. It’s also possible that an audience member became increasingly uncomfortable hearing the other material, and the rape jokes were the proverbial straw…That said, I absolutely agree with you that all of the stereotypes and isms are problematic, and we should be attuned to them.

    “Decide if it really is fucked up. And if it is, go ahead and let it be ruined for you.” – Yes, this. Many people are way invested in defending this shit. I don’t know if they’re afraid that acknowledging the problem puts some blame on them for enjoying it in the past, or if they just genuinely are bigoted a-holes who think the rest of us just don’t have a sense of humor.

  2. This dovetails nicely with the whole hipster racism problem and the bizarre persistent middle-school-type peer pressure that suffuses all aspects of our relationship with popular culture. If something is terrible and shitty and mean and untrue, then it is. And if it is said by someone you think is cool or are supposed to think is cool but they clearly aren’t because they are saying terrible things, then it’s okay to not think they’re cool. If you lose friends over that then you’ve just learned something about the quality of your friends. If you’re called out for letting it slide in the past, then just acknowledge that and go on. It’s okay to change your mind.

    (Uh, this comment makes perfect sense in my head, but now that I re-read it, it might not out in the wild.)

  3. Brazilla, I think that’s really insightful. It dovetails nicely with my belief that our culture is all the time replicating these really bizarre, abusive dynamics and pressuring all of us to accept in a general way what we are appalled about when someone has to accept it in a specific way.

    Like, if a comedian says to a girl “Oh, you’re only dating that black guy because he has a big dick,” that’s supposed to be funny. But if some woman said that to her daughter, we’d be like “What the fuck is wrong with that woman?”

    It’s kind of a fucked dynamic because, yes, there are a core group of people who probably find racist and sexist humor hilarious, but then there are a lot of us who are socialized to not make waves, to just go along and be “cool” with things.

    I don’t really care about changing the first group. Eh, fuck ‘em.

    But I’d like that second group to say “Wow, it’s a big world. I could spend my time and money on anything else.” The thing is, I’ve lost faith in the idea that they just don’t know better. I think they do. I think it’s just easier to go along.

  4. I think I get what you’re saying, and it’s a valid point. But you’re perilously close to an argument I find troubling. I hear a lot these days that if you aren’t offended by all racist/sexist/whatever then you can’t be offended by some particular part of it. Like we all have to draw the line in the same place in order for our opinion to be counted.

  5. I certainly don’t think we all have to draw the line in the same place, but I DO think we need to be more thoughtful about the stuff we just go along with. I have to have this conversation with myself constantly because I was definitely socialized to just go along and not make waves.

  6. W., I see what you’re saying and I did worry that this post skirts awfully close to blaming the victim. But what I’m trying to get at is that most people will tell you who they are right up front (even if they don’t realize they’re doing so).

    I’m not saying that you have to stand up and denounce the first shitty thing a person says. Or that you even necessarily have to be offended by it.

    I am saying that it should raise a red flag and that it’s really okay, preferably really, to act on those initial red flags. It doesn’t have to be showy. In fact, if you’re not really offended, just recognizing that it’s shitty, it’s probably not going to be showy.

  7. If I may offer another example of this same dynamic: I don’t like the ‘Final Destination’ movies. I see them as nothing more than snuff films thinly disguised as sci-fi/horror. It’s as if the filmmakers are trying to peddle the idea that there’s something artful about watching people suffer and die in cartoonish, Rube Goldberg fashion. I suppose I would say the same thing about the ‘Saw’ franchise, though I’ve only seen snippets of that, as well. Pointless suffering and death as insanely popular entertainment is deeply problematic for me, especially considering the reach and grasp of our nation’s imperial machine and our leaders’ penchant for kidnapping, torturing, and exterminating people for little or no reason (not to mention the explosion of our prison-industrial complex, and all the sadism inherent to that and to the creeping militarization of all levels of our law enforcement).

    I don’t campaign loudly against the films in question, or others of their ilk; but I refuse to watch them, and I may offer a brief comment when I see someone watching one of them at the firehouse.

  8. Well, maybe the woman in question was kind of racist. I don’t think it really matters. That doesn’t make it any less valid that she shouldn’t have rape threats shouted at her as a joke.

  9. Maybe the woman didn’t think of herself as racist, and maybe most folks in the audience didn’t think of themselves as misogynistic, either. If I’m reading her correctly, B’s point isn’t that the woman had it coming. It’s that if she’d had as little tolerance for vile bullshit that was directed at others as she had for that directed at her, she’d have been gone already. In fact, if everyone in the audience had such low tolerance, Tosh would have been standing there alone.

  10. Thanks, Sam. That’s my point. But the thing is, i don’t even think she has to be racist or okay with him joking about raping guys or whatever lead up to this point. I’m saying that there’s always a certain percentage of douches in any crowd who do find that shit funny. Fine. Fuck them. I’m not trying to reach them.

    I would like to reach the people who are uncomfortable, but who either laugh along because everyone is laughing or who sit there and don’t laugh because they think it’d be rude to leave. Or they go in the first place, even knowing that the material is not for them, because they don’t want to seem like a killjoy by saying “No thanks.”

    A lot of us receive a lot of training to just not make a big deal out of things (i.e. put up with it). All I’m asking is that you consider that you can also not make a big deal out of things and refuse to accept it.

    It’s not rude to recognize that someone’s whole schtick is abusing people and seeing if they’ll take it (or laughing because they have no choice but to take it) and shrugging your shoulders and leaving long before he gets to the point where he’s abusing you.

    That’s all I’m saying. If he shows you he’s an abuser, believe him and act then, before you’re in his crosshairs.

    I’m not condemning her for not realizing it until he was turning his audience on her.

    But I am saying that there are a lot more people a lot more familiar with his whole approach to comedy who sit in his audiences or watch his show, who should think about what happens when he turns his attention to them.

  11. Well, Gene, you’re entitled to your feelings, but at this point, I have to say, I don’t get what your motivation for continuing to bring it up is. We can have a disagreement. That’s cool.

    But you can’t just keep repeating yourself and expect… I guess that’s the thing… expect what, exactly? I’m not motivated by your approval. I’m motivated by thoughtful discussion.

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