Thursday, February 13, 2014

Some "Jokes" Just Aren't Funny

Hello everyone, I hope you all had splendid weeks full of magic and purring kittens!

Before I delve into tonight's topic I just want to post a quick reminder that the Washington Chapter of the Modified Dollsauction to support the Not For Sale Campaign will be going on until this Saturday. I have entered a signed copy of "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" into the auction, and there are tons of other awesome items up for grabs. Seriously, check it out here!

I have a few disclaimers before I launch into this particular blog post. First off, I am a humor author, but I am also a social worker and community activist, so while my blog tends to stay on the lighter side of things, I feel that it is important to give a voice to some less than pleasant things on occasion. Second, while I work for the YWCA, the views expressed in this blog are my own, these are not necessarily the views of the organization for which I work. Finally, I wish to issue a trigger warning to anyone sensitive to the topics of rape or domestic violence.

Whew, lots of disclaimers this time around, but you all made it through like champs! I'm writing about this issue because, as a social worker and humor writer who currently resides in Spokane, I can hardly ignore something that is happening literally less than five miles from where I sleep at night.

This past Saturday I stood in out in the "spit goes clink" cold of downtown Spokane amongst protesters holding this sign:

Since my phone is both terrible at being a phone and a camera, you may have to click and enlarge that picture to read it.

Photo Courtesy of The Inlander
What were we protesting? In Spokane a brand new bar opened a couple weeks ago and they posted the drink list to the right online and in their bar.

As you peruse the drink names you might notice one that stands out, particularly because it is both a rather obnoxious color of purple and super-duper offensive. That's right, you read that correctly, "Date Grape Koolaid."

You can now get a thinly veiled rape pun at happy hour prices.

When asked nicely to change the name, the bar's owners not only refused to, but responded by mocking and belittling concerned community members, rape victims and basically anyone else who didn't "get the joke." I'm not going to go too much further into the background of the situation as several national news outlets have already done that for me.

So what's the big deal? It's just a cruddy drink name. Isn't this just another crazy feminist attempt to stop normal people from having fun?

If these were the first questions that popped into your head, you might find what I have to say next a little earth shattering. I hope you'll continue reading, though.

We live in a culture that glorifies rape and violence against women. This is not an opinion, but a fact. I could sit here and prove it to be true, but then this would cease to be blog post length and more like a PhD dissertation. If you need some immediate proof there is this very excellent article on rape culture or you could just go watch Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video (though I don't recommend the latter if you want to have any faith in humanity after the first 30 seconds).

In America it is estimated that sexual assault happens every two minutes. That's over 237,000 instances of sexual assault a year. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of either attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (numbers from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). Let me put that into perspective for you: An attempted or completed rape is nearly 7 times more likely to occur to you or someone you know than a fatal car accident (34,080 in 2012), fatal airplane accidents (794 in 2012) and lightning strikes (an average of 51 per year since 2008) combined.

Now here is where the humor writer side of me kicks in. Since starting to protest this issue, my fellow protestors and I have been accused by a plethora of people as having no sense of humor. Apparently, we just don't "get the joke" that creating an alcoholic drink name that sounds like "date rape" provides.

First, I'd like to ask, have you read my book? Because humor is kind of my deal.

So for those people who don't understand why this isn't funny, let me explain humor to you:

There are two muffins in an oven. One muffin turns to the other and says, "Man, it's getting hot in here."

The other muffin yells, "Holy crap, a talking muffin!"

Ok, admittedly not my best work, but you will notice something about my cheesy little joke. It's funny without making fun of a giant issue in our culture that ruins lives and leaves victims feeling defenseless and permanently damaged. Huh, imagine that, one can be funny and not say horrible demeaning things to do it!

Rape is not funny, and it greatly saddens me that I even had to write that phrase. Making jokes about these horrible acts only downplays the emotions and experiences of victims and vindicates perpetrators. After all if it is "just a joke" then what's the big deal?

That is why I spent a Saturday night, bundled up in enough layers to give an onion a run for it's money, holding my sign surrounded by other individuals who do not wish to see a menu that reads the name "Date Grape Koolaid."

However, I must say there are two small positive outcomes that I have seen in this controversy.

1. Thanks to some seriously insensitive bar owners, the topic of rape has been brought to the forefront in my community, which means advocates, such as myself, for victims have a chance to educate the public about a very pervasive problem.

2. I have gotten to see an amazing outpouring of support in my community over this issue. The night I went to protest there were over 50 people there. Three other local businesses actually bought the protesters coffee so that we didn't completely freeze. The fact that so many people have decided to call this business out on their abominable behavior gives me little shreds of hope for civilization.

I can only hope that rape is taken off the menu in my city soon.

As always, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

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