On the topic of rape jokes and DV jokes

CW: Discussion of rape jokes, rape, domestic violence, and DV jokes.

Please note, this is being written by a survivor of both domestic violence and rape. This is not a blanket statement for ALL survivors, this is specifically speaking from the point of a survivor using dark/gallows humor to heal from traumatic events. 

EDIT: Yes, this can be viewed as a way of upholding rape culture, and can cause issues, but at the same time we need to focus on how people heal and how they overcome situations, not blanket responses to everything.

When I was first recovering from the horrors that my rapist put me through, I would have readily agreed with anyone who said that rape jokes aren’t funny. Just the word ‘rape’ was enough to send me into a panic. Hearing someone talking about sexual assault could leave me catatonic. I would even verbally attack people for using the word rape. It wasn’t until I chose to take control and take power over the words and concepts surrounding my rape that I began to heal. I had no real support, my family didn’t believe I was raped when I started becoming vocal about it, and people accused me of just making it up. All because I could talk about what happened to me. So what did I do? Did I shut up? Did I go silent, like people said a “real” rape victim would actually act like?

FUCK NO!

I started speaking out even more, I started working towards bringing attention to what happens to victims who were unable to successfully prove their rapes. I voiced my disdain for the authorities that believed they knew what a real rape victim would look and act like. I voiced my anger at their dismissal of my claims, I voiced my anger at those who shamed me and tormented me over the repeated sexual assaults I went through. I also started telling rape jokes. Yes, you heard me right. I started telling rape jokes. I also started using the word when I was gaming, talking about how the guy I just beat into the ground was raped by my sword. It was a way for me to heal and to distance myself from the trauma I had endured.

If you are someone who has gone through a traumatic event, and are looking for a way to heal that is a little less…drastic, I would suggest checking out the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Now then, where were we? Ah yes, the rape jokes.

Before you go and clutch at your pearls in horror, let me explain something. I don’t just run out there and belt out rape jokes. I understand the concept of context. If I’m around people who I know won’t be comfortable with the jokes, I keep them to myself. I’m not going to walk into a support group for survivors and shout, “Who wants to play the rape game?” Do you know how many people I would have to dry hump if I did that? All of them would either shout “NO!” or freak out on me, and then I would have to play with all of them!

You see what I did there? Yes, I slipped a rape joke into my writing. I’m assuming that my audience would be able to understand that rape jokes would either appear or be talked about in this article due to the title! CONTEXT! As weird as it sounds, the jokes and taking over the word for my own usage helped me heal much faster and more effectively than the years and years of therapy that I went through. Perhaps it has to do with the chemicals my brain released when I made a joke that allowed me to stop viewing the topic with fear, and began being able to put little steps between myself and those events. I honestly don’t know.

I have used humor to heal many different times, and each time I’ve healed much faster than when I tried to keep a somber attitude. When I was trying to overcome the abuse I went through with my ex-husband and with a later ex-boyfriend, I joked about what happened; I put a humorous spin on the events.

“Well honey if you wanted the phone so badly you didn’t have to grab me by the hair and throw me to the ground, you could have just asked! Use your words, you’re a big boy!”

“Sure I’ll clean the house, take care of the newborn, cook dinner, and tend to my surgery site while you sit there and play video games , would you like me to slip into a little maid outfit with frilly panties as well?”

Granted, the humor was very sarcastic, but you can see how I started twisting events so that I could look at them with humor instead of pain and horror. But again, I’m not going to just go into a battered women’s shelter and start making these jokes, I look for the context of what is going on and who I’m dealing with. Sure, I could say fuck them and do what I want, but there are some things that I do like to be polite about….sometimes.

Ask them if they’ve ever laughed at an inappropriate joke.

So when someone tells you that rape jokes or jokes about domestic violence are never funny, no matter what the context, ask them why they feel that way. More than likely they will tell you something like how it spits on the victims of those crimes, how it belittles survivors. You know what you can ask them then? Ask them how many survivors they have discussed it with. Ask them if they’ve ever laughed at an inappropriate joke.

If they say they are a survivor and they don’t find them funny, then just leave it be, obviously they aren’t ready to distance themselves from the blanket of pain that they have wrapped themselves in. I can guarantee you though, that they have at some time laughed at what would be considered an inappropriate joke. If they say they never have, they are either lying or have been living under a rock their whole life.

Just because they don’t like the jokes that I tell, doesn’t mean that I should silence myself and stifle my way of healing. That is why I will continue to make the jokes, and why I will continue to use the terms and own them. It’s also why I will tell people who are complete assholes to bite the pillow, because baby, I’m going in dry tonight.

 

My thoughts on JK Rowling’s TERFness

So I decided to finally put my feelings and thoughts into words after reading Rowling’s various novels, posts, and tweets about trans people, specifically trans women. She made news back at the end of March by liking overly TERFy tweets, and then when called out attempted to blame it on a “middle age moment” and holding her phone wrong so she accidentally liked it. For those unaware of what is going on, here the article on it from Pink News.

As a trans person, seeing someone who is supposedly super pro-LGBT+ excluding a marginalized group from the movement can be harmful for one’s mental health, especially if the person being marginalized was in some way looking up to that person or even was finding solace in the fandom (because Rowling had made comments about LGBT people at Hogwarts, but apparently she didn’t mean trans people from how she talks).

Outside of personal feelings, there are numerous issues with how she presented the character in the Strike novels. (More info on the novels here and here) She used outdated and harmful stereotypes against trans people, stereotypes that get trans people outright murdered (claiming they’re just men in dresses, that they’re child molesters, that they’re going to hurt people because they’re hiding behind “being a woman”) or has had legislation passed against them treating them like a danger to society.

While it turned out that the one character wasn’t trans, the fact that that was her go to for the female first name played into the stereotypes and painted trans people in a negative light. Similar sorts of things were done to gay men back in the 50s and 60s (and up to today sadly) where they were secretly going to groom and molest your male children and “turn them gay”. We see it with other marginalized groups as well, a person from a middle eastern country is most likely going to be cast as a terrorist or a villain, an African American man is most likely cast as a “thug” or a gang member while the woman is cast as “sassy” or a single mom who is dependent on welfare.

By using the harmful stereotypes against marginalized groups, authors and film makers cause great harm to those groups, because people who read/watch that media often don’t realize that they’re incorrect stereotypes and take it on face value because it wouldn’t make sense for an author/film maker to do that unless it was true, right?

In one of her other novels in the Strike series, she has the main character threaten to have a trans character arrested and makes prison rape threats at the person. She also uses stereotypes about trans women being overly aggressive, or overly masculine and who are basically just again, men in dresses. (Discussed here)

And with things like I mentioned before, the anti-trans laws being put into place, or the fact that in the US there are 48 states where the trans panic defense is a valid murder defense, or the fact that reparative rape is still something suggested to “fix” trans men (like myself), having a famous author or film maker pushing harmful stereotypes like this does a lot of harm for the marginalized group.

So far there have been at least 8 trans people killed in 2018 alone, which adds to the myriad of reasons seeing a famous person touting anti-trans rhetoric or spreading transphobia as something to be frightening or problematic/cause for fear in the trans community.

There is more info here for other TERF actions if you’re interested.

Gender issues in the workplace

This is from an assignment from my Communication and Gender class. We were asked to summarize an illegal gender-issue workplace problem and a legal gender-issue workplace problem. We were then asked to discuss why the problem exists, what is keeping it from being resolved, what is being done (if anything), and some of the communication challenges involved. I have put the problems in bold. (Citations were required, so I included them here as well)

Employment discrimination for non-public employees in regards to gender or sexuality is illegal in 20 states.

While most people are aware that one cannot discriminate against someone in the workplace for their sex, marital status, age, or disability, most people assume this also includes sexuality and gender, which for 30 states in the US it does not. While there are still many examples of discrimination occurring in the workplace for the classes protected in all 50 states, gender and sexuality are only protected in 20 states. This means that a transgender person can be legally fired from their job for being transgender in 30 states, and they have little to no way of getting justice since gender is not covered on a federal level. By leaving it up to the states to decide to protect gender or sexuality, it creates an environment where LGBT+ people often times are forced to remain in the closet about who they are, or in the case of gender, are forced to either take a job after transitioning, or spend their entire time working at the job pretending to be someone they are not.

Even in states where LGBT+ people are protected by a non-discrimination act, harassment and discrimination can still occur, which then requires the person affected to either out themselves to everyone, or to stay silent about their gender or sexuality. Another issue is that while it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT+ people on the basis of gender or sexuality in 20 states in the US, people can still discriminate but then give some other “reason” behind their actions, such as refusing to hire a transgender person who is open or unable to pass as their gender, or firing someone for being open about being homosexual (such as a man talking about his marriage and mentioning they have a husband and not a wife). Due to many states being either at will or a right to work state, some employers don’t even need to give a reason for firing a person, which then makes it much more difficult to fight against and prove the reason behind the firing or discrimination.

Currently there is work being done by groups like the Human Rights Campaign to have the federal government pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HRC, 2013), but without the removal of at will and right to work laws, the discrimination will still continue to occur as employers don’t have to disclose reasons behind their actions. Also, as can be seen with discrimination of cis women within the workplace, without proper enforcement of the laws and acts, the discrimination will continue and in many cases be swept under the proverbial rug until there are so many cases that people can no longer ignore the problem.

“As Senate Hearing Nears, Nations Leading Businesses Support Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Human Rights Campaign, 9 July 2013, www.hrc.org/press/nations-leading-businesses-support-employment-non-discrimination-act-as-sen.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 lists transgender people in the same group as pedophiles and people with sexual disorders.

While most people agree that those who are transgender do not fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act just for being transgender, the issue is in how the ADA words their exclusion. While the ADA was updated in 2008, the terminology of Section 12211 continues to list “gender identity disorders” and “transsexualism” as sexual behavior disorders (Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended). The problem with this is not just that the term “gender identity disorder” is now viewed within the medical community as inaccurate and outdated, being replaced with gender dysphoria in the DSM-V and other medical literature, but that it lumps transgender people in with those who have sexual disorders.

While most people won’t take the time to read through the text of the ADA to reach Section 12211, by keeping the connection within the text it provides ammunition for anti-trans groups and organizations to compare transgender people with pedophiles, voyeurs, and sexual paraphiliacs. Groups such as Gender Identity Watch, which is run by an anti-trans woman known as Cathy Brennan, use text such as Section 12211 to justify their actions which include posting information about trans people (especially transgender women) on their website, doxing (exposing private information) of transgender people, and even stalking and harassing transgender people online. Their claim is that being transgender is a mental disorder that should be called autogynephilia (which itself is a mental illness created by Ray Blanchard that essentially states that certain men gain sexual arousal by thinking of themselves as a woman.), and it is just as dangerous and harmful to society as pedophilia, and as such trans people should be tracked, exposed, and “cured” of their mental disorder.

One of the major factors preventing this from being resolved is the lack of knowledge of what is within the act. Very few people have taken the time to read the entire act, and even though medical knowledge and literature has been updated regarding gender dysphoria and transgender people, legal documents and government acts require the government to justify amending or changing a piece of literature and this usually requires the legislative branch of the government to vote on the changes. As can be currently seen when it comes to transgender rights such as the ability to use the bathroom without being harassed or forced to use the wrong bathroom, it is an uphill struggle. To my knowledge nothing is currently being done to fix the wording within the ADA, and due to the constant pushback regarding matters of gender by not just the government but the public at large, it will take people actively working on adjusting their language and mental presuppositions about gender to create enough of a drive to fix the text within the ADA.

“Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended.” 2008, https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm