(Note: I apologize for the formatting on the conversations, but this is what WordPress did to it after I hit enter – so either it is too far spacing or the spacing is mushed together and you don’t know who is actually saying it. Either way, it sucks. 😦 But you should read it anyway….)
“That was actually kind of mean.”
“Yah – why would you say that?”
“And what is it with Face-Fuck anyway? That’s a little crude?”
“Yah – I don’t get it.”
I stand there as my jaw drops to the floor to hear these comments. What is all this in response to you say? My “joke” commentary, if you will… relating to Facebook…
So, one of my burlesque friends (as has happened to many burlesque performers and drag queens) had her Facebook account suspended because she wasn’t a “real person.” So we had show drama because the show Facebook page went away, we had to scramble to make a new one – all of our previous links and Facebook shares went nowhere. In addition to being a pain in the ass for HER life, it was a pain in the ass for all of us performing in or promoting the show that was less than a week away at that point. So, at that show, as the MC of the show, I commented on the situation and the shitty policies of Facebook, said I had a new name for Facebook, (FaceFuck – because they fuck with peoples lives) and then said, what else would I expect from a bunch of misogynist white males… “I understand, though – I always wanted to be a white misogynist male when I grew up…. Actually, I didn’t want to be a white misogynist males, I just wanted to be treated like one.” At the show, I got applause, laughs. About 10 people commented on my little diatribe backstage and during intermission and said that they really thought it was on target and funny and they loved it.
So, as I say – slightly different wording I am sure – but essentially the same thing – in a comedy workshop class – I am rather shocked and surprised to get such a pained reaction. Ambivalent I could understand – but these gentlemen seemed to be ready to run home crying to mommy because I hurt their poor little feelings.
So, I tried to explain the backstory a little more and got this:
“Well, it isn’t her real name is it?”
“No, but it is her persona – that is who people know her as.”
“Well, why doesn’t she just use a Page.”
“Pages don’t let you be a person – they don’t react and let you interact in the same way.”
“I don’t get it.”
OBVIOUSLY… (I didn’t say that part out loud.) What I did say was “It will obviously take far longer than the class time to explain this concept to you.” And I sat down.
This whole incident really disturbed me, though. I went home and tried out my joke/diatribe on my husband who had not been at the show when I gave it to a live audience – and he laughed his ass off. Okay – good sign. Then I told him about the reaction in class. His comments – “They obviously don’t get it.” I love Mr. Velvet – he helps me understand and process shit that my brain might eventually on it’s own, but having that sounding board and intelligent dialogue just makes things click. I hope I provide the same for him…
So, we talked about the class demographics – All men, but me. One Indian (software designer), one Jew (I demarcate this only because this was the basis of his whole act in class). Several individuals who worked for software companies – maybe most of them in fact. I had stomped on their little parade. I told them that everyone didn’t have their viewpoint. They have apparently never had someone burst their little bubble and told them that everyone doesn’t have the same viewpoint that they have. Or that another viewpoint or alternate life reality would somehow have some level of validity or acceptability. If it doesn’t concur with their understanding of the universe, it is somehow wrong. Mind boggling to me, a person who (sometimes with difficulties) tries to be understanding and if I can’t do that, I at least try to be compassionate. I certainly don’t assume that My Way of doing things is the Right Way of doing things. Although, I do think everyone should follow my rule of – “If it isn’t personally hurting you or someone else, then leave them the fuck alone to live their fucking life.”
So, a few days after this incident, a coworker asked me (why me, I am not sure) “How does one judge funny? What is the standard for funny?” He told me a story about how he thought he made a joke at a friend’s party and his wife vilified him for his “joke” afterwards because she thought it was rude. (Personally, I didn’t think it was very funny, but I didn’t see it as rude, either.) I told him that funny is actually very personal. I find Jeff Foxworthy (‘You might be a redneck if…”) pitifully unfunny, but I actually like comedian Ron White (who many might consider a redneck) and consider HIM to be quite funny: Maybe because he thinks about what he says, provides some actual insight and his comedy actually illustrates that he has a brain. Plus, a lot of his ideas are quite quite NON-redneck. (Side note, I am actually thinking of doing a set of jokes based on the “You might be a redneck” idea – You might be a sadist if and you might be a masochist if…. However, I believe that these would actually be educational, as so many people do not really understand the different between a sadist and a masochist.)
So, funny has a lot to do with your personal life experiences, where you are in the processing of those life experiences, as well as your acceptance and understanding of others. Some things I don’t find funny, but I don’t find hurtful, and I deal with them. When I lived in Louisiana as a young, just out of school woman in a male dominated field, I got annoyed when we would be at meetings and the men would be whispering things around the table before we started. I finally got disgusted and asked – “What are you talking about?”
“Well, we are telling jokes about women and we don’t want you to be insulted.”
“I am more insulted that you are not including me.”
“But you might be offended.”
“Are they about me personally?”
“Are they about rape or abuse?”
“Then I won’t be insulted. I might not laugh, but I won’t be insulted. However, I will be very insulted if you continue whispering them around the table and not including me.”
So, they told me their jokes. And most of the time they were groaners or not funny at all – but I was never insulted – and occasionally I actually laughed. We set some ground rules and they included me – which is the first part of changing their mindset that women are a pariah in the workplace. (Which we aren’t, just in case you weren’t sure on that one.) And they figured out that they liked me AND respected me. Because I set ground rules, and we all followed them. And I wasn’t a bitch about it.
So, what if I had been like the whiny-ass males in my comedy class. “That was mean.” “Why would you say that?” “It isn’t true.” I would have cut off any interpersonal connection with my coworkers and been vilified behind my back. And maybe the next jokes would have been about me personally. I allowed them their jokes, they shared, and we all grew out of the stereotypes because we discussed them and moved on. Jokes are actually a way to learn about others and a way to learn about new experiences – and laugh a little about yourselves and others at the same time. I am not saying that all jokes are that complex – but the idea behind them is often the turning on its head of a social norm. Why is that the norm and why do we feel the need to turn that? Is the norm wrong? Or does it just need to be filtered through a new viewpoint? Yes, jokes can be mean and nasty and I don’t condone those and I am not a big fan of many practical jokes because they can just be cruel. However, jokes tell a lot about the person who tells them and they tell a lot about the life experiences and thoughts of those who laugh at them. And those that don’t.