So yesterday I started following @durexSA. Which was fortunate timing because a few hours later they started tweeting the most random and very tired collection of ‘dirty’ jokes in quick succession.
‘Fortunate’ I say because their being seo-lly provides me the perfect base to touch on some topics I’ve been meaning to chat about for a while…
Among the list of very unsexy jokes (Kermit? Really?), the one that really made me ‘huh?’ was this one: ‘Why did God give men penises? So they’d have at least one way to shut a woman up.’
What ensued – and Lord did it ENSUE – was a Twitter backlash of swift and magnificent proportions. In fact, it was so fucking quick that not an hour later Jen Thorpe from feministssa.com had penned a meaty response and clever SEO people were quick to spot (and poke fun at) the PR disaster unfolding.
However, there were those who thought everyone was overreacting. Some particular phrases stuck out: ‘It’s just a joke’, ‘here go the angry feminists again’, ‘it’s freedom of speech’…
See, here’s the problem with that.
It’s politically stupid
DurexSA (who afterwards started punting the ‘any publicity’ line) is a BRAND. It’s a condom BRAND in a country where violence against women is practically endemic and where women are largely disempowered, by lack of education or culture, to take their sexual protection into their own hands.
Their message – if they’d like to not alienate their biggest market – should be empowering, positive, supportive and informative.
Freedom of speech for all, but BRANDS should be a lot smarter about what they’re saying and who they’re saying it to. Which brings me to…
It’s socially myopic
Yadda yadda on about ‘it’s just a joke’ but maybe start asking some questions as to WHY this is joke. Or WHY you would find this funny.
Every time someone says a rape joke ‘is just a joke’, I have to wonder if they’d feel the same way trying to fight off a stranger’s cock/fist/hand/object being forcefully rammed up their anus, in their vagina or into their mouth.
Or if it would be super LOL if they were watching their wife/husband or sister/brother or daughter/son being ‘shut up’ with an aggressor’s penis in their mouth.
This is not a funny image.
From Thorpe on feministssa:
‘Norms and myths sustain our social identities. They help us to understand the expected interactions between ourselves and others. Norms are themselves sustained by our actions. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. Norms that say men’s most important attribute is their penis, and that a woman better celebrate that by taking what she can get, are part of rape culture, which I argue is bad for everyone.
‘South Africa has an incredibly powerful rape culture. This culture is sustained by many things ... [including] our laughter at jokes that condone violence against women. Rape is not funny.’
In Eve Ensler’s Over It, first published on HuffingtonPost, she says:
‘I am over people demanding their right to rape pages, and calling it freedom of speech or justifying it as a joke. I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.’
*Read the full column here.
It’s intellectually puerile
Every time a guy spits out the ‘oh stop being such an angry feminist’ or a woman says something like: ‘I’m not a feminist, but…’, I have to ask, what, exactly, do you believe feminism to be about?
While I am by no means a well-read theorist on feminism I can say that it is a collection of philosophies, movements and identities that at its origin was the impetus and guiding directive for women’s equality. Say what you will about the ‘bra burners’, but where, dear ‘Westernised’ lady, do you think we’d be today without them?
Like all dynamic movements of thought and inquiry, feminism has evolved. Today, it is largely accepted that while the core is still fighting for, defending and monitoring the progress of women’s rights and position in a male-dominated context, it has expanded its discourse to include gender equality in total and patriarchy, as working for The Man, as a social construct that we ALL – all sexes, genders, sexual orientations – need to question and reform.
Like in all movements, there are radicals and separatists. But in my understanding it is not woman against man. Bleating about ‘those angry feminists’ means to me that you do not support gender and sex equality.
I would think you equally backward if I heard you sniggering about ‘those angry blacks that want equality’ or ‘those angry gays who want the right (The right? From whom? A patriarchal system.) to marry’.
These twitter storms in a tweecup might break suddenly and dramatically and move on without much ado the next day, but they sometimes raise points that cannot be left unchallenged.
So, thanks for that @durexsa. Glad we could have this chat.
Follow Dorothy on Twitter and visit www.thedotspot.net for more.