If Lindy West wasn’t already my feminist spirit guide, she is now.
The Jezebel editor went on TV last Thursday to argue that comedy isn’t a welcoming space for women (CUZ IT’S NOT). Of course, her argument was grossly mischaracterized and the response she received, from people TRYING TO PROVE HER WRONG, was absolutely vile. Horrifying. In her words, “a suffocating deluge of violent misogyny is how American comedy fans react to women suggesting that comedy might have a misogyny problem.”
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In this post, West catalogues just some — a mere FRACTION — of the shit she’s been wading through for the past few days. She reads the comments directly into the camera. It’s very hard to watch. I’m not repeating any of the disgusting Patrick Bateman-level responses in this space. Read/watch at your own risk.
The comments made me feel like this, and then they made me cry. They broke my heart.
So, I want everyone who STILL thinks rape culture doesn’t exist and that the argument about comedy’s problem with women is somehow about censorship, to read/watch Lindy’s post. Everyone who STILL thinks that this is just “one crazy person” on the Internet, as though the Internet exists in a vacuum and isn’t a space where we all live. As though these tweets weren’t written by ACTUAL PEOPLE. You know, the kind you ride public transportation beside. The kind standing behind you in a coffee line. The kind you make small talk with.
Not only has this whole situation proved that many people — not just that one token crazy guy on the Internetz — hate women, it also proved that an overwhelming portion also lack serious reading comprehension skills.
Allow me to reiterate, again: at no point did Lindy say rape was “off-limits” to comedians. At no point did she say that rape jokes turn audience members into rapists. At no point did she “advocate for the censorship of comedians,” like Roseanne Barr (!?!) suggested she did.
What she did say was that victim-blaming rape jokes — the kind that turn the victim into a punchline — contribute to rape culture. (Again, if you’re confused about what rape culture is, see above.) And she’s right. Maybe if we, you know, didn’t live in a culture that treats rape so cavalierly, Lindy wouldn’t have seen so many near-identical comments disturbingly suggesting that rape is some kind of compliment.
Besides, even if this WAS about censorship — which again, it’s really, really not — is the ‘right’ to use your shitty, damaging, unfunny bit THAT EVERYONE MUST HEAR really something to fight for? Tell me more about how comics are being silenced by the thought police and then GIVE ME A BREAK.
The only ones who are truly being silenced are the women who speak up about rape jokes and call male comedians on their shit, publicly or not. I know women, feminist women, who work in comedy who have chosen to run, not walk, away from this issue because they know what the fall out looks like. I don’t blame them. It’s pretty gross to log into Twitter and read all about how fat and ugly you are and that you should probably kill yourself.
It’s easier — and safer — to take the path of least resistance, to be “one of the guys.” Lindy West, who is also a comedian and has also been told to shut up by fellow comics, is very, very brave. I applaud her for standing her ground, keeping her head up and for refusing to be silenced.
And I want to add my voice in solidarity.
Jen Zoratti blogs about feminism and pop culture at SCREAMINGINALLCAPS.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.