By Sharanya Gopinathan
Have you ever heard a man whining about why he should allowed to crack “rape jokes” without everyone telling him to shut up? I have. In the way most people understand them, rape jokes are disgusting attempts to be funny in which the actual rape of a woman is the punch line, in so far as it makes me want to punch the person who said it.
But every time this discussion happens, some spectacularly unfunny dude will quote that one joke Louis CK made around the subject of rape where he said women are brave for even getting into cars with men because they’re all such creepy bears, and dude will then say something about comedy being sacred or something, to which my usual response is that Louis CK is a more skilled comedian than you and also that he is a bit of a creep, because he’s made other gross jokes on rape, plus every year or so, dark whispers about his sexually abusive behaviour keep cropping up and getting smothered.
Anyway, I digress. Jokes that culminate in rape are never funny, but there can be humorous things to be said around the subject, especially about how bizarre the normalisation of rape culture is, the stupid attitudes that allow for men to rape and also the idiocy of some people’s reactions to rape and allegations of it. Meaning that the humour can never lie in the act or the violence of it, but instead can work if its directed at the ridiculous aspects of our society that allow for it.
That’s exactly what British comedian Tracy Ullman has done in her new sketch that imagines a world where rich male victims of a mugging where treated by the police the way female victims of sexual assault are. She goes through the usual suspects (“what were you wearing”, “were you drinking?”) in a video that makes you cringe and snigger in equal parts.
I think the video is pretty topical and relevant, especially right now in India where there’s ongoing discussion on the different ways we handle claims by men and women, but also in general, given the terrible way different law enforcement agencies handle rape all over the world. It isn’t just Indian judges who make ridiculous statements on rape and assault. This month, a Canadian judge made the news when he resigned after asking a rape victim why she didn’t just “keep her knees together”.
On an aside, the Ullman sketch reminds me of the fully cringe scene from the French short film Majorité Opprimée (Oppressed Majority) that attempted to show a world in which women held the same positions of power men currently enjoy. If I were to give it the benefit of the doubt, Majorité Opprimée was a sturdy effort but a bit of a fail because it came across as more Islamophobic than meaningfully feminist to me. Here, you tell me.