[content note: discussions of online harassment, threats]
A little while ago, me and some friends created a pantheon out of our group, and each of us got to choose what we would demand as tribute. I declared that I desired the hot, red blood of The Nice Guy. I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do with it once I had it– maybe bathe in it?– but I liked the way it sounded. I enjoyed the dark humor of my disciples beginning quests in search of the fabled Nice Guy in order that they may sacrifice him in my temple.
This isn’t the sort of joke I routinely make. It happens almost exclusively in very private settings, among people I trust and who know that I don’t actually want people to find and kill Nice Guys, no matter how odious and frustrating they can be.
But, on occasion, I do make these sorts of jokes in public. For example, if you’re mansplaining to me in my own comment section, chances are I’m going to respond to you with nothing more than this:
The vast majority of the time I ignore assholes and trolls. I roll my eyes, sigh heavily, delete their comment/email, and take whatever steps are necessary to block them– and report them, if need be. I have a somewhat loose “don’t feed the trolls” personal policy, although I disagree with people who try to tell others that’s the only way to deal with them.
But there are days, like last Monday when I read an article where some dude was screaming about how it just sucks that women enjoy watching football these days. It’s absolutely horrible and we women ruined everything. Football used to be sacrosanct to men. Sunday afternoons was one of the few days when Men could be Manly and not be bothered by those supercilious, greedy women. But not anymore. Now, women are jumping on the bandwagon and buying team jerseys and it’s just the most awful thing that’s ever happened in the history of ever. How dare we.
My reaction was to stomp gleefully in the three-inch-deep puddles created by his “male tears.”
The first couple of times I made that particular joke around Handsome it made him uncomfortable, which I understand. Things like “can I get a refill of your male tears, please? thanks” are very much feminist inside jokes, and I can understand that if you’re not a woman writing about feminism on the Internet you might not really understand why we cackle about male tears as we scroll through the #misandry tag. I’ve even cultivated a very nice Morgana-from-The Sword in the Stone-esque cackle for this express purpose.
A friend asked me recently why I thought it’s ok to make jokes like this. Aren’t I just engaging in the same sort of dehumanizing and belittling behavior that I fight against when it happens to women? Why am I ok with mockery when it’s directed at men, but be offended if it happened to a woman?
First of all, when your options are 1) be constantly enraged by everything all the time always, 2) be filled with despair that the world is horrific, devastating place, or 3) laugh at the misogynistic idiots, I think the healthiest option is laughter. It’s not always possible to ignore them, especially when they’re in your inbox or your twitter feed telling you that they’d love to rape you up the ass until your eyes bleed. Sometimes I get angry and do my best to turn that anger into something productive.
But, recently, it’s extremely difficult for me to fight off the despair.
And so, instead, I choose to laugh.
I think it’s important to point out that mockery isn’t always acceptable– it can be used as a bullying tactic, for example, and I don’t think that anyone should be bullied. However, while mockery isn’t nice, or gracious, or kind, and certainly not enjoyable when you’re the target of it, it can be an extremely effective way to communicate.
Mockery, like satire and other comedic tools, has its place.
I don’t think it should be directed primarily at an individual person, or for their identity that are parts of kyriarchal oppression. Mocking someone for being “overweight”? Not ever cool. Mocking a blind person? You deserve to get sucker punched for that. Gender-based mockery, like “get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” should be obviously wrong. Likewise, I’m not going to mock my partner for having freckles, or a friend for having a “small” cup size, or anyone else for not being funny, etc.
However, when mockery is primarily directed at an idea, it can be useful. Mockery is saying “The emperor has no clothes,” and when I laugh at someone for complaining about women enjoying football, I’m not exclusively laughing at the male writer who penned that argument– although I partly am. Mostly I’m mocking the very idea that anyone considers “football is for men, no girls allowed, WAAAAAAHHHH!!1!” to be a legitimate argument.
Mockery says, quite simply, your argument is not even worth a rebuttal.
That, I believe, can be a powerful statement.
Photo by Jason Weemin