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So Patton Oswalt posted a long blog where he talks about joke thieves, and then the Great American Rape Joke Debate of '13. (The first half of the post is mostly about joke theft by a particular Twitter user, which has been A Thing on Twitter for the past week or so. There are also some quoted racial epithets in there from Lenny Bruce, for those who appreciate content warnings.) He eventually comes around to discuss rape culture, and this segment is pretty awesome:

In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punchline, and make sure it isn’t the victim.

Why, after all of my years of striving to write original material (and, at times, becoming annoyingly self-righteous about it) and struggling find new viewpoints or untried approaches to any subject, did I suddenly balk and protest when an articulate, intelligent and, at times, angry contingent of people were asking my to apply the same principles to the subject of rape? Any edgy or taboo subject can become just as hackneyed as an acceptable or non-controversial one if the exact same approach is made every time. But I wasn’t willing to hear that.

And let’s go back even further. I’ve never wanted to rape anyone. Never had the impulse. So why was I feeling like I was being lumped in with those who were, or who took a cavalier attitude about rape, or even made rape jokes to begin with? Why did I feel some massive, undeserved sense of injustice about my place in this whole controversy?

The answer to that is in the first incorrect assumption. The one that says there’s no a “rape culture” in this country. How can there be? I’ve never wanted to rape anyone.

Do you see the illogic in that leap? I didn’t at first. Missed it completely. So let’s look at some similar examples:

Just because you 100% believe that comedians don’t write their own jokes doesn’t make it so. And making the leap from your evidence-free belief to dismissing comedians who complain about joke theft is willful ignorance on your part, invoked for your own comfort. Same way with heckling. Just because you 100% feel that a show wherein a heckler disrupted the evening was better than one that didn’t have that disruption does not make it the truth. And to make the leap from your own personal memory to insisting that comedians feel the same way that you do is indefensible horseshit.

And just because I find rape disgusting, and have never had that impulse, doesn’t mean I can make a leap into the minds of women and dismiss how they feel day to day, moment to moment, in ways both blatant and subtle, from other men, and the way the media represents the world they live in, and from what they hear in songs, see in movies, and witness on stage in a comedy club.

There is a collective consciousness that can detect the presence (and approach) of something good or bad, in society or the world, before any hard “evidence” exists. It’s happening now with the concept of “rape culture.” Which, by the way, isn’t a concept. It’s a reality. I’m just not the one who’s going to bring it into focus. But I’ve read enough viewpoints, and spoken to enough of my female friends (comedians and non-comedians) to know it isn’t some vaporous hysteria, some false meme or convenient catch-phrase.


But then it ends on this note, and that bugs me.

I’m a man. I get to be wrong. And I get to change.

I get what he's saying—I'm new to this, I was wrong, and I'm evolving as an artist. And I almost hate to be picky about it, because he's self-examining, and more comedians should do that. And, I know he's not trying to say, "You're women, you have to be right, and you have to be right the first time." But it points to something larger that's been bothering me. It feels as though women, feminists especially, have to be beyond impeachment in every argument they make on the Internet. And even if their arguments are impeccable and perfect, they're still subject to criticism, just because they come from women on the Internet.



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