Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sexist, racist and otherwise "mean" jokes are not funny

From time to time someone speaks up against racist or sexist jokes or "ironic sexism/racism". Blogposts, forum posts, videos, speeches are made, then nothing happens, the "jokes" stay. Why?

Because joking with sexism/racism allows one to tell things he wants to be told without any consequences: he is "just joking", so no one can call him a primitive sexist/racist. Since the words themselves cannot be banned due to free speech, there seems to be no way to stop insulting behavior as long as it's packed into a joke.

I think I found a solution to this problem: jokes have one purpose, to provide fun. Not to express an opinion, not to start a discussion, not to present ideas. Jokes are only to make the audience laugh. A not funny joke is a bad joke and someone telling bad jokes is an annoying person who takes away the fun from a group. Everyone has an annoying relative who starts telling boring or dumb stories whenever he drinks too much, therefore he isn't invited to most gatherings. You don't want to be that guy, do you? Now, "fun" has no objective definition, there is no "fun-meter". A joke is good if the audience finds it funny. If significant part of the audience is bored, annoyed or upset, the joke was bad.

The beauty of this logic is that those who hate sexist/racist jokes don't have to get involved into complicated philosophical discussions about irony and free speech. All they have to say is "sorry dude, this joke was awful, could you stop telling such crap?" No need to explain why. You are entitled to not have fun on the joke. If he insist on keep telling them, you can call him a killjoy, an annoying asshole who ruins the fun for you and he can't really tell anything against it. I mean if the audience finds his joke bad, than the joke was bad, period. You can even retaliate by starting to tell random boring stuff like reading up a cookbook and when he tells it's boring you can reply "it's fun for me hahaha".

This logic is also protected from the "free speech" argument. You do not question his right to tell such things. You just call them not funny. Free speech is there to protect opinions, but he does not claim to have a racist/sexist opinion, he is just "having fun". When he asks "why can't I say these" you can tell "you can, but it's not funny and we were trying to have fun here": make him be the killjoy!

11 comments:

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

I find that the intent of these "jokes" is not so much in being funny, as in showing the following things:

1) That the joking person belongs to a social group that doesn't have the features being joked about
2) That the social group is superior for not having these features

Saying "this joke is not funny" works, but only if the joker doesn't have much support (that is, people who feel they belong to the same social group) in the given chatroom.

A better way is to "joke" right back about him being a stupid wasp who couldn't fit a basketball in the hoop even if it killed him, 'cause he's just as fat as his momma.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, is that if the dude is making jokes that are a bit risky then he probably has tested the water before and found that either people around him find those jokes funny or they just don't give a shit.

The problem is if your attacking these two subjects where do you stop then? Jokes/piss taking happen all the time in real life, whether that is racist/sexist jokes or whether your too fat/skinny, ginger, tall/short, too much hair/not enough hair, wearing glasses etc etc. The majority of these things we have no control over like our sex or race so surely all these subjects should be lumbered in the same basket?

Personally I don't mind what people joke about because I realise they are just that...jokes. Just because someone made a joke about a black guy stealing your stereo doesn't mean he's gonna pull a white hood on every night and go out lynching...they're the ones you want to be worried about.

Anonymous said...

I am confused as to what the point of this post is. If you have the self-control not to laugh and you want to discourage sexist jokes, great, you can use this argument. The problem is, often you object to the sexist joke, but it caused you to laugh. The joker knows that his joke was funny -- you laughed. So what do you do then?

Anonymous said...

"Free speech is there to protect opinions"

Opinions are the most important kind of speech protected but actually the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following (emphasis mine):

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

That's definately covering more than opinions. Whatever joke, funny or not, qualifies as a form of expression and is protected. Were the protections not so broad would have left open "I consider your speech not an opinion so I can censor it" attacks.

Lucas Kell said...

I love offensive jokes. I find comedians that cross the line in clever ways to be hilarious. If you don't like it, don't listen. It's pretty much that simple. As they say in south park though, if you draw the line anywhere, then you are making a distinction between what is right and wrong and are as such discriminating. Therefore either you can joke about everything, where no subject is off the table, or you aren't allowed to joke about anything.

Retaliating like a child by talking over someone or insulting them is not what I would consider a solution.

Oska Rus said...

I don think it will work because racist, sexist or whatever-ist jokes are usually hilarious.

Some people being offended by it even adds to hillarity of this joke because it allows tear harvesting at the same time.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

The "solution" here depends on what is the exact problem you are trying to solve.

If you think that presence of groups of people who think offensive jokes are cool is not a problem, then you don't need a solution for it.

If it is a problem, then a "solution" is to either break apart the group, or to drive the entire group away. Depending on the size and strength of the group, you need to either deny them tears by "that joke was nub" tactic (better against smaller groups), or by straight up attacking the core values of their grop by counter-trolling (bettar against larger groups, but way riskier in terms of retaliation).

Being "adult" about it and sucking it up is only an option before the disbehaving group becomes a problem.

Von Keigai said...

Seems to me you'd be better off just jettisoning "free speech". I realize this is part of your religion, at least as you have received it. But what value do you have for tradition? So you ought to evaluate whether "free speech" is really working for you.

Obviously you have little love for free speech. So why even bother? And indeed, this is just what the world is doing, in case you have not noticed. We have speech codes in pretty much any private context and many public ones, even though at least in the USA the latter are violations of our 1st Amendment. Progressives are hedging about free speech everywhere they can.

And of course, progressives are correct in the sense that their means are necessary to their cultural/religious ends. One does not defeat a culture or religion by politely requesting people to give it up. You change people's beliefs only by force. First you force all children to get a state education, and you teach only the desired religion. You use social pressure at all levels to shame dissent. You use jobs as levers to shut dissenters up. You imprison them if you can. If necessary, you kill them.

Come on, Goblin. Join your allies, and just advocate that we smash people who wrongthink.

Anonymous said...

The WoW server I am playing on has in my eyes quite a friendly general chat behavior. Of course people are sometimes flaming each other and so on, but everytime someone writes something outright sexist / racist / highly offensive someone else drops a line like Gevlon suggests. I do too. It doesn't take much time to type a small line reminding the offender that 12 y/o kids play the game.

This has nothing to do impeding free speech, yo mama "jokes" and such things are just offending and serve no other purpose than hurting people. If you have an opinion you think everyone should know of surely you can find a way to express this without "yo mama" etc

Michael LeBlanc said...

There is a spectacular misunderstanding of "free speech" in these comments and in the original post.

First off, free speech is not absolute. Most jurisdictions place limits such as defamation, fraud, copyright infringement, verbal assault, perjury, etc. Some jurisdictions go further in regulating hate speech. There aren't any jurisdictions I know of that enjoy absolute free speech. Also the United Nations has no authority, and their 'suggestions' are just that.

More importantly though, free speech places restrictions on governments, not on individuals. It would be contrary to free speech for Iceland to pass a law saying you can't make racist jokes in EVE Online. There is no legal or moral restriction, however, on CCP moderating their chat, or on individual corporations or alliances censoring their members.

The EULA states that CCP may terminate service for chat that, in their opinion, is offensive. Just report people making racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist jokes and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gevlon!

I don't understand this post...
I would understand it if it came from a social person who is concerned about feelings of others and stuff, but you???

The other thing is..
Lets be honest ... racist and sexist jokes are funny, if executed right...
You can make about anybody jokes... like white and nerdy people, anti-socials, french, gingers ,Hungarians and so on...

These jokes are about how people are different and everybody has their faults and to put these characteristics of people in a funny way can result in pretty funny jokes.

There are 2 key factors here:
-Intent: are you offensive because you want to be rude or hurt someones feelings or you want just make a borderline joke.
-Funny factor: if your joke isn't funny than it will be awkward and some people might think your intent is to offend these people. So you have to be careful about this kind of jokes.

Look at Southpark(not the first seasons) ... its funny (imo) and offensive, sometimes very offensive but the offensive stuff has its purpose. The first is to be funny and second is to let people think about serious issues (and of course to make money from the show...)

The problem is not with the subject (racist, sexist, offensive or not), the problem is always the person who is making the joke.
An annoying, dumb and loud person will be always annoying, dumb and loud even if he is not making racist jokes. You wish they just STFU... it doesn't matter what the subject is.

In my opinion just dumb people care about words and jokes of other dumb people.
Adults who can't handle the rough and brutal social interaction on the internet (or in real life) will have a hard time...

I think you are not dumb so I don't understand why you care about this serious "issue" and made a post about it... maybe i missed the point :S

By the way, the solution is good and it could work against some people (it worked for me when I was in elementary school) but unfortunately there will be always people who are just real assholes and they wont care about what you or the other people think funny, they are just assholes and you can wether argue with them or hurt their feelings... Only solution is to ignore and get away... even if the person is a relative.

The issue about free speech is just a joke in any way. There will be never a good solution because inteligent people shall have the oportunity to say anything and dumb people should just shut up, but who should/can decide who is who?

Best Regards,

Repeatuntil

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