Though I’m not all that busy on Twitter, I enjoy it. I link to this blog once a week. The rest of the time I sit alone in the chattering void, leaning on my elbows in the electronic grass under the clouds, making occasional remarks, but mostly reading other people’s.
And it always brightens my day. Following dozens of comedians of the mostly female kind was an excellent and deliberate decision (one I first made after reading a fabulous list).
My Twitter feed gives me a little variety to the monotonous glut of male comedy and perspective worldwide and New Zealand-wide. I mean, there are 134 men to just 18 women on the Classic Comedy website’s list, and it ain’t cos NZ got no funny girls! Half the population is missing from public humour and the gap is very noticeable to me. (Imagine if three quarters of the comics in New Zealand were Austrians, or Peruvians! It would be odd; you’d want some representatives from your own fold.)
I do enjoy many male comics. But I want to hear the other side, the 52% of the population who don’t really get heard much, cos man they got a lot to say. And following female comics means I generally don’t have to endure the nausea I feel at the nasty, thoughtless rubbish that comes out of many comedians’ mouths.
I try to steer clear of fighting on Twitter. But the other day, a popular male comedian I was following (was following) made a joke about how he calls Asian hookers “pumpkin” because of the way they splatter when he smashes them on the ground.
I replied, rather angrily (since when were racist, violence-promoting, prostitute-murdering jokes considered so hilarious?), saying he should re-examine his sense of humour. His friend responded on his behalf, cutting me down as best he could. That didn’t really surprise me.
What surprised me was the number of women who then favourited the tweet in which he defended his friend’s nasty, violence-filled, hateful joke.
It’s dark humour, said one. Deal with it.
Yeah, nah. I won’t shoosh about that. I can’t. Ever. Even if nine tenths of the world approved it for consumption, I wouldn’t laugh.
Just because many people might secretly think the same awful thing is funny, doesn’t mean it should go unchallenged.
In fresh new 2014, I am reluctant to let go of the momentum we fomented last year. We came so far, for the first time really discussing with aching honesty the attitude our country – and world – has towards female humans.
It’s the filthiest silver lining I ever saw, but the repulsive underage gang rape situation at the end of 2013 brought with it a fresh perspective that shocked our male friends and family, because until then, they simply didn’t realise the extent of the attacks women endure from men during the course of our lives.
We talked about things out loud that had never been in the mainstream media before.
It felt good. But it was tough, and exhausting. Culture sticks like shit to a sheep when male pride is involved.
One night in December, well after the fallout had wound down, I found myself in a dark room, music bumping in the background, red wine in hand, perspiring with despair as someone I had profound respect for said things I couldn’t abide.
The thing is, he said, leaning in, Most women I know actually agreed with Willie and JT. I was talking to one lady, and she said that she agreed a thousand percent – she thinks girls these days are too slutty, show too much skin, and go too far with alcohol. She thinks it! And she’s a woman! A professional woman!
I shrugged. I think it too, I said.
There! Hah, said my friend, triumphantly. See!!?
I think a lot of things like that, I said. I think I shouldn’t walk from a friend’s house to mine late at night. I think I shouldn’t have a drink with my male friends in case one of them rapes me in my sleep, or drugs me. I think while men can walk about with their tops off I shouldn’t wear clothing that shows more skin than forearms and ankles, because it could be dangerous. I think twice about jogging through parks or down streets after twilight, in case a man is in there with a knife and something bad in his brains. I think I might get chased and killed if I am alone in the dark in my neighbourhood. Do you think these things?
No, he said, after a pause.
He was right, though. We all think those things about sluts and alcohol and short skirts. I fight those thoughts, but still I think them, because I don’t live in a vacuum. I am affected by what I am told my whole life.
The difference is that female humans (52% of this country) don’t think that stuff needs to remain the dominating narrative that prescribes our culture. We don’t think it should be the nasty stuff that gets continued, repeated and reinforced, just because people already think it.
We need new things to think. We think we should change. And it is we who will change us.
I have a friend (lah you, BO) who won’t – simply won’t – walk or jog on the same side of the street as a lone female. This is because he understands it may be intimidating, and believes she deserves to exercise and move about in public places without fear. Personal steps like this – like standing up to vicious misogynistic or homophobic or racist jokes, like calling out a predatory friend, like reporting creeps to the police – no matter whether you are woman, dude, or somewhere in between, these things will change our culture for the very much better.
It is no longer alright to blame women for their rapes: we can’t make somebody savage us by revealing an arm or breast or the warm skin of our backs.
So even though we feel afraid, we will go out in the dark.
Because it’s our night time, too.
Because it’s our neighbourhood.
Because they are our parks.
Because they are our homes.
Because it is our online space to enjoy.
Because it’s our silky evening air to enjoy on our skin in the summer.
Because humanity belongs to humans, and we are humans, and we have come for our share.
It isn’t funny to make jokes about smashing women to pieces on the ground.
It isn’t right to ask a vulnerable teenager about her private sex life when she bravely discusses underage gang rape on the radio, with or without a trembling voice.
It isn’t sane to force an old, stale narrative to stagger into our future, just because it was the nag we rode in on.
In the shrinking anger of last year’s steaming scandal, we have begun to pull the threads together for a fresh, inclusive culture, which can finally replace the national leering indifference that produced that garrulous group of boasting boors.
Out of the dirty, dirty ashes, we have gotten some good things going.
This year, wherever these good things start to slip, let’s grab them, and shake them up.
In 2014, let’s not let things slide.