T/W for discussions of rape and some seriously hateful and violent language.
So, full disclosure: I was a Lindy West fan before she faced off against the literal entire internet:
I think the woman’s funny. I rabidly devour her articles on Jezebel, partly because I like the way she breaks sexism down into clear bullet points, but mostly because I just think she is just so goddamned funny. I laugh out loud reading her writing. Sometimes I fist pump.
This year I’ve developed an interest in comedy. I’ve always liked funny things, but this year I suddenly discovered that comedy is an art form. That sometimes comedians are making sophisticated points using humor. This revelation came to me while I was watching a 30 Rock episode for probably the fourth or fifth time. It was one of my favorites, “The C-Word,” and as I watched the scene where Jack takes Tracy golfing, I suddenly realized that by playing into black stereotypes, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) was mocking white guilt, subtle racism, and our (white people’s) discomfort with our history with people of color. Mind. Blown.
Then Tosh.0 happened. And I started thinking about rape jokes. Tosh-O didn’t make a rape joke, to be clear, he was just an asshole, but the feminist internet IGNITED. It seemed like every single writer, celebrity, actor, comic, and every other person I droolingly follow on twitter was suddenly weighing in on rape jokes. Are they ever okay? If so, what does a good rape joke look like? Who gets to make them?
The internet fervor eventually died down, and I decided that theoretically, “good rape jokes” could exist. I wished (and still wish) that the comedy world would just kind of leave rape alone as a topic for a while. But of course it didn’t, because of rape culture.
Recently Lindy decided to go head to head with another comic, Jim Norton, to talk about misogyny in comedy. Here‘s the clip. It’s worth a watch. In the end, they disagreed that comedy has a misogyny problem, however, their debate was fairly reasonable.
But oh my god the shit storm afterward.
Lindy started getting nasty comments on Twitter. She didn’t back down. Sometimes she re-tweeted them. They got nastier, and more violent. To my knowledge, she’s still getting awful, targeted remarks as I write this, six days after her appearance. She addresses some of the insults and threats with humor, but mostly she repeats the message that misogyny in comedy is wrong, perpetuating rape culture is wrong, and silencing women is wrong.
Eventually Lindy wrote a piece for Jezebel where she summarized the firestorm, which includes a video of her reciting various hateful tweets she’s received, in a total monotone, with no pauses between tweets, while staring straight at the camera.
The video. Watch it.
And that brings me to my point. I think this video is the greatest rape joke of all time. The only argument for making rape jokes that I’ve ever bought is that a good rape joke doesn’t make the victim the butt of the joke, it makes the rapist the butt of the joke. And, while watching this video, I started laughing. It was a dark laughter, because no woman, no PERSON, deserves to receive the kind of abuse Lindy has gotten over the past week, but it was laughter. Because it was funny to me that these angry comedy fans were being exposed as the witless, talentless scumbags they were. What they were saying didn’t make sense. The absurdity of their claims was highlighted PERFECTLY by Lindy West’s monotone, and by gelling them all together until it sounded like she was reading a mission statement written by a writhing mass of hateful rats.
So bravo, Lindy. Not only did you get in some solid logical punches on your initial television appearance, stand up to the waves of disgusting fury washing over your twitter account and come out of the mess looking like the toughest kid on the internet, you also made an unbelievably funny video about rape culture. You made the ultimate point–you can joke about the tough stuff. And you can do it from the right side of history.