If “offensive” that is the primary characteristic you think defines your taste, or your Internet persona, let me do you a favor: being offensive for the sake of being offensive will not make you funny. But if funny is something you want to be, you’ll be a lot closer to finding out what actually makes you funny if you abandon the idea of being offensive for offensive’s sake. (I say all this as somebody whose comedy group made a sketch called “Girls Are Not To Be Trusted,” which we felt that, to anyone with a pair of eyeballs, was very clearly satirizing heartbroken nerd rage in student film form (with our laughter aimed squarely at the male nerd in question, not his very reasonable-seeming ex-girlfriend). Over the years, though, I’ve seen instances where this thing is beloved by people who quite clearly agree with the title. I’m not apologizing for it, I can’t control every single person’s reaction to my work beyond making sure that work is honest. But what I can do, and what I maybe haven’t done enough, is to say “Hey, offensive doesn’t equal funny, being mean doesn’t equal funny, being sexist doesn’t equal funny” in more public forums. Because I feel those things very deeply, and they’re true, and too often discussions about what is and isn’t appropriate are reduced to simple “____ IS NEVER FUNNY” and “FREE SPEECH MEANS I CAN UNDERTHINK EVERYTHING AND SIMPLY BE A JERK ALWAYS” binaries.)
To the “offensive” guy:
If you find yourself saying “These people just can’t handle me” a lot, maybe it’s not that we can’t handle you because a great majority humankind is just magically oversensitive. Maybe we can’t handle you because it exhausts us, angers us, disgusts or bores us to handle you.
Take a second to consider that you may not be edgy.
You may just be obnoxious.
And no matter how different being obnoxious in real life and obnoxious on the internet FEEL to you, they are the exact same thing. In the soul of the person you hurt, an actual insult yelled with a human voice and an online insult hurled from the comfort of anonymity echo in exactly the same painful way.
The conversation over what is and isn’t funny, and is and isn’t appropriate, doesn’t have to be a minefield of screaming and accusations and name-calling. It can and should be a dynamic and nuanced and interesting, and god forbid, even fun sometimes. We go a long way to making it a less tense subject to broach (and it’s not going away, nor should it) by not being so quick to shriek “HEY, HOW COULD I BE SEXIST, I HAVE A SISTER AND A GIRLFRIEND I EVEN LET SPEAK” any time the word is even mentioned.
Men have defined the conversation around gender (or whether or not there even SHOULD be a conversation around gender) for so long. Now we owe our fellow human beings a chance to be heard on their terms before we shout “YOU GUYS GOT THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND THEN BURNED SOME BRAS AT ONE POINT, SO STOP IMPLYING THAT SEXISM STILL EVEN EXISTS AT ALL.”
Guys: There is no war on men. And you may disagree with me, but I do happen to think there’s a constant, seething war against women, skirmishes in which take place on magazine covers and Facebook statuses and then boil over into domestic violence and political movements. And I don’t think it’s lead by some central conspiracy of dudes in a boardroom somewhere, though it is certainly aided by dudes in boardrooms quite often. I think it’s led by a virus, by a cloud of old, bad ideas and hateful superstitions we ought to be better than by now, employed daily, thinkingly and unthinkingly, to wound, terrify, and control.
I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt if you think sexism isn’t around anymore. Maybe you just think it isn’t because it doesn’t seem like it ought to be. It is old, and awful, and we need to uninstall it now before it spreads to the next generation. But we have to acknowledge that it exists, that it thrives all around us, before we can do that.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have let gender be a battlefield when it ought to be a playground. The way we are made is glorious, the ways we make ourselves, every bit as glorious. SHUT UP and SIT DOWN: that’s caveman shit. STAND UP and SPEAK OUT: that’s the way forward.
And we take the first step into a fun and a funnier future when we stop telling women to shut up. And when we stop allowing other people to tell women to shut up.
Oh, and one more thing: if you think that “discrimination against men,” social, cultural, or institutionalized, is a problem on par with discrimination against women, you need to A) shut the fuck up and D) all of the above.
Don’t like the way I just talked to you?
Then don’t be so sensitive.
DC Pierson is a writer, actor and comedian. His comedy group Derrick made the film Mystery Team. He's also written a novel, The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To. You can follow him on Twitter.
Republished with permission.