Your offensive behavior is laughable

A few weeks ago I attended a keynote address by Dr. Gail Stern from Catharsis Productions. She focused her engaging presentation on identifying victim-blaming as a part of rape culture and disrupting it with humor.

“Humor,” you say? Yep, that’s what I say.

In a movement that has built some serious attention to a very serious issue, it’s time to turn the tables by pointing out just how ridiculous it is to make jokes about sexual violence. Gail accomplished this in a room full of tenacious Tennessee advocates with a combination of insight on the issue (I think we’ve all got some of that) and witty turns of ironic banter. According to Gail, some of her favorite groups to work with are fraternities and the U.S. military. Noting her engaging approach and thinking about feminist roots in primary prevention, I’m taking a few points away from this experience.

Changing a culture starts small. Social change happens on many levels, from individual and relational to policy. Culture happens on many different levels too. Using humor to disrupt smaller instances of rape culture and victim blaming seems like a beautiful grassroots approach.

Getting beyond the butterflies. Humor helps to lighten the mood in an otherwise uncomfortable situation. I don’t know about you, but whenever I engage as a bystander, use teachable moments, or confront sexist or racist behavior, it feels like there is a tiny storm happening in my belly. This happens with total strangers and with members of my family—no exceptions. Inserting some laughter and sarcasm will help to relieve my anxiety.

Engaged men rock! Some of the most talented humorists I know are men in the movement to end sexual violence. It takes a village to dismantle oppression, and I am definitely learning new tips and tools from feminist men in my life. I’ve heard that Men Can Stop Rape have some new campaign materials as part of Where Do You Stand? Also see Patrick McGann’s thoughts on how to handle humor that crosses a line.

You’re not alone. The great news is that you don’t have to be naturally hilarious. There are some pretty cool campaigns out there that pre-fab funny responses to outrageous oppressive behavior. Check out the call-out cards from That’s Not Cool for some examples.

So get out there and laugh a little!

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