Of Penises and Sense of Humour

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This is the incident which triggered this post. A girl and two guys were in a conference when the guys spoke a few sexual innuendos among themselves. The girl found it distasteful and tweeted about it. The organizers of the conference threw the guys out. One of the guys was thrown out of his job and later the girl was sacked from her job as well. Yesterday night I read a few people debating the issue on Facebook. And I just thought I had something to say on the issue without indulging in a pointless war on Facebook.

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The battle between the sexists and the feminists are really tough to wrap one’s head around. While one tries to put across rational and logical arguments to prove their point, the other is notorious for bringing up the oponent’s vagina and sexual history to prove their point.

Of lately, I have begun to notice a refined kind of sexist on the internet. This person is not the kind who will say Girls are inferior or that they should stick to being in the kitchen. They are a little sophisticated and hard to spot. I am talking about the ignorant sexist. You might wonder isn’t being sexist a kind of ignorance itself. Why the double qualifier? Well, The ignorant sexist besides being ignorant about gender is also ignorant about a few other related things. They like to talk about freedom of speech without realizing that the freedom of talking about penises that they seem to be rooting for also gives the other person the freedom to express displeasure at it. They say stuff like but that is how  nerds are without realizing that they are speaking for themselves by hiding behind an umbrella term. What bugs me is when these people talk about sense of humour. The sense to appreciate whether something is funny. But that is my question, Isn’t ‘funny’ a very subjective experience. What would you generally do if you found something funny but the other person did not? You would certainly not try to explain it to him/her why the joke is funny. Because we all know that ruins the joke. We are pretty comfortable with the idea of not finding something funny that might appear very funny to others and so we move on.

Here’s a conversation between a sexist and a feminist on social networks

sexist : haha that was funny
feminist : err.. actually that was offensive
sexist : do you really have to be a spoil sport. You need to have a sense of humour.
feminist (in their head) : umm… actually I Do have a sense of humour and that is why I can gauge that this is not funny (to me).
sexist : <insert pointless emotional things like “That guy is a father of three” or “Those athletes were star players” or “What if it was your own son”>
feminist : err… how is that relevant?
sexist : bitch is a slut!
feminist : Why?
sexist : because vagina and breasts!

Well the conversations are not really like that but you get my point as to how one of the parties stops making sense.

Ted Cohen in his essay on Humor proposes a vague proposition that A is humorous if and only if B finds it funny under certain appropriate conditions and B is the right kind of person.

Lets not get into ‘Humor’ and ‘the right kind of person’ right now but its clearly evident that the prospect of something being funny is dependent on the observer B and in our case when its someone with two differing ideologies like a sexist and a feminist, its easy to see why they might differ.

Also on an unrelated funny note, a sexist is NEVER the right kind of person. 😛

The idea that humans have an innate sense of virtue, beauty or morality by which they judge the virtue, aesthetics or morals of something is basically an idea that we have grown out of. It is now believed that all these senses are conditioned by the society and the kind of setting we live in. In that logic, Sense of humor is not something innate in a human being that is supposed to trigger a laugh upon chancing upon something funny. This assumes that there is some way to measure ‘funny’ in absolute terms. The fact that someone who is fond of Groucho Marx’s witty wordplay may not find Charlie Chaplin’s antics hilarious does not mean there is anything wrong with him. So when you say someone does not have a sense of humour, just make sure you don’t sound too accusatory. Because that statement has no meaning in the absolute sense.

If you tell me a joke about an man slipping on a banana peel and falling in a trench and dying, i might laugh a little at the man’s tragedy. And then if you try to make your joke a little edgy and tell me that the man is my father, I might ask you to stop there at that uncomfortable junction. Now here you have two ways to go out. You either apologise for attempting to push the boundaries of acceptable humour or you tell me to have a sense of humour and tell me to suck it up and go on narrating the tale of my father’s death in gory (funny) detail. because really, that is where it is going. When you tell someone to have a sense of humour in this context, you are essentially asking them to shut up and back off while you carry on making your distasteful joke that is making someone uncomfortable.

P.S. I am no expert on sexism or feminism. I just claim to have spent a fair amount of time with a penis and a sense of humour.

P.P.S. You might say that girl need not have interfered in what was a funny moment between two friends and not directed at her. You might say that a father of three kids should have refrained from such behaviour in public. And that would be the right way to look at the incident. Just don’t ask people discussing the issue to get a sense of humor to understand WHY the penis joke was funny because they probably already have a sense of humor to know that it is NOT funny. And guess what! You both are right, so move on and discuss the real issue.

P.P.P.S. Whenever people are debating gender issues they are talking about big words like inequality, biases etc and I find explaining them about a trivial issue like sense of humor, not appropriate. But I have seen too many arguments recently reaching an impasse because one of the parties invoked the ‘sense of humor’ and hence this post.

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8 thoughts on “Of Penises and Sense of Humour

  1. In an alternate universe…..

    Of penises and sense of offense…
    =============================

    This is the incident which triggered this post. A girl and two guys were in a conference when the guys spoke a few sexual innuendos among themselves. The girl found it distasteful and tweeted about it. The organizers of the conference threw the guys out. One of the guys was thrown out of his job and later the girl was sacked from her job as well. Yesterday night I read a few people debating the issue on Ze Internet. And I just thought I had something to say on the issue without indulging in a pointless war on Ze Internet.

    The battle between the sexists and the feminists are really tough to wrap one’s head around. While one tries to put across rational and logical arguments to prove their point, the same gets offended by the use of the word slut – when you really wonder what exactly is so offensive about a slut, it is a really hard thing to figure out. Apparently they are open and honest about their professions just like anybody else. Yet, everybody finds the need to rescue them from their “horrifying jobs”. Everybody thinks they are a victim of a cruel society. They are notorious for bringing up the sluts’ vagina and sexual history to prove their point.

    Of lately, I have begun to notice a refined kind of sexist on the internet. This person is not the kind who will say Girls are not inferior or that they should not stick to being in the kitchen. They are a little sophisticated and hard to spot. I am talking about the ignorant feminist. You might wonder isn’t being sexist a kind of ignorance itself. Why the double qualifier? Well, The ignorant feminist besides being ignorant about the equality they are aiming for are also ignorant about a few other related things. They like to talk about equal opportunities and stopping discrimination without realizing that the action of asking someone else talking about something to someone else, to stop doing it, they are disrupting the equality they themselves are trying to achieve. They say stuff like but that is how women are without realizing that they are speaking for themselves by hiding behind an umbrella term. What bugs me is when these people talk about sense of offense. The sense to get offended at every random thing. But that is my question, Isn’t ‘Offensive’ a very subjective experience. What would you generally do if you found something offensive but the other person did not? You would certainly not try to explain it to him/her why the joke is offensive. Because we all know that ruins the joke. We are somehow NOT comfortable with the idea of not finding something offensive that might appear very offensive to others and so we move on.

    Here’s a conversation between a sexist and a feminist on social media:
    *toooooooootally evil sexist B* : penis.
    sexist : haha that was funny
    so called feminist : err.. actually that was offensive
    sexist : do you really have to be a spoil sport. You need to have a sense of humour.
    so called feminist (in their head) : umm… actually I Do have a sense of offense and that is why I can gauge that this is offensive (to me).[And really humor and offense are not on the same scale. There can be humor without offending someone too.]
    sexist :
    so called feminist : err… how is that relevant?
    sexist : bitch is a slut!
    so called feminist : Why?
    sexist : because vagina and breasts!

    Well the conversations are not really like that but you get my point as to how *both* the parties stops making sense.

    Some random person in his essay on Offensiveness proposes a vague proposition that A is Offensive if and only if B finds it Offensive under certain appropriate conditions and B is the right kind of victim.

    Lets not get into ‘Offensiveness’ and ‘the right kind of victim’ right now but its clearly evident that the prospect of something being offensive is dependent on the observer B and in our case when its someone with two differing ideologies like a sexist and a so called feminist, its still not easy to see why they might differ.

    Also on an unrelated funny note, a sexist is NEVER the right kind of person.

    `$sed|humor|offense|g the_corresponding_paragraph_from_the_other_universe`

    If you tell me a joke about an man slipping on a banana peel and falling in a trench and dying, i might feel offended at the man’s tragedy. And then I might ask you to stop doing it. If you try to make your sentence a little edgy and tell me that the man is my father, I might ask you to stop there at that uncomfortable junction. Now here you have one way to go out. You apologize for attempting to push the boundaries of acceptable offense or and tell me to have a sense of tolerance and simply stop. because really, that is where it is supposed to go. A friendly world. When you tell someone to have a sense of offense in this context, you are essentially asking them to create a fuss about every little thing every other person finds offensive and essentially stop all activity in the world and make this world a lot more hostile place than it already is.

    P.S. I am no expert on sexism or so called feminism. I just claim to try to understand how exactly do the so called feminists are trying to create double standards, by simply trying to create double standards simply based on the things that they offend themselves with. What exactly is it about a penis that is so offensive? Just because

    P.P.S. You might say that girl need not have interfered in what was a funny moment between two friends and not directed at her. You might say that a father of three kids should have refrained from such behaviour in public. And that would be just another way way to look at yet another universe. Just don’t ask people discussing the issue to be offended, to understand WHY the penis joke was offensive because they probably already have a penis to know that it is NOT offensive. And guess what! You both are right, so move on and discuss the real issue.

    P.P.P.S. Whenever people are debating gender issues they are talking about big words like inequality, biases etc and I find myself explaining them about a trivial issue like tolerance, friendliness, and respect. But I have seen too many arguments recently reaching an impasse because one of the parties invoked the ‘sense of offense’ and hence this post.
    =======================
    P.P.P.P.S Now that I have successfully made it funny to you / offended you – depending on what universe you are reading this in… I just want to let you know that there are both sides to the coin, and we are just creating these universes ourselves…. (No! i m not going to apologize to those people who believe that some magical god created the universe and it simply exists!).

    And in my personal opinion, By siding with the girl of the incident, we are simply making this world a more hostile place to be in. Not because she is a girl and needs to be saved. But because the girl would have been right, if she claimed herself to be a feminist fighting for equality and complained that 2 grown people are causing an annoyance in the hall by joking about an ongoing speech, distracting her from it.

    At the end of the day that *is* the issue, that would have affected anybody involved – whether it is a boy or a girl.

    Now all she was simply trying to create was a set of double standards by claiming something as natural and silly(yep , it seems silly to me!) as a penis is offensive to her and all the women around her should be offended because of it and be saved from the brutal wor(l)d. There are many more really important issues that are actually affecting the women in tech and a penis certainly isn’t one. And we need to identify and solve them. So the next time you want to call something offensive, just think for a minute what exactly it is about something that is so offensive to you. Unless someone walks up to you and offends you directly in your face, chances are the other person really didn’t mean to offend you. So You can always politely ask the other person to stop it. At the end of the day, i (would like to) believe that people are nice. What this world needs is more tolerance and respect. And not two parties fighting against each other.

    But well nuclear wars always seem fun cuz they are soo emotional and what not. We are just humans right?

    • Man! whats with this awkward formatting! 😛
      ok listen, I did a quick read a let me clarify the two things that remain with me after reading your post quickly 🙂

      1) What exactly is wrong with the word slut?
      Nothing really. As long as its used to refer to someone who is a prostitute. By the logic that reputed news papers wont use the word boobs for breasts, I wont personally use the word slut for a prostitute but i wont mind ignoring it in a conversation.
      But generally when people talk about being offended by the word slut, its when it is used to deride a woman or her opinions. The woman may or may not even be sexually active to warrant this. The mere fact that she is out in the society, doing things that people dont usually expect from a woman (like loitering around or having an opinion) – when someone calls a woman slut for THAT reason, is when GENERALLY feminists get offended by the word. or atleast the feminists that i know of. Feminists dont claim to be saving prostitutes by getting offended by the word ‘slut’

      2) “By siding with the girl of the incident, we are simply making this world a more hostile place to be in”
      I dont think people in general are siding with the woman here. because THIS particular case is all the more grey because unlike a rape case, there is really no sole victim here. Both the parties so far have lost their jobs. If any sort of siding that I saw on social media was people pointing out that the guy is a father of 3 children (and a bigger victim in that sense) but just in case you thought I was defending the woman. I am not. As far as I see, a woman getting offended and reporting two guys and then the woman and the guy getting fired is an issue amongst them. No one showed any bias or anything in this. Its just that the discussion happening on it are talking about the girl not having a sense of humor. As far as I see, the girl reported the guys coz they were offending HER. I dont think she claimed to be speaking for the women in general.

      3) “There are many more really important issues that are actually affecting the women in tech and a penis certainly isn’t one”
      You would probably know better than me about this, but I think such sexual talks ARE one of the reason that women find hard adjusting in a male majority sector.

      • Hahha….. thats the thing right, lately I have been trying to understand what exactly are the little things that seem to cause so many issues everywhere….

        So basically there was this lady in 60s who called herself a feminist and who declared a war on pornography by claiming that it is wrong and it is demeaning to women.

        Take a look at this:

        http://community.feministing.com/2012/08/26/dont-victimize-sex-workers/

        So from what I understand, all these issues simply come up with the silly assumption that sex is bad(and probably needs the right excuse like procreation or true love or what not to happen).(blame N religions, generations of creepy movies and stories and what not for this one!)

        “The woman may or may not even be sexually active to warrant this.” – exactly this is what I m talking about: what a woman/man/alien does in his/her/its bedroom/kitchen/wardrobe doesn’t say anything about them being dishonest/not helping the poor/is a murder criminal(well….std::disclaimer – as long as the other party involved is also consenting….). Sex by itself, imho, isn’t bad(well unless unless its qualitatively bad…..but hey….. how would i know about such a thing!). but when you associate every random bad thing that happens in the world with sex, and look at it as a woman as a (well heterosexual) man’s only object to sexual gratification……….that seems to be when the self proclaimed feminists think everything sexual is derogatory to women and women should be offended…..last i checked, a woman still has 50% stake in the sexual pleasure/trauma involved. and these people really aren’t being the feminists fighting for female equality. they are just creating many more walls causing the actual separation.

        “As far as I see, a woman getting offended and reporting two guys and then the woman and the guy getting fired is an issue amongst them.”
        Actually I disagree. It was a random person(yes, person and not woman) getting offended at some random thing that didnt even concern her, and she tried to hide behind the umbrella of a woman/feminist for that. She was just being no different than a bunch of morons who were sending death threats to some artist because he painted a so called goddess naked. or marrying of random couples on the VDay (conspiracy!) because they were brainwashed to believe premarital conversations are causing a damage to the society.

        Simply take a look at the comments in here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681 , how many other women around the same 2 men were also laughing at the jokes and are not taking offense.

        So how is this related to the issue at hand?
        “You would probably know better than me about this, but I think such sexual talks ARE one of the reason that women find hard adjusting in a male majority sector.”
        lol – i claim that i don’t know any better than you . and i also claim that i m just another guy who has very little knowledge about what women want.

        But what I believe is if someone has a problem with someone else
        step 1) notify the other person respectfully and really the other person would stop: not everyone out there is with an agenda to hurt the other person. not anyone i know at least.

        step 2) if step 1) failed, then raise the actual issue to the concerned authorities instead of making up N other issues. (the actual issue here being distraction in a conference room. not how the word penis mentally traumatizes her and every little girl in her imagination in every possible way.)

        step 3) don’t blindly/simply assume that every action out there is basically tactically created to offend you – unless the other person actually comes up to you and offends you to your face. (a.k.a keep things transparent and let the world be an open place!)

        so like I say, the world is already a *very* hostile place. Lets try not to make it any more hostile.

        • Wow, so many of your comments are so naive, that I had to stop and comment.

          “don’t blindly/simply assume that every action out there is basically tactically created to offend you – unless the other person actually comes up to you and offends you to your face. (a.k.a keep things transparent and let the world be an open place!)”– when you are a woman (which you are not, and you will never know how it feels to be a woman) and have to face rudeness from men day in and day out, and sometimes wonder whether it’s in jest or intended (intended is scarier because it can lead to violence/assault which then becomes a case for concern), you become hypervigilant. I am not talking about the conference incident, but rather how a woman’s mind is forced to function thanks to “most” men. To really understand what I am talking about, read this: http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2012-12-a-letter-to-the-guy-who-harrassed-me-outside-the-bar

          For you, it’s a joke. For me (a woman), it can be a cause for a potential case for assault. And, assault under any circumstance is NOT funny.

          Also, please LOOK up the meaning of feminism and feminist before making ignorant comments about what you “think” they mean.

          • First, let me start off by agreeing with: “And, assault under any circumstance is NOT funny.”

            I mean take a look at the guys she was talking about in that article. Those are the same kinda kids who beat the hell out of skinny kids in school sports teams. Those are the same bros who make fun of the nerdy students in the universities. Those are the same kind of people with no regard or respect for other human beings and for *them* being a woman is just another excuse to pick on someone. They are bullies. We don’t need to study them under a separate heading of feminism. (And the interesting thing about bullies is they somehow magically seem to create bullies all around them just by bullying them .Which is an ironic thing to really wonder about – cuz this kinda echoes with your “have to face rudeness……. hypervigilant”)

            And then about feminism. The only bit of feminism that actually made sense to me was the Anarchist feminist theory. Which really seems to tackle the actual issue of oppression. Everyone else I talked to had their own meaning for that word, and in someway or the other claimed how any thing sex related is bad:

            “the thing (among others) exactly wrong with feminism ( http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/sex-and-feminist.html ) – and actually not just feminism but all sorts of isms there are- is its NEED to victimize people. Make them see hurt where they did not feel it in the first place and then SAVE them from it. It is the dominant feature of all sorts of activism, come to think of it.”

            and now about the difficult issue of “you will never know how it feels to be a woman”:
            If you think most ideas in my comments are from me, nope – I am as naive as you think I am. They are actually from the women I really respect. The one who told me about how most feminists are hypocritical about sex and objectification and victimization is a brilliant law student who is having to deal with the same issue of feminism everyday. The one who claimed about how we use sex(ual history?) as an excuse to judge people is a brilliant programmer working in an all male office. And at the end of the day, they made more sense to me than anyone else did.

            But really though. The observation that amazed me was how bullies create bullies.

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