Pish-Tosh

Daniel Tosh: Happy Thoughts

Put in context, that smile is scary. (Wikipedia)

I was at this open-mic once where a guy asked, “Ladies, would you let a vampire eat you out on your period?”

Funny? Not at all. Not to me.

Distasteful? Perhaps.

Permissible? Of course.

But when Daniel Tosh was joking about another surely distasteful topic—rape, he was interrupted by a heckler who yelled, “Rape jokes are never funny.” You know, because there exists a compendium of rape jokes, and she’s read them all.

He said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”

Here’s the girl’s experience in her own words.

So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didn’t appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

The blogosphere and Twitter exploded calling Tosh everything from ‘not-funny’ to ‘threatening rape.’ As one would expect, he tweeted an apology.

It would have been fine if he had just generally joked about rape. What he said in response to the heckler was bad. It was almost a threat—however empty; in a way he was reminding her of her vulnerability. He should not have said it.

Tosh’s statement has been justified by some on the basis of free speech. That’s a ridiculous argument. No one doubts the legality of what Tosh said. We are only suggesting that as a civilized person, he shouldn’t have celebrated the prospect of a gang-rape.

But that doesn’t mean he was prescribing rape as a means of control. It was just a reaction. Consider his situation. You’re on stage, being judged every few seconds. Your style of humor is outrageous, and that is prone to backfiring. You’re setting up your joke, saying rape can be hilarious, the tension builds, you’re getting to your punchline, and a sanctimonious idiot from the crowd heckles you—and that’s what this woman was, make no mistake. She didn’t deserve what Tosh said, but let’s not, in our rush to castigate him, excuse her for what she did. It’s a comedy club. Not the Iowa caucus. If you don’t like what you hear, you walk out. You don’t weigh in. Heckling a comedian is a dick move, and you force him to smack you because it’s a top-down situation. If a comedian loses control of the room, he can’t be funny. You can’t expect someone to go easy on you when you’re screwing with his job.

“It might not have been the reaction he was expecting, but he had to expect a reaction” — Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction.

A comedian’s insulting response is based on many things. If he can’t see you—which he can’t if you’re beyond the first couple of rows because of the stage lights (don’t ask me how I know)—he can’t joke about your height, weight, clothes, or anything else that’s politically correct. He has a split second to come up with something to rub your nose in the ground, and sadly, what came to Daniel Tosh at that moment was an unfortunate set of words. Should he apologize? Yes. Is he the villain of the piece? Come on!

English: Daniel Tosh at Boston University

Look at that innocent face (Wikipedia)

Let’s consider something else here. George Carlin once responded to a heckler with, “Will somebody please put a dick in that man’s mouth? Cause that’s what he wants.” People just laughed. Could he have said that to a female heckler and gotten away with it? Similarly, if Tosh had said about a male heckler, “What if that guy got raped by five guys right now? Like right now?” Would it have been this inflammatory? No. Nor are all those castration jokes I’ve heard getting big laughs in comedy clubs. But it’s wrong to point that out. It would dilute the indignation of those treating this story as a referendum on rape jokes.

So while this woman has our sympathy, let’s not make her out to be some martyr. She hasn’t dedicated herself to the cause of women. She’s just someone who interrupted a comedian because she didn’t like his act. And now that Tosh has apologized, perhaps we should forgive him.

The ‘feminine’ side?

I write this post for a tag I recently received from blabberblah. I believe IHM set this in motion with her post: My sins against gender stereotypes. We’ve all had stereotyping shoved down our throats. Getting pigeon-holed into whatever is becoming your sex isn’t uncommon. The assumption that certain jobs, skills and interests are meant for a particular gender stinks. As a response, many bloggers are outlining their transgressions of gender barriers.

Before I make my list public, I want to ponder something. A girl having boyish interests is called a tomboy. But people are less charitable to a guy who does something girly. I bet he hears sissy a lot. I don’t need to tell you which one is an acceptable insult. So, female bloggers don’t become the butt of jokes when they congregate to confess an interest in cricket, or declare the number of speeding tickets they’ve received, or know the difference between a carburetor and an accelerator (just an exaggeration!). On the other hand, a guy who confesses to liking chick-flicks or talks about the delicious sambhar he made last night or wears pink is not as well received. This  explains the negative responses from many male bloggers who were tagged. Most of them hid behind, “I can’t think of anything girly that I do.”

Here are some things I do or want to do that can be considered girly:

  1. I like a clean home. That includes a clean kitchen sink that should never be a storehouse for dirty dishes. I have gotten out of my bed at midnight just to vacuum more than once
  2. I like to cook. I like to try out new dishes now and then. (Somehow I have not been able to muster the confidence to invite friends over for a home-cooked meal)
  3. I can hem a pillow cover or the bottom of a trouser. I do take some pride in the fact that the stitches are of equal size and at an equal distance from each other
  4. I have enjoyed playing ‘teacher-teacher’ as a child. I was a bit of a tyrant though
  5. People say that I have very neat handwriting
  6. I don’t make much of an effort to remember roads and don’t have an impeccable sense of direction. I have never hesitated to ask for directions
  7. I almost never let my cellphone run out of power (more and more guys are getting on board with this concept)
  8. I can listen and give emotional counsel to friends. I might make inappropriate jokes as a defense mechanism
  9. In recent times, I have become more sensitive to clothes, sunglasses, spectacle frames and other parts of my appearance that might need enhancement.

Can’t think of any more now. My readers are free to add.

Often called selfishness, individualism gets a bad rap in society. What people don’t understand is that unless one is sure of what one wants and takes steps to get that, one can never be secure enough to do good without it validating their own self-esteem. I have, time and again, championed the cause of individualism and asked people to step out of the molds of religion, caste, language and even nationality. So why not gender? While there are some characteristics found more in men than women, they cannot be used as a tool to pigeon-hole people into pre-styled societal roles.

I am me first. Then a man. Then my parents’ son. Then an Indian. Then a Tamilian…and so on. I urge my readers and fellow bloggers to do what they want to do (as long as they don’t infringe on another person’s exercise of his own rights) and only that. We have only one life. Preset rules of how we should behave belong right where they came from: the past. Sadly, in the past, the people did not have the foundation, the knowledge, the strength and the support to stand alone. We don’t have that excuse.

Here goes: I tag buddy, rambuna, chembelle, swatimala and gradwolf to give some examples of their breaches of the gender barrier.