April Fools is undoubtedly a fun day, exceptionally if you have crafted the most elaborate prank on your friends and loves ones. However, while your intention may probably be all about having fun, there are things that you should never joke about no matter what.
Sensitivity has been an ongoing discussion on different platforms, especially in comedy. It begs the question of whether a joke should be taken seriously or not as it was just, as has been said, a joke. Many comedians have been slammed for making racist and homophobic remarks in public. While critics understand that those were just intended to be jokes, those remarks will still have a significant impact on other people.
Take for example the case of Kevin Hart who has repeatedly posted homophobic tweets such as those indicating how he would beat his sons if they turn out to be gay. Hart defended himself by saying that they were just jokes and people should not take the thing into a deeper level. Nonetheless, amidst his repeated, yet insincerely crafted apologies, he was dropped from hosting this year’s Academy Awards.
Drag queens and other comedians also have similar experiences. Silky Nutmeg Ganache, a current competing queen in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 was exposed to have made an Islamaphobic joke in reference to her fellow queen, Mercedes Iman Diamond. Silky said in a panel interview that their season would be a “Bomb” considering that Mercedes, the first Muslim contestant in the reality T.V. show, is part of the cast. Many people slammed Silky for this remark, calling her the “most problematic queen ever.”
One thing to understand is that jokes aren’t just “jokes.” They are words with meanings and are open to all forms of interpretations. The intention of making those jokes became irrelevant in this discussion because those words will potentially have an impact on people, outweighing your freedom to have fun. That is the reason why most governments criminalize things as trivial as bomb jokes – they can potentially be a source of danger, offense, or panic.
Making jokes for fun is one thing; making problematic ones is a different story. When you talk to cat-callers in the streets and ask them why they would cat-call a woman they don’t even know; chances are, they would tell you that they were only joking. Sure, catcalling may be a joke for them, but it isn’t funny for women who were put in an uncomfortable position and harassed in the name of a “joke.”
In hindsight, jokes are harmless (well, most of them). But problematic jokes like homophobia, racism, and intolerance-based jokes are. They normalize a notion that should have been abolished for a long time already. When you joke about rape, you reduce the gravity of the crime into a subject that people can laugh about because it was not a ‘big deal.’ Abuse is not something that people can laugh about, and it is a big deal.
People loosely and recklessly throw out the “why are people so sensitive nowadays” and the snowflake rebuttal every time a problematic “joke” is being questioned. For one, being sensitive to the things that are happening around you is a symptom of a healthy mental state (and of a working moral compass). There are just so many atrocious things that other people are facing right now for you to joke about their experiences, their upbringing, their culture, their lifestyle, or their appearance.
Furthermore, a good sense of sensitivity is a sign that we, as people, are growing. The mere fact that we were not sensitive about homophobic jokes and racist banters before signals that we were in a horrible time when gay people are thrown into jail just for cross-dressing or when black people are segregated because of their skin color. Being “too sensitive nowadays” is acknowledging that these horrible times happened and these inhumane things happened to people. It is a conscious effort to prevent society from regressing to the dim and ghastly past of intolerance and insensitivity.
It is through this level of sensitivity that we help create a safe, warm, and welcoming environment to people who are different, in some ways, from us. Having an overly sensitive society is having a community that cares about the feelings of the marginalized sector – women, queer people, persons with disabilities, black people, immigrants, and refugees.
If being sensitive to jokes is what it takes to remind people that there are others are affected by the jokes they make, everyone should be sensitive to jokes. It will not even limit your ability to have fun; it will just change the way you do it.
Joking is a way for people to de-stress and to overcome their troubles in life; but make sure that you don’t make it harder for other people to live in the world that your privilege allows you to enjoy, in the process. Being responsible with the things we poke fun at goes a long way. /apr