Recently, I was in a group chat and was a witness to a fat joke.
Thankfully, it wasn’t directed against me because that would have been totally a different story.
Yet I was shocked that people still think these are appropriate to this in this day and age. As I called it out, it was half shrugged and deflected to “I made joke about other people size groups”. Nobody else seemed concerned about it and I let it go. I didn’t want to alienate a whole group against myself. It wasn’t the time; nor the place.
However, it triggered a reflexion about jokes directed at marginalized groups; specifically fat in my case.
Is it okay to make a joke about different groups?
As an advocate for human rights and freedom of speech, I would say yes. However, the question may not be can we, but how to? There is a fine line between free speech and hate speech.
Your individual liberties stop when the other person begins.
Simple as that.
Most jokes directed against marginalized groups are offensive because they are aiming to denigrate or hurt.
If your joke is: I would rather be skinny than fat; then proceed to send an image of a fat person [implicit message being -> insert negative adjectives; gross; ugly; disgusting; lazy; stupid], how can you not think this wouldn’t hurt fat people. You are perpetuating negative stereotypes and stigmas for your short-term pleasure; i.e. laugh/group approval/etc. You are also sending the message that fat people (or other groups) are less than, not enough. Not worthy of your respect.
I was hurt by that joke. To see someone comment that they would rather be skinny than [gif of a fat man; implicitly saying he is gross and socially unattractive/ look like me] was hurtful. To see my community represented like this; all the negative imaginary attached to it; always gets to me.
And this is applicable to every other marginalized group out there.
So next time you think you are making a joke off a marginalized group; ask yourself: Is this hurtful? How will this joke be received?
When you post a picture of a fat person eating a donut; or a dozen donuts; what message are you sending? What point are you trying to send? You might get some laughs. You sure will hurt about every fat person and their families/friends out there who might see it.
Before you say: Well we can’t laugh about anything anymore.
Well, buddy; you might not, but I do respect people and get my fair share of daily laugh so maybe it’s time to rethink your internalized shit.
So for those still confused out there, I made a little guide to help you.
Your joke should not:
1) Laugh on the behalf of a group
2) Hurt others
3) Perpetuates negatives stereotypes/prejudices
4) Ask yourself; can my joke possibly hurt others?
Pretty simple isn’t it?
And before you tell me I am a snowflake or How I am supposed to know it can be hurtful?
Well you aren’t a tin man. You have a brain; you have reflexive abilities, use them. Think. I trust you are not a dumb-dumb.
And at the end of the day, I am not pointing fingers. I believe some people genuinely do not mean harm; but now you know.
I think everyone can do better and humour can be much greater than laughing at other people.
Until next time,
Catherine aka Cynical Mermaid.