05 April 2012

'Funny' Things That Are Not Funny

Every now and again, I come across a picture/meme on the internet that people have posted because they think it is funny. They might even admit that the picture is a bit sexist, or discriminatory, but in a harmless way. I don't think there is really such a thing as 'harmless discrimination'. Everything we see makes a small impact on how we perceive the world. I'm going to break down a few of them (on several different targets) to get you started, but I think that everyone should try and think about what a picture says about their worldview before they post memes like these. There are plenty of genuinely funny memes to love and share; I'll even post a few examples at the end.

This is not funny. It is insulting to women. Aside from the glaring generalizations and derogatory terms, it implies that the only 'girl' worth dating is hot, smart and nice, and that if she isn't all three of those things, she is defective in some way. The 'only dates assholes' part is either using a different definition of smart than I am familiar with, or is written by a guy who thinks all other guys are assholes because women won't date him (see  'nice guys' who aren't nice). In this view, any woman who isn't 'hot' is ugly, which cuts out a large number of very pleasant looking women. In this view, women are either smart or idiots, nice or annoying, with no middle ground that accounts for an actual human personality. Whoever drew this up and whoever thinks it's true obviously sees women as nearly two dimensional objects created only for their own gratification. Not funny.


On the same note, but a bit more blatant, is this one, which flat out says that women only date men who are rich, pretty, or jerks. Wow. Maybe the reason women won't date you is because your version of being 'nice' involves believing that women are so shallow that they are only interested in looks and pocketbooks? I have no adequate adjectives for how horribly insulting this guy's view of women is. So not funny.

The implications in this one are many and varied; none of them good. 
1) Any man who designs clothes must be gay. 
2) Gay men cannot be engineers
3) The profession of 'architect' is entirely made up of men who are bi, or confused about their sexual preferences.
Wow. So it's implying that all gay men are fashion-obsessed people who are incapable of doing 'real men's work' and if they want to build things they have to 'settle' for architecture? It's not only horrendously insulting to gay men, it's also indirectly attacking every straight man who is a designer or architect, and every woman who is an engineer. Not funny.

Really? Women drivers? Again? There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that women are worse drivers than men. In fact,  Women are almost 50 percent less likely than men to have a DUI/DWI on their driving record, and women are approximately 10 percent less likely to have a moving violation on their record. But by and large, there is no appreciable difference between the driving abilities of men and women, so saying (or heavily implying) it is just a way of putting down a group of people so that you can feel artificially superior in some way. It also leads people who haven't looked at the data to believe that women are inferior. Stop it; it's not funny.

This one completely dismisses the idea that somebody really might not believe in a god. It is the height of arrogance to assume that just because one cannot picture their world without faith that no-one else possibly could. It implies on one hand that the more afraid someone is, the more they will pray to a divine figure for resolution, and on the other that cheering for your fave team is the same as praying, (and also apparently the most important thing in the world: Who cares if I flunked my exam, as long as my team won?). Getting back to the point, if an atheist is actually in any one of these situations, it will not make them believe in god. It might make them do something to resolve the problem (like hurry to get to work). The idea that atheists only claim to be non-believers is basically saying that they are all liars whose only agenda is to attack others' beliefs. It's insulting, it's narrow-minded, and it's not funny.

Oh, where to start? It implies that men are too brainless to figure out social interaction on their own, that women are so subject to the whimsies of hormonal fluctuation that they cannot control their own reactions and behaviour, and that giving a woman money will make her feel better, but giving her a glass of wine will make all the problems go away. I think the worst part is that I've seen this one posted by almost as many women as men, which only goes to show that the propaganda is working and there really is no such thing as 'harmless sexism'. Many of these phrases would make anyone (men, women, hormonal or not) upset, because many of them are rude and carry implied insults or are just plain condescending. I submit a range of possible comments that people who respect their partner might use: What do you think we should make for dinner? I'm not sure that's your most flattering outfit. Let's talk about this & try to work it out. Don't spoil your dinner/ can I have some? How was your day? Although really, if you're that concerned about what your spouse is wearing or eating, maybe you are with the wrong person. Getting back to condescension; "you're upset? Here, have money!" Really? Are you talking to a spouse or a negotiating worker's compensation? Not to mention that the 'ultra safe' answer to any problem is "Here, have some wine" presumably because her problems aren't real and you don't want to deal with them. As to why women buy into this being funny, I think many of them don't realize how insulting it is, and haven't given any thought to how this kind of attitude hurts them (and possibly, really  like wine). I think some of them like the excuse that hormone fluctuations give them to behave erratically and deny personal responsibility for their actions. Perpetuating the belief that women are incapable of self control in the face of their own physiology is detrimental to every move women have made towards equality. It is blatantly untrue, and not at all funny.

By all that is rational, 'this guy' does not deserve a medal! The article does not say what she went shopping for, but since it's a hypermart, one can reasonably assume that at least part of the shopping was household related. Instead of being helpful to his spouse, he runs around like a six-year old, causes problems for other shoppers and store employees and almost gets his wife banned from a store that is presumably more convenient or efficient for her than other places. I would not only choose to shop alone, I would divorce his ass. People deserve medals for helping others, for saving lives, for being willing to sacrifice their own well-being for others' benefit. People do not deserve medals for behaving like a spoiled toddler or dodging any kind of adult responsibility. This attitude that men who avoid having to do anything to help out their partner or contribute to the running of a household are 'heroes' is one of the most ridiculous and insulting things I have ever encountered. Can you imagine the reaction if the genders were reversed in this situation? Man drags wife shopping and she rebels by running around pulling juvenile pranks? I doubt anyone would suggest giving her a medal. It's one thing to not like shopping, and to complain that your spouse likes it too much, but it's not a men-only complaint, by any means, and marriages are about partnership, not about one person doing everything so that the other can be an irresponsible brat.

Wow, okay, here's one trollish pic made by someone that just hates science, and wants to poison you by giving misinformation. This is a bit different, since it's not trying to be funny (I hope), but it's still incredibly damaging, and it made me angry, so here it is. [Edit: The link to this macro is broken, so here is the original text listed on it: 
Lie #1) Vaccines make you healthy.  
Lie #2) Pharmaceuticals prevent disease.
Lie #3) Doctors are experts in health.
Lie #4) You have no role in your own healing. 
Lie #5) Disease is a matter of bad luck or bad genes. 
Lie #6) Screening equals prevention.
Lie #7) Health insurance will keep you healthy.
Lie #8) Hospitals are places of health and healing.
Lie #9) Conventional medicine is "advanced" state-of-the-art medicine.
Lie #10) More research is needed to find "cures".]
I'll go through this point by point to briefly explain why it is misinformation: 1) No-one claims that vaccines 'make you healthy', the job of a vaccine is to provide protection from a specific, possibly fatal disease, and no, they do not in any way cause autism! 2) Some pharmaceuticals (like vaccines) do prevent disease, but mostly, pharmaceuticals treat diseases. Things like painkillers, antibiotics, drugs to correct chemical or hormonal imbalances, etc. 3) Doctors are the closest things to experts that we have, since even years of studying cannot cover all the known complexity of human physiology. 4) That entirely depends on your doctor and how much effort you put in to researching possible solutions. 5) Genetics can cause or put you at higher risk for some diseases, some diseases do not have a known cause, and some diseases are caused by the patient's lack of regard for their own health. 6) Screening does not equal prevention, but often, it can catch problems early on, when they are easier/possible to fix. 7) Health insurance is there so that if you get sick, you don't lose your house. Insurance companies don't care about your health, they care about money. 8) Hospitals are the best places for healing that are currently available. Without them, many procedures that save lives would not be possible. They are not perfect, but what is? 9) Conventional medicine is more advanced than any form of medicine ever devised. It uses science, not candles, leeches, or random dosages of unknown substances. 10) Every single cure ever developed has come from research, so 'more research equates to more cures' is not a lie. It is unvarnished truth, assuming the research is being done in medicine.

   Here are a few examples of pictures that are funny, without being awful.

There's the funny animal picture, the adorable animal picture, the social commentary using humour, the awesome caption, and the list goes on. Go forth .... and enjoy humour responsibly!
Step 5: Feel empowered.  Step 13: Look at this hedgehog wearing a tiny hat.



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