Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Homophobic Jokes and Weiners

I was mildly disturbed recently when Tracy Morgan went on a comedic rant targeting the gays. The coverage of this rant, of course, did not call it a comedic rant but rather a “homophobic” one. And in doing so, a shit-storm emerged with many comedians and celebrities coming out to denounce his “offensive” jokes. Only a few came out in defense of Tracy and in doing so often became targets themselves of the backlash against homophobia. Roland Martin of CNN was the first I saw challenged for defending Tracy and once that happened I stopped paying attention.

I do not want to denounce Morgan’s “rant” nor necessarily defend it. Jokes are quite tricky – they sometimes work and sometimes fall flat on their face. I imagine Tracy would say these jokes fell and fell hard, despite him saying he is an equal opportunity jokester – no one or thing is off-limits. I appreciate such a sentiment mainly because I am a lover of inappropriate humor and trashy comments. What is interesting to me is the contradictions that emerge around jokes deemed particularly offensive versus rather hysterical. Morgan’s jokes did not seem to be anything out of the ordinary as far as jokes go about issues related to homosexuality. Joking about bullying – saying gays should stop being such pussies worried about “bullying” OR how he would kill his son if he were gay (the ultimate form of bullying) – is not statement meant to be taken literally. It’s a statement that is meant to be taken comedically to expose insecurities, contradictions, or to bring such an issue into the spotlight. The reality, if such a thing exists, is that many parents have an issue when a child “comes out” which is actually pretty funny once you think about it…NOT when someone is experiencing it. That is rather difficult and never enjoyable.

Bullying is a joke but the joke is not on those who bully or are bullied. There is nothing funny about individuals being violated, particularly it would seem when those being violated are not quite considered fully human but rather “children” in need of protection. The joke is rather on the inability and complexity of responses to bullying. Responding to bullying and bullies using the same logic does not actually disrupt bullying or challenge it. It simply maintains bullying but through the figure of the adult authority. Bullying becomes justified if those who are seen as or think themselves as being the moral compass are the ones doing it. This is itself shown in the responses to Morgan’s rant. Morgan becomes bullied by those who are “better” or “less hateful” than he is considered to be. This all in the hope that such bullying will stop Morgan’s hateful speech. Bullying by those in power becomes an issue of policing – policing the speech and the jokes that can be said and laughed at OR that become viewed as homophobic (or sexist, racist, xenophobic). There is no attempt to pay attention to what might be going on in uttering such jokes. Rather, there is an attempt to limit the ways such utterances can be understood.

This attempt to limit is perhaps one of the bases of bullying. Bullying seeks to limit some other from being recognized, from being a speaking subject, from being fully human. And bullying is a practice that goes back to the beginning. If we go with the Christian story of origin, God bullied Adam and Eve into not eating the apple (limiting their world view) and Eve fought back, eating the apple (breaking the limit) and bullying Adam into following her move (limiting his choice). It is perhaps these inaugural scenes of bullying and the responses to bullying that might allow one to argue that the human is constituted through this scene of bullying. And the issue central to this scene is knowledge. Who controls or has access to knowledge. God in all “God’s” glory decided that as creator he/she/ze would have access to knowledge setting up a system of inequality. God has knowledge, Human does not. Eve realized though that she was equal to God – a subject who could create and speak – and ate that which was forbidden to deconstruct this system of inequality. In order to maintain this equality she bullied Adam into joining her not allowing herself to have that which is forbidden and Adam remaining in the dar. And ever since this moment of wrestling for equality, the issue of equality related to knowledge has provoked millennia of fights.

Bullying then is comedic because it is one way we might see the human constituted as a subject. While we might wish we became a subject in a less “violent” way, we in fact become a subject through this wrestling, this bullying for something – God bullied for power, Eve bullied for equality. It would seem then that what Morgan’s joke exposes from my reading is that gays are in fact not pussies for confronting bullying, rather they are pussies who in struggling for equality (a contested term for sure) disrupt and make the social order much more complex that many can handle…unless allowed to handle it through the joke.

Speaking of jokes, there have been a lot of wiener jokes and puns in the news. I suppose I should say Weiner jokes since they are about a proper noun – namely Anthony Weiner – but they are also about Weiner’s wiener making spelling rather complicated because one really needs to know which wiener or Weiner one is writing about. The jokes are, it would seem, simultaneously about Weiner the person and his wiener making me realize that we cannot easily separate the person, usually represented by his mind from his body represented by his grey underwear clad wiener. I find this whole wiener-gate rather absurd which is great because the world is really just one absurdity after another. This is not to say that nothing matters, but that everything matters arbitrarily and thinking it absurd allows, at least me, to see things for what they are worth.

Yes, I am probably more astute than most and the world would be a better place if it followed my lead – a joke of course. But, if I was Wiener and sent a wiener picture, which I probably have in recent weeks to model myself off of yet another politician, I wouldn’t deny it. I would like Kanye West did own it and move on. Well, I wouldn’t totally move on, I would scour the blogs to see what people are saying about my picture – its artistic quality, etc. – and leave anonymous comments to sway people’s opinion in any particular direction. I believe in manipulation.

But, that’s beside the point. What Wiener-gate made me think about was not so much the new era of sexy-texting and the strange power dynamics (aren’t all power dynamics strange) that we are currently trying to theorize. No, what I have been thinking about is why such men are called pigs. Time magazine’s May 30th issue was entitled “Sex, Lies Arrogance: What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs?” First things first, I don’t think it is nice to make pigs out to seem dirty. They cannot help that farmers and corporations put them into pens that 1) are not air conditioned and 2) do not allow them to primp themselves. I think pigs are pretty tasty and wieners too so I take offense to pigs being positioned as dirty.

Now, in popular parlance, all men are pigs not just one’s in power…although I imagine particular feminists would say all men have power (the joys of patriarchy) while I imagine other feminists would complicate such a notion since “men” as a category is, well, much too complex to reduce to swine. My interest here though is why are men considered pigs and women often considered cows? What is the gendered nature of this farm-animal comparison? Are men considered pigs because hot dogs are often made out of pork and hot dogs resemble an appendage that for many is a defining characteristic of “man” – namely the wiener? Are men pigs because one way of talking about sex is “porking”? Men use their wiener (made of pork) to “pork” some other? If so, why are women considered cows? Is heterosexual porking a strange zoological experiment seeking to produce a new type of species? Is homosexuality then more natural than heterosexuality because it actually occurs between members of the same species? I am not sure…

However, why is being a cow less demeaning than being a pig in some regards? I mean if you call a woman a cow, you will be slapped as you probably should be – unless it is a joke than it is perfectly fine unless you hurt her feelings which is probably also funny. Any how, if men who are powerful are pigs for sending sexy pictures will we one day call women who send sexy pictures cows? If Nancy Pelosi, Sarah Palin, or Hilary Clinton sent a naked picture would we call any of them a cow for doing so? Would Time have an issue called “Sex, Lies Arrogance: What Makes Powerful Women Cows” or since there is nothing sexy about cows would we call them sluts and move away from our farm-yard analogies? Would we say that these women had a “beef” with all the attention man-parts were getting and sought to udderly disrupt such images with some lady-parts? I am not sure but I hope in the near future female politicians will free themselves and start sexy-texting so we have some equality in sex scandals so that we can actually deal with the double standards that exist around representations of men and women…

Speaking of representations. Recently I read a piece that talked about gay men and a new cookbook coming out that relies on the image that gay men are skinny (we are).

No comments: