On Rape Jokes and Disrespecting Your Own Followers

A while ago, I found this great site that sold some nerd-related apparel that I really, really loved. Naturally, I made it a point to like their Facebook page–a lot of smaller sites like this one will post their coupon codes up their, and coupons are great. Now, the Facebook page also had a healthy dose of memes and the like, but things took a turn over the weekend, to the point the I’ve decided to leave the page and take my business elsewhere.

They posted a brief comic strip in which Neo from The Matrix is told to choose the red pill or blue pill and after choosing wakes up, having been raped by Bill Cosby. How delightful!

When it comes to rape jokes, I tend to lean on the side of no, especially in this case. Jokes made at Bill Cosby’s expense I get, but this was a little more explicit. And naturally, it started a mess of arguments and fighting on the page, the bulk of it being disputes about what is and is not offensive. Women were speaking up and saying the post perpetuated rape culture–which I’m inclined to agree with–men and women were both accusing people of being too sensitive and easily offended, and women claiming to be rape victims themselves were on all ends of the spectrum, from those who were uncomfortable with it to those saying the women who had a problem with it didn’t speak for them. Basically, the usual for an internet disagreement of any type. Swap out the subject matter and it happens on all social media daily.

Thing is the tone os immense disrespect was, quite frankly, astonishing. I’ve said this before, but I think the knee-jerk reaction of “people are too sensitive and easily offended” is unfair at best, dismissive at worst. I think every single one of us has had moments where we’ve been surprised by what offended someone, but we also all have our own soft spots and weaknesses that others might not get. Whenever someone expresses discomfort or hurt at something, even if it’s just an internet meme, we have a responsibility as humans to at the very least take a step back and listen to what they’re saying. If you do that and disagree, fine, but it’s better than invalidating someone’s feelings.

And the thing with rape jokes–especially one so visual and explicit–is that it’s not a simple matter of offense. It was an image that certainly could’ve and I’m sure did remind some women of their own rapes. Maybe it triggered a flashback or panic attack. These are the kinds of things we have to keep in mind, and that’s why one of the biggest offenses I saw in the comments was a man who reposted the comic every single time someone took issue with it, which to me reeks of immature, careless, and ignorance. Again, this isn’t merely an issue of someone disliking the content, it’s an issue of some women being forced to relive a traumatic experience because someone thought it was funny, and I can’t imagine how that must feel. When I was discussing this whole thing with a friend who’s been raped, she asked me to show her the comic, and it was rough enough even to me that I felt the need to warn her before I sent it to her. It should be a red flag as to the kind of content it is when people feel the need to warn each other before viewing it, especially considering it’s something that’s meant to be funny.

At the same time, I get where women are coming from when they say, “I’m a rape survivor, I find this funny, and you don’t speak for me.” True enough. But the women speaking out do speak for someone, even if it’s just themselves. Everyone handles things differently, and power to the women who are able to laugh at such a comic and move on–I mean that sincerely. But not all women can do that, and it’s not fair to ignore their thoughts on the matter or suggest they’re somehow in the wrong for what bothers them and for choosing to say something about it.

It would be one thing if that was the extent of it–and if it was, I probably wouldn’t have cared enough to post about it. But the thing is, the page admins/business owners themselves got in on the discussion, and I was amazed and disgusted by what I saw play out.

I watched these admins publicly shame, insult, make fun of, and disrespect almost anyone who dared take issue with the post. I understand defending your stance, but the extreme to which they took it just seemed so childish and downright nasty. It almost would’ve been better for them to say nothing if they wanted to stand by the post rather than defend it in such a mean, immature way. Their attitude about the whole thing is one of the reasons I’ve decided not to name the page or business–they seemed to thrive off of people telling them they were leaving the page, and they painted them as rude partypoopers and praised the people who were on their side. I felt that should they see this post, I’d become another person to openly mock on their page and they’d take my dissent as a kind of badge of honor.

What surprises me the most is that this is coming from a business–people looking to make money off the very people they’d just offended and insulted to the point of driving them elsewhere. And that was what bothered me more than anything. I may not have liked the fact that they posed the comic in the first place, but that alone didn’t lead me to spend my money elsewhere. Nope, it was the disrespect shown to their own page’s followers, to people disagreeing with them and rather respectfully explaining why. The immaturity shown in turning that dissent into a joke. The carelessness of all of it.

I might’ve even let it slide if not for the fact that this is not the first time I’ve seen this happen on this page. I can’t remember the exact circumstances at this point, but there was an incident where a transgender individual took issue with some word choice. And rather than listen and make amends, nicely defended themselves, or respectfully disagree, they did something very similar to what happened over the weekend–they made fun of the person publicly on the page, let the page’s followers join in, and completely dragged them through the mud.

I believe in a “three strikes” type policy in a lot of areas of life, but I was so disgusted my this second offense that I didn’t want to sit around and watch strike three happen. There’s no need for that kind of behavior, there’s no excuse for it, and I’m certainly not going to reward them for it by giving them my money.

I also wasn’t the only person put off by this. I noticed a few comments sarcastically wishing them luck with business, and I interacted directly with another woman who shared my views almost exactly and went so far as to say she questions what their customer service must be like if that’s they way they treat people.

Take heed, businesses–you don’t have to agree with every single person you interact with online, but you should still be respectful. How you treat people sends a message, and when you treat people poorly, it’ll lose you business.

Hope you enjoyed mine while it lasted.

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