Why decent guys need to stand up to their mates' sexist jokes

Date

Gia London

"It's ironic that at a time when so many women have to check themselves and their need for approval, men can and do ...

"It's ironic that at a time when so many women have to check themselves and their need for approval, men can and do strive for acceptance from other men without anyone noticing it – least of all themselves." Photo: Stocksy

Scrolling through his Facebook feed, my boyfriend seemed displeased by what his friends had to share. It wasn't the omnipresence of images of Justin Bieber's package that caused his brows to furrow with unease.

"My friends say such horrible things sometimes!" he cried. "I'm forced to watch the men I love and respect reveal themselves as bigots every day!"

In the midst of his disappointment, I briefly reflected on the last dinner party we attended together – a blur of rape jokes and gendered slurs – the predictable banter of yet another male friendship group bonding proudly and loudly over the subjugation of women.

It is a terrifying thing to watch a group of fully grown men falling over one another to win the crudest laugh in the age-old game of misogyny Ping-Pong.

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Ping. Look how many slurs I can call my ex-girlfriend in under a minute!

Pong. Check out the list of women who owe me sex since I paid for dinner!

Ping. Let's rank the girls we'd "lock in a dungeon", categorised based on race!

Pong. Dead hooker jokes? I've got plenty!

"But they're good people," my boyfriend went on. "They don't even know they're doing it."

"Why don't you call them out?" I asked.

"Because it might cause conflict," he trailed off. "And nobody wants to be that guy."

In that moment, I quietly begged the universe to arrange for my rebirth into white heterosexual manhood. For how charmed life would be, if one's main concern with rape was that protesting it might render one unpopular! Nobody wants to be that guy.

Women tell men that we're hurting, every day. That we're being raped, abused, killed, within a culture that finds humour in our subordination, eroticises the violence we endure, objectifies us in every possible sphere of life, and pushes our social, economic and political agendas to the very end of humanity's to-do list. We are struggling every day to change the conversations men have amongst themselves, because when men proliferate rape culture and misogyny within their own circles, women get very, very hurt.

Where expressions of masculinity in male friendships are concerned, the performance of power, dominance and comradeship through the degradation of women and minorities is a pattern that requires disruption from within. Sticks and stones don't apply in a country that buries more than two women killed by male violence each week.

A bit of cheeky banter with the boys may seem harmless, but statistically speaking, to deliver a rape joke to a group of say, five men and five women, could likely mean laughing in the face of a rape victim, whilst validating the crimes of a rapist. When men bond over jokes at the expense of women – particularly transgender women and women of colour – they breathe life into a host of violent crimes of which their class is the main perpetrator, ensuring that rape-culture and misogyny are cemented in mainstream culture as the social norm. This is why the importance of call-out culture within male friendship groups is tremendous. The lives of some women and minorities depend on it.

For the boys and men out there who are uncomfortable with outing themselves as decent human beings by calling out basic bigotry, I'm sorry that male culture punishes you for empathy, and mistakes your sense of justice for weakness. But, believe it or not, there are things in this world that are far more destructive than your nemesis Bradley, who'd roast you on the group chat if he ever found you being too 'PC'. The seemingly calamitous threat of his unenlightened jeering pales in comparison to the institutional and systematic oppression endured by no less than 53 per cent of the world's population every day.

Appropriating the narrative of oppression as a semiotic tool in casual conversation is a sure way to alienate women and minorities, and keep them in harm's way. So step up. Spread the word. If your bromance can't transcend misogyny, it's time to call it quits. If it's worth fighting for, it's worth fighting over. And there's no cause more urgent than this.