If you’ve been online in the last few days and follow at least a handful of either comedians or social justice type blogs, you know some shit has been going down. An alleged rapist has been banned from a prominent comedy theater, and what started as a series of secret posts in some private Facebook groups eventually spread to the whole of comedy social media. In other words, yet again the topic of sexual assault within the comedy community has blown the door open and battle lines are being drawn.
Reductress, one of the few Onion inspired satire sites that really nails it, has decided to go all-in, and has put up a homepage that is a giant middle finger to the rhetoric that comes up time and time again every time a story about rape meets the cultural zeitgeist:
Reductress as a humor site that satirizes popular women’s sites and magazines often pokes fun at both sides of issues, ridiculing sexism while also mocking the sometimes pretty mockable aspects of social justice as well.
But with this homepage it seems pretty evident that a clear editorial decision was made, and the site is giving no fucks. As a comic myself, and as a fan of comedy, I’m always impressed by a concentrated effort like this. Comedy serves many roles, but one of the most important is that of the jester, the fool who stands in the court of the king himself and makes jokes. When something happens within the comedy community itself, it can be tough to play the jester card, because so often abhorrent worldviews or shitty commentary can be written off as “it was just a joke.”
I love comedy, I believe in comedy, and I know that good comedy can sometimes make people uncomfortable. I know that sometimes comedy can cover some topics or points of view that make people shift in their seat, that make them write letters to TV networks or club owners, that make people tweet with reckless abandon. But I also know how comedy can be used as a blanket to throw over ideas that should be criticized or at least questioned. But I firmly believe that when comedy has been weaponized, it is also the best weapon to be used against it.
I often think about a quote that gets tossed around when people are arguing about about power structures, Audre Lorde’s “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” With all due respect to Ms. Lorde, who was a complete and total badass, I don’t really love that particular quote. I feel like picking up the master’s sledgehammer and giving it a few swings might still do some damage. And today I feel like Reductress is swinging that sledgehammer. And more importantly, they’re lighting the beacon for others to do it too.