by Kat Kelley
Whenever some high profile figure makes an insensitive comment about sexual violence- whether it be the dismissive “legitimate rape” of former Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), Daniel Tosh’s rape joke in which he targeted a specific audience member, or a lyric off of Kanye West’s Yeezus, the blogosphere erupts with related content.
However, despite the proliferation of tweets and blogs, there is rarely any actual dialogue. In the case of sexual violence, self-identified feminists read, write, and share content discussing rape culture, while the rape apologists and freedom fighters of the internet read, write, and share content highlighting the ‘rights’ of comedians, DJs, musicians, et al. to offend whomever they damn well please.
While it is quite American to value individual rights above all, including the betterment of society or the wellbeing of other individuals, it is a wholly irrelevant argument. As far as I’m aware, no (well-respected) thought leader has ever called on Congress to make rape jokes, lyrics, or commentary illegal. No one is calling for government censorship. Rather, these journalists, bloggers, or anyone with a social media account, are just acting as socially conscious consumers. They are just playing their role in the machine that is capitalism.
We are all consumers. Corporations are constantly making money off of us, and not just when we purchase an album or tickets to a show. Every time you log into Facebook, read an article online, or listen to the radio, someone is paying for advertisement space.
Thus, while comedians certainly have the ‘right’ to tell a rape joke, as a consumer of their product, you have the ‘right’ to your opinion of the joke, and providing consumer feedback is a healthy part of capitalism.
As consumers, we have the power. A public figure has the ‘right’ to brand themselves as they choose, but they are not exempt from the consequences. It is their prerogative to decide whether to appease or forfeit their consumers. However, it is not just the public figure who must be aware of their brand. Media outlets, concert halls or comedy clubs, record companies, and advertisers have brands to be conscious of as well, and it is their prerogative whether or not they want to be responsible for at worst, promoting, and at best, tolerating, rape culture.
Want to hear more? You can find Kat Kelley’s piece “Why Rape Jokes Are Never Funny” here.