Today, I heard another one. Just a little one. I heard another yesterday. I hear them, in fact, everyday. And there is no day for them to make me laugh. And every single day, when they reach me, when they go through my shell of indifference, they hurt a part of me. Tremendously.
I’m talking about jokes. Sexist jokes. Racist jokes. All those discriminatory jokes, that titillate the beast¹ and are outrageous to the grown-up human inside us. Today, it begun with the evocation of that wonderful thing HTCPCP is:
- Me: there is a protocol to control coffee machines from your PC
- Some guy: I know, it’s called wife
That didn’t seem to shock anyone but me, out of an IRC channel of twenty people. I have actually been taunted for my remark. But don’t worry, idiots are everywhere, not only on the Web: yesterday, at a conference held by my school, in front of over a hundred people, including, of course, women, a guy couldn’t restrain himself from performing a sexist joke as an answer to a very serious question from a student about the position of women in the risk engineers world. Every male in my range of sight laughed, despite the alleged cleverness that allowed them into the school. Frightening.
What’s the problem?
So, what’s wrong exactly with those funny jokes? They do no harm to me, do they? Right, I’m a male, I’m Caucasian, I’m 20, I’m in an engineering school, in a country where most people make big things of social classes, are male chauvinist, sexist, and openly racist. Needless to say I’m rarely the target of discrimination. Then, what good is it to me to feel outraged about discriminatory jokes? Well, I guess many people never heard of the semantics of sympathy.
I sympathise with people who are victims of such discrimination, because if it is merely little jokes to us, it is, to them, not only a joke from times to times. Or every day, every hour. Instead, a constant tease; A never-ending torment; An implacable harassment. It is a burden they have to carry, a burden they did not and will never deserve. It is a weight over their shoulders, that I can wish to no living being, because it is the weight of an injustice.
Do people not notice, that when you’re being unconsciously repeated, day after day, by different people who are convinced they mean no harm to you, that you’re worth less than others, that you don’t belong to a group you firmly believe you are part of, that you are only good to some things and that you would better stay in the place a society of shrivelled-brain monkeys decided was yours, you end up accepting it as a fact, as a fate, should I say?
Do they not understand how excluded you can feel because of those innocent-looking words, do they not notice they have the same effect of a sharpened knife, crammed down their throat? So many words about equality when all most persons are capable of is constantly making violence to one another. Who are they trying to convince, them apart, that they do want equality between men and women when they can’t restrain themselves from burping sexist jokes?
Hypocrisy and “tolerance”, it is
I can understand – and i’m sure it happened to me before – that a man makes such a mistake once, without noticing, and when noticing, urges to apologise² about his slight lack of wisdom. What I am having an harder time to understand is that general hypocrisy about equality of treatment between women and men, parity, and all the like… I have the feeling of a dense and stifling smoke screen. What will it change to faint equality when there is still no consideration and no respect? How will it make women’s life easier? How will the riddle be solved if a hundred more deputes are women, if women gain a little more money for the sake of equality of salaries, if despite those efforts they keep being looked down and set apart by a daily batch of sexist jokes? I think their minds will still be as burdened, and the commodity of being slightly better treated will not change much to that. It’s in my opinion as effective and hypocritical as if Black people were offered one more range of seats in buses after Rosa Park’s arrest during the apartheid.
What I am calling for today is certainly not the right to difference. It is the exigence of indifference. Indifference towards all those traits that should never be considered outside of the scope of private and personal opinions, when interacting with other people: sex, colour of skin, geographical origin, political opinion, sexual orientations, social class, whatever you like. Hence the only criteria I will ever try to use when I have to judge people – and I do not say I will never fail, even though I would be the first one to be disappointed if I did – is their acts. Because, at twenty, I believe I had the time to grow a little up. I wish it was everyone’s case.
- beast and silly have the same wording in my native tongue. That word fits incredibly well in the situation i’m depicting.
- apologising does not mean saying “sorry you felt…”, or even better, “sorry but…”, it means being sorry and stating it.