It’s Just a Joke!

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

When I was in high school, I wanted to be funny. I looked through the school and public library for books on humour. I thought that there had to be a how-to book on stand-up comedy and jokes. If such a thing existed, I never found it. There are now countless youtube tutorials, psychological texts, and how-to blogs.

“So… if you put funny teeth in your mouth and jump around like an idiot, that is considered funny!”

– Data (Star Trek The Next Generation “The Outrageous Okona”)

Let’s just say I understand where Data was coming from.

The most common way to make people laugh is to surprise them. This could be with a twist pun (How is a doctor like a rock? They’re both Sedimental.), an absurd ending (How is a doctor like a rock? You want neither to get stuck in your shoes.), or a shocking/macabre ending (How is a doctor like a rock? In Alabama, both will kill a pregnant girl.)

These rely on you understanding certain cultural and linguistic markers. If you didn’t know that sediment is often made of rocks and that it sounds like sentimental, or a rock hurts when it’s stuck in your shoe, or that Alabama is trying to pass draconic abortion laws, the jokes would be meaningless.

Dangers of a Joke

Here’s where things get uncomfortable and where I’ve gotten in trouble.

Jokes matter. They are not always frivolous fun. They are often tools used to reinforce and propagate stereotypes.

Stereotype: A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

– Oxford English Dictionary

When you share or make a joke that includes a negative stereotype, you are effectively approving it and introducing it to others.

Let’s be clear here, laughing at these jokes does not make you a bad person. We’ve all laughed at a dumb blonde joke or something like them. Sharing, telling, or otherwise disseminating this joke is the problem.

Often it’s not until you think about the joke and why it’s funny that you realize that it’s portraying someone in a negative way.

Think before you share.

Challenging a joke

This is the part that I haven’t figured out. When I mention the negative effects of jokes or point out the detrimental aspects, I usually get yelled at.

People are extremely defensive of their humour, going to great lengths to defend it and its premise. I once commented, on Facebook, about how horrifying a joke about a grandmother slipping birth control pills in her granddaughter’s food was and I was attacked for not having a sense of humour or understanding what it’s like to be young.

In person, I’ve called out jokes and gotten groans or “come on man, it’s just a joke.” I once almost got into a fist fight over someone using Jew as the punchline for a joke about being thrifty.

Recently, I commented on how I didn’t think a joke was funny because of the stereotype and was treated to a series of history lessons, personal stories about how the stereotype is true, and was then accused of being too sensitive.

I can’t give you a good way of dealing with it. If I find it, I’ll update this post, but for the moment know that people are extremely defensive about their jokes and humour. Be careful not to confront the wrong people in person and be warned it might lose you friends online.

In Conclusion

Think critically about your humour, challenge your own preconceptions, and try to not encourage negative stereotypes.

If you confront people about their humour, be careful.

Remember, the kids of antivaxxers and jokes about Dorian Gray never get old.

Éric

You Don’t Need to be a Jerk to Act Like One

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

There’s something that’s been bugging me since November 8th. A lot of people have been saying or doing stupid jerk-like things.

Jerk behaviour goes through cycles and the latest one is to say, “It’s okay, I’m not a jerk.” As if not being a jerk meant your behaviour couldn’t be that of a jerk.

A friend posted an article where a jerk-face was condescending a female expert about her field. Someone commented that this was obvious mansplaining (When a man disregards a woman’s experience and decides to explain things to her despite her being way more qualified to explain the thing.) A guy commented that they were using the term wrong and that there was no way to know if the jerk from the article was actually a sexist-jerk.

So here’s something that a lot of people don’t seem to understand: An action is independent from the actor. In the same way, the action is independent from the actor’s intention.

The action is independent from the actor’s intention.

Let’s tackle the second statement first. What this means is that despite being influenced by an intention, an action is its own thing. If you call someone stupid, the action is hurtful even if the intention wasn’t. Even if both parties believe the act to be harmless it’s still a hurtful act. Because it normalizes a difference in cognition as bad. This may seem like a banal example but try it by replacing the word “stupid” with the pejorative racial slur of your choice.

An action is independent from the actor.

You don’t need to be a Chef to cook a dinner. Just like you don’t need to be a jerk to do something that’s jerk-like. In the example above, the jerk who was condescending to an expert might not have been sexist, but what he was doing was sexist. It doesn’t matter what he was or what he was intending, he acted in a sexist way.

Why is this important?

It may seem pedantic to insist on this divide but it’s extremely important. People are fallible and we all make mistakes. It’s possible to do a jerk act from ignorance and not malice.

The trend is to say, “Look at that person; they did something jerk-like. They’re a jerk!” That leaves no room for the person to learn or for the person to grow. It creates a society where there are whole websites dedicated to how your favourite celebrity/activist/politician/etc is “Problematic.”

There are people out there who act constantly in a jerk-like manner and they are jerks.

I have acted like a jerk in the past and when someone explained to me why what I did was jerk-like, I tried to change my behaviour.

 

Try to not act like a jerk when people tell you your actions are jerk-like.
Éric

Sexism in Gaming

Yesterday I read an Tumblr post that made me deeply uncomfortable. Go read the article but be warned it’s disturbing.

Ok if you don’t want to read it it’s an account of how abhorrently women are treated in the gaming community; specifically tabletop, Pen & Paper, and miniatures/strategy. Not just heckling or general sexism but multiple forms of assault.

It made me sick to my stomach and a little part of me was glad I’d never experienced it. (In case you’re just tuning in; I’m a thirty-something, white, cis, male.) As I sat there thinking how it might turn me off gaming completely, and how sad that would be, I remembered a game I ran once.

It was the mid-2000s and Lost was every geek’s favourite show. Narnia had burst onto the big screen and I was running a game for three other guys. They were my first gaming group and they had a strict no girls policy.

The game was set on an Island (of course) and had Halflings that rode polar bears into battle (what game doesn’t). The overall theme of the game was racism, I’d based the story vaguely on the real life story of boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter. (I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan at the time.) Only he was a Halfling Colosseum fighter.

The group was ridiculously cautious. They’d spend 20-40 minutes per decision trying to plan for every contingency. (Probably my fault, a polar bear had killed their character in the jungle when they’d foolishly run ahead alone.)

After several sessions of them literally doing nothing and then getting pissed that I wasn’t moving the story along fast enough I introduced a new character; an impulsive human female Ninja, with shady motives. The idea was to have a character that could move the plot forward without a player fearing for their characters’ lives.

I’d done it early with an, “enemy of my enemy” style bad guy and they’d followed him straight into a trap. They still liked him afterwards.

They hated the Ninja from the start. At first I thought it was the impulsiveness (ten years later I think it was the gender). It wasn’t too bad at the beginning but when I started having her assert opinions like, “You’ve been arguing about going through this door for 30 minutes, I’m sure they’ve heard you.” Or “Shut up and stab something.” They started to verbally abuse her both in game and out of game and she was renamed, “The Bitch”.

At one point, in the middle of a puzzle, I tried to give them a hint through the Ninja. One of the players told her to shut up and let them work. I snapped and asked through the character, “What the hell is your problem? I’ve saved your life, fought monsters beside you but you still treat me like shit.”

The answer was, “You’re an NPC.” (Non-Player Character) Which I would believe if they hadn’t had the epic bromance with the last NPC. Then the player added, “Plus I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”

The rest of the group burst into laughter as if it was the cleverest joke they’d ever heard.

If it sounds familiar, it’s a quote from South Park that specifically makes fun of a character for being sexist.

The game fizzled out shortly afterwards. It had made me deeply uncomfortable. At the time I thought it was because I was doing something wrong in running the game. I thought the hate and vehemence was aimed at me.

I’m sure some of it was aimed at me but most was aimed at the character who dared to be female and not be a love interest, damsel, or incompetent.

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the sexism women deal with every day and it sucked. It’s nothing like the stories in the article but my experience does illustrate how deep seeded the sexism in gaming is, that a fictional character played by a man was treated poorly just because I wrote down F instead of M on the character sheet.

Since then I’ve played with dozens of people and have had great experiences. I’ve built up my own community of players that aren’t jackasses and I’ll re-post what I said on my facebook yesterday:

Let me be completely clear: Books End, FADDS, and any game I run is a safe space. If you EVER feel uncomfortable you let me know and it will be dealt with.

This sort of behaviour is unacceptable, deplorable, and will result in being permanantly banned. I also have no qualms with calling the police if things are bad enough.

Gaming is about having fun and imagining other worlds. It’s not exclusive to one gender, sex, race, class, ethnicity, language, etc… It’s meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone.

 

Be Excellent to each other!

Éric

If Men are from Mars and Women from Venus why are we on Earth?

Hello,

I read this article titled, “My Wife Divorced Me Because I Left The Dishes By The Sink”

The article

I was going to share it on facebook, tag my wife and say, “Should I be worried?” Then I thought about it and it made me uncomfortable. Angry even.

If you don’t want to read the article, let me sum it up: Men and Women think differently and what’s not a big deal for you (cave)men, might be a big deal for your wife.

The message

The overall message seems to be: Listen to your partner and if they want you to do (or stop doing) something because it bothers them, you should listen to them.

In other words: Respect your partner enough to listen to them!

The Sexism

Beyond the message, however, I dislike everything about the article. It makes assumptions that are so sexist I had to make sure it wasn’t written in the 1950’s.

In the author’s world:

  • ALL women clean and take care of the house,
  • ALL men work outside the house,
  • ALL women are too passive to tell their husbands how they feel and will nag instead of telling them,
  • ALL men are too stupid to realize that by ignoring what your partner wants you’re disrespecting them and making them feel like shit.
  • That lack of communication only affects Cis-Gendered romantic relationships.

My Advice

I feel like I need to put my credentials before I give advice.

Credentials

  • I have a degree in communications and took multiple interpersonal communication classes,
  • I was raised by a single mother who worked as a social worker in a women’s shelter (among other jobs),
  • I’ve written 5.8 books, two of which are going to be published (Yeah I know that has nothing to do with it but I’m proud and excited),
  • Finally, I’ve been married for nearly 7 years (6 years 7 months and 16 days).

You only need three things

To be happy in a relationship you need three things and this isn’t anything new. You need Communication, Empathy, and Compromise.

That list may seem simple and common sense but nothing is easy when emotion takes over. You have to find a way to get to what you really want instead of getting angry or defensive.

Your significant other is a person, not a cartoon stereotype, if they’re getting upset there’s a reason and you should pay attention to it and, if it’s your fault, fix it.

Planets

Bet you thought I wouldn’t get back to the title right?

No matter what shape your relationship takes (Poly, Straight, Same-sex, etc.), you and your partner will always seem to be from other planets. People are different! The way they were raised, their experiences, their traumas, and their way of thinking are always going to be different. You have to accept that no matter how much you have in common, you’re completely separate people.

In that way, you can easily say you are from Mars and your partner is from Venus. You are as different as you are the same and that’s why we’re on Earth. It’s in between the two and represents the best compromise.

Find common ground and find compromise, you’re in a relationship not a dictatorship. The term Partner isn’t just to be inclusive, it represents what a truly good relationships is about being equal partners who share in the blame and the joy of life together.

Common Ground

Serial Story

We’re down to two stories left.

Read the ending from the stories and vote on your favourite. The poll will be open until Tuesday the 2nd at 11:59pm

Serial Story 2016 - Last Round

  • Wargrave Island (50%, 3 Votes)
  • The Ruby Child (50%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 6

Loading ... Loading ...

Wargrave Island

Genre: Murder Mystery
Inspiration: And Then There Were None, Sherlock Holmes

Read the Beginning

[…]

“What happened?” asked Jonathan, drunkenly staggering towards them, trying to get to the boat.

“What’s in there?” asked Zoe, who was followed by the rest of the party guests who must have seen the fire.

Riko tried to keep them back, but Jonathan made it past her and yelled, “Oh shit, there’s a dead body in there!”

The Ruby Child

Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Inspiration: Firefly, Eberron

Read the Beginning

[…]

As he watched, in complete amazement, the ruby transformed into a baby with glowing crimson hair. The infant gave a tiny giggle and opened its eyes. He expected red eyes, but was surprised to see little clones of his own dark green eyes staring back at him.

“Oh Boy,” he repeated.

 

What do you think of the article?

Éric

Disgust and Disdain

Hi,

I can’t remember if I’ve spoken about #GamerGate or #SadPuppies

If you’ve happily avoided these two movements you’re lucky and feel free to click away if you don’t want to get very angry, sad, and lose a little hope in humanity.

GamerGate was/is a hate movement with a veneer of fighting for journalistic integrity. I’m sure there are some in the movement that generally believe they are fighting for better accountability between journalists and video gaming companies but most are threatening people, specifically women, with violence and doing other horrific things.

SadPuppies was a movement that believes the Hugo and SFWA have strayed too far away from its Hard Science roots. To them, this means there are too many non-science writers, woman, and minorities that are dominating the field. “Real Science Fiction” is written by old white men with science degrees, or at least that’s how they sound.

The two movements have the same base in fear of losing privilege and fear of outside influence. Science Fiction and Video Games, have been dominated by white men for a long time and slowly over the past couple of decades women and minorities have started to take a place in both industries.

I’m an outsider, or fringe element to both industries. I play games but I’m not active in any communities outside of TableTop games, and I write but I’m only mildly active in the Ottawa writing scene. This means that I only know what I’ve read or seen from the news and people affected.

As an outsider these movements scare me. Plain and simple the things that have been said and done to certain people is fundamentally wrong. Threats of murder, rape, etc are evil. There’s no room for jest here they’re evil. Calling the swat team on someone, or posting their personal information online without permission is even worse than the threats. These acts are wrong on every level.

It’s not just the overtly evil acts that scare me. It’s the cliques, in fighting, and excluding of people for no other reason than that they disagree with you. The inborn sexism, racism, homophobia, and hate makes two of my favorite pass times feel dirty.

I want to make a career out of writing and I’d love to write for TableTop or video games but these events have made me not want to get involved with them.

Think about that for a second… I’m a thirty year old, white, cis, middleclass, five foot eleven, two hundred and fifty pound, man and these movements have me terrified to get involved.

Take another moment to think how it must feel for everyone else.

We need to stop being afraid of diversity and start embracing it.

Idic

 

Live Long and Prosper

Éric

Naked Models and Meat

Every year in Ottawa there is an event called Ribfest. It’s a festival, of sorts, with vendors from across North America who come and sell Ribs and Chicken. There is also a protest every year from groups like PETA.

This year’s PETA protest bothered me but not in the way they wanted it too.

img_0417

The concept is that they’re trying to make people realize that animals are similar to humans. They have the same parts and the same feelings. I’m not going to debate that. The protest’s intended message is lost in the “Sexy” aspect. People stopped to take pictures, people talked about it and a bunch of people sat nearby and watched the half-naked models while they ate their meat.

The message that seemed to be more prevalent from this protest, and what bothered me about it, was that women are just like animals. Instead of humanizing the animals they effectively dehumanized the models.

The naked people were all woman, all white, and all model shaped and sized. To the guys taking pictures and catcalling these models, they are effectively pieces of meat.

In my opinion the protest was misogynistic, and badly thought out. PETA loves to have nakedness in their protests. I know it’s done for shock value but I still think they’re missing their mark.

What do you think? Is it a thought provoking protest or something else?

Éric

***Edit for clarity: The models were all volunteers and members of PETA.