With friends, the line where boundaries can be crossed is a little further away than the line for strangers. It is usually even slightly further for family. It’s all about a level of trust and mutual knowledge of when enough is enough. But sometimes, things go over the top. So much in fact, that a person can be left feeling offended or upset. The reason a comment could have got so out of hand? It was wrapped in a joke.
The word joke now seems to be an umbrella term that includes things that aren’t very funny at all – which is what a joke is supposed to be. Like many words today, joke has lost most of its original meaning. Teasing is a joke, laughing at someone else is a joke. It just seems to me a little like people who are too cowardly to be branded offensive and so laugh everything off with a “it’s a joke.”
Which is ridiculous. I wouldn’t punch someone in the face and say that I was only playing. Even if we started off by play-fighting. I would acknowledge that I had taken it too far. But that has always been the blessing and curse of the spoken and written language. It is powerful.
A word’s power may mean more or less depending on the person, their mood, the setting. It all adds to those words. A word is a little like a sponge, it absorbs everything around it and this makes it a little more complex.
An example is racism and sexism. Although larger society knows that judging someone based on the colour of their skin or their reproductive organs in wrong, it does not stop people from making light humour of serious topics. This is fine to an extent, but it is very easy to over-step the mark.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion even if someone else dubs it an unfair one. Everyone is entitled to try their hand at being as funny as they think they are in their heads. Everyone is allowed to push boundaries a little but don’t hide offensive comments behind a joke. That just highlights that you know what you’re saying has passed any sort of decent limit.
To anger or upset someone and then claim it is all a joke only serves to show that you are happy to dismiss all your comments with a laugh and a smile.
People use the word joke as a way of explaining offensive comments or rude remarks. They use this against the person their words are directed to. After all, who should get offended by a joke apart from serious, dull and uptight people?
Shakespeare’s Juliet once claimed: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The same applies here. Just because you call a slightly racist comment a joke doesn’t make it one. The fact you have called an offensive comment about women a joke doesn’t dismiss the fact that you said it. It doesn’t wipe your slate clean.
The truth is, you can call a spider, a puppy as many times as you want and it doesn’t change the fact that the spider still has eight legs and can frighten whole populations of people. Calling something by another name does not change what that thing is. You’re just playing with semantics.
If you want to speak your mind, fine, do it. I don’t have to agree with what is said, like it or even condone it. After all, I am no more important than you are. But don’t pretend it’s something else. At least have the courage to say it and accept what you have just said. Change what you say, if you’re not comfortable with the words that have left your mouth. Don’t name it something else for your own self-conscience. You’re not fooling anybody.