This has been rattling my mind for quite some time now, but I’ve never been able to put it into words before. Now is as good a time as any—especially considering how this published in our annual Spoof issue.
The LuhSallian—an issue where our staffers can poke fun and make some light-hearted jokes. It holds a special place in our organization’s hearts with the month leading up to it being one of the most gleeful times of the year as staffers trade ideas on how to make the issue really special. It’s the only time we can write spoof content and really create some outrageous stories. After all, who doesn’t love a good joke?
Most of the jokes are made in jest, of course, with other articles satirizing topics that we believe should be given attention. However, there are some things that should never be the subject of jokes no matter the occasion, April Fool’s or not. It shouldn’t even be an issue at this point; but sadly, it still is.
The age of the internet ushered in the time of the meme. It’s really hard to explain what a meme is as they are distinctly experiential—you won’t understand unless you see and experience the meme for yourself. I love a funny meme just as much as the next person. But there are instances where people have taken jokes and memes too far and it has left me seething.
There are consequences for everything we say; “jokes” aren’t any different. We do not live in a vacuum, our actions and words are not trapped in the bubble created by our ignorance. They have consequences that travel far beyond our limited perspective—one can be funny without being crass and insensitive.
Recently, a post went viral on social media. People online were outraged when a certain “dank” meme page transformed the image of the murdered teenager from Cebu into a meme. There aren’t truly any words that can express how horrific it was seeing that piece of news break and the subsequent reactions that spread like wildfire across social media platforms. What was perhaps worse than that act of inhumanity was the realization that some people saw nothing wrong in taking advantage of the tragedy to cater to their niche, derogatory, and vulgar sense of “humor.”
How wretched is it that the death of an innocent young girl was greeted with anything but empathy. However, this isn’t an isolated case, topics ranging from mental health, LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, and racism have all been under the spotlight of those who create that type of content. I don’t know how to explain why we, as people, should have empathy for others, but the ability to love and care for others is one of the tenets that humanity is rooted on.
It is so easy to say to just shrug a joke off if it really bothers you; however, that is really not possible for others who are more sensitive to that type of content. Some people don’t realize that one can be funny without being sexist, homophobic, racist, or ableist.
I am in no way saying that we should stop making jokes or memes. What I am saying is that we should be more mindful and sensitive about the things we choose to joke about. When does a joke go too far? How do we know we’ve crossed the line? It might be difficult to discern at times but a good rule of thumb is to think about how it can and will be interpreted by others.
A joke is not just a joke when it contributes to a system of discrimination. A joke is not a joke when it reinforces harmful stereotypes toward marginalized groups. A joke is definitely not a joke when it degrades and belittles a person’s dignity and humanity.