Comedian “Jokes” On Abortion Rights: Why Do Men Trivialise Women’s Issues?

samay raina
The debate regarding comedy and political correctness is an ongoing one that has divided the internet. While some people insist “it’s just a joke” is a valid excuse for making offensive statements, others argue that comedy does not have to resort to trivialising women’s issues for the sake of laughs. For years, people have decided to target the marginalised and make cheap jokes at their expense.

After Roe v Wade was overturned by the American Supreme Court, abortion has been a widely debated topic. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, it did not take long for comedians to begin joking about abortion and using “my body my choice” as a punchline.

Indian stand-up comedian Samay Raina took to Twitter and joked that he had spent half an hour making a funny Tweet about his girlfriend, but she made him delete it. He said, “Usko pasand nahi aaya toh usne delete karwa diya, kal ko jabh mai abortion karwaane bolu tabh mat bolna my body my choice”. Tomorrow when I tell you to get abortion then don’t preach my body my choice.

The comedian implied that being told by a person to delete a Tweet about them equates to their right to make decisions about their body being violated. Should comedians be equating deleting a Tweet to having the right to choose what one does with their body?

After being criticised for the Tweet, he then doubled down on his joke and said, “Guys relax, it’s just a joke, she didn’t make me delete my tweet”.

While Samay Raina’s Tweet was clearly meant to be a joke, it follows a familiar pattern of comedians trivialising issues that do not affect them and making jokes about them.

Samay Raina On A Comedian’s Fear Of Cancellation

The comedian Samay Raina then used the example of comedians Andrew Schulz, Jimmy Carr, Dave Chapelle, and Ricky Gervais and said fear of cancellation was the only reason such comedians do not exist in India.

Considering that Schulz decided to spew anti-Asian rhetoric, Carr made jokes about genocide and the Holocaust, and Chapelle and Gervais have been known to make transphobic jokes, maybe it’s a good thing that the fear of cancellation has affected the Indian comedy scene.

Comedy does not need to rely on ridiculing the vulnerable. The purpose of comedy is to create enjoyment and make people laugh, if the so-called comedy ridicules and trivialises sensitive issues, then the joke defeats the purpose of comedy.

Suggested Reading: Rape Jokes In Bollywood Movies Are Unfunny! Period.

Why “It’s Just A Joke” Is Not An Excuse

Often, after an offensive joke is cracked for the sake of being edgy, comics reply with “It’s just a joke” and describe their jokes as gallows humour.

Gallows humour is meant to be made by the person who is on the gallows and is being affected by the situation. Murderer James French said “How’s this for a headline? ‘French Fries’” in the days before his execution. French’s joke was about him and made fun of himself rather than another person.

The defence of gallows humour does not hold weight if the person making the joke is ridiculing people ‘on the gallows’ while remaining a safe and unaffected bystander.

The belief that saying “It’s just a joke” is a valid excuse for offending people is a flawed belief. The fact that the statement is a joke does not change how people are negatively affected by the joke. People can’t harass and bully people and claim that it’s allowed as it was done for comedic purposes.

By spreading bigotry or trivialising issues and using the cadence of a joke, people are desensitised to the topic and feel seen and represented by the comedians making the jokes. Seeing people laugh along as comedians use bigoted stereotypes to crack jokes makes the audience believe that there is no issue with backward thinking.

There’s a thin line between treating sexist jokes as a joke and treating sexism as a joke.

One of India’s biggest issues is sexual violence against women and rape, yet people and media continued to trivialise the matter and made rape jokes. Treating consent as a joking matter on a large platform teaches viewers that consent is a matter that can be ignored and ridiculed.

How To Tell If Your Joke Goes Too Far

In troubled times, people rely on comedy and humour to get through. A good general rule of thumb when it comes to making jokes that might be considered controversial is to consider whether the joke is making fun of a situation, or making fun of a marginalised group.

Comedian Samay Raina decided to ridicule a woman’s right to choose what she may do with her body. In a country where women are often forced to comply with the wishes of society and the men in their family, ridiculing the rights they have, comes across as misogynistic and screams of privilege. The comedian has never had to deal with doctors and members of society putting the needs of men above his health, and that ignorance allowed him to trivialise the matter of abortions for the purpose of a cheap joke. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even funny.

Views expressed by the author are their own.