Jokes at the expense of others are not acceptable

by Alexandra Raskin 

Over winter break, I got into a fight on Instagram with a YouTuber named Britt. ABitOfBritt’s channel centers on her staunch conservative values and opposition of movements like body positivity and feminism. Her Instagram account mirrors these opinions, often through the lens of mordant humor.

ABitofBritt makes controversial posts on her Instagram page. (Instagram)

The post that caught my eye was a meme, which featured two side-by-side pictures of women on the beach — one thin, and one heavier — with a caption that reads, “MEN NATURALLY PREFER MORE CURVY WOMEN.” The subcaptions are “What men define as curvy,” and, “What dumb feminists want men to define as curvy.”

My comments were fairly simple. I expressed that, while I do not praise negligent obesity, I do not condone the hateful rhetoric that the post included in its captions, nor did I find it humorous, which it was clearly intended to be.

After sharing my opinions, as a person who has struggled with an eating disorder in the image-driven, model-hailing 21st century and as a woman, I was met only with obstinacy. Instead of substantive responses, I was name-called and belittled.

But that’s barely the point.

Disparagement humor, the kind ABitofBritt thrives upon, centers on ridiculing minorities and groups that she considers different from her own: liberals, LGBTQ folks, feminists and especially overweight individuals. This humor is especially prevalent on the internet and social media, as those that find these types of malicious jokes funny can easily find a similar-minded community.

Disparagement humor isn’t humor because it isn’t funny. Its very premise requires mocking others for personal amusement, and it leads only to pain.

It’s the same reason that Michael Scott’s Chris Rock impersonation in The Office’s infamous “Diversity Day” episode is so painful to watch. As a white man, Michael Scott’s impression is so cringeworthy because it follows the aforementioned pattern of mocking another group, and it’s exacerbated because Michael’s whiteness puts him in a position of power.

This type of humor enforces the stratification of power between majority and minority groups. It is a reminder of oppression and struggle for those that are targeted, and it adds to the normalization and destigmatization of oppressive language. It attacks unwavering aspects of one’s identity, including race, gender, sexuality and belief systems.

In response to one of my comments, ABitOfBritt replied, “I posted a JOKE! A joke! If it offends you look away.” Because my eating disorder is largely behind me, I am now able to ignore body shamers. However, others are not able to easily avoid these insults.

Some people don’t have the money to buy healthy food. Some don’t have the time to work out. Some have health conditions that prevent stable metabolisms or that make weight loss nearly impossible. But no matter her intentions, ABitOfBritt and those that support her aren’t changing anything for the better. These posts in no way encourage love or self-improvement.

As a society, we must take notice that by relying on “comedy” that ridicules, alienates and belittles, we cause pain. No matter our intentions, we cannot decide if our actions did or did not hurt someone else, especially if they belong to groups that we do not. Regardless of political party or identity, all humans are in need of a little more love. If we want to increase the amount of kindness in the world, we can start by reflecting upon how our everyday rhetoric, be it casual conversation, opinions or humor, affects those that are most susceptible to oppression.

Students share opinions around campus

“Can jokes made at the expense of others still be funny?”

Amanda DeStefano, a freshman English and deaf education double major.

“It depends on your relationship with the person. If you’re poking fun at a friend, I think that’s okay.”

Madison Oxx, a freshman journalism and professional writing major. (Emmy Liederman / Opinions Editor)

“It’s usually not funny, because you wouldn’t want to be the person that’s made fun of.”