Rape culture: No laughing matter

This weekend I went to the Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias comedy show with my dad. While the headliner was great, one of the openers left something to be desired.

“You girls need to stop filing restraining orders against us guys,” opener Al Robles said. “If a guy stalks you, it means he likes you. It’s a compliment, you should be flattered. And if you’ve never been stalked, it means you’re ugly.”

At this moment I hoped my fellow Cougs would boo this guy off the stage. But that’s not what happened.

People actually laughed.

Comedians need to acknowledge that not everything is fair game. There are some things you shouldn’t joke about. Rape, sexual violence, domestic violence and stalking are among them.

Entertainers have an extraordinary amount of influence on our perceptions of the world, and by joking about these serious, dangerous, traumatizing matters, they are contributing to a rape culture that leads victims to believe their safety is not a legitimate concern.

I’m aware this was a comedy show and that Robles probably doesn’t actually espouse that view, but the issue here is not whether this is his opinion. The issue is that stalking is real, terrifying and dangerous, but apparently it’s still something we can joke about. This is exactly what it means to live in a rape culture.

Rape culture is a persistent and systemic problem. Our society normalizes sexual abuse and misconduct and makes excuses for abusers while blaming the victims. Robles’ comedy routine mocking stalking victims is only furthering a rape culture we have tried so hard to overcome on this campus, as the routine trivializes and minimizes the suffering of sexual and dating violence victims.

We are already bombarded from every angle with messages telling us women are sexual objects for men to enjoy. Doesn’t he realize the damaging effects his so-called jokes have on women who are being stalked?

Let me tell you the reality, Mr. Robles, from real-life experiences.

Stalking is not a joke. Stalking is when a person refuses to listen to you no matter how many times you tell them to go away. Stalking is when someone sits in the back of your classes and follows you around all day – sometimes obviously, sometimes not. Sometimes letting you know they can see you, even when they are out of your sight. Stalking is when they memorize your schedule and follow you places like your home, your regular meal stops, your classrooms and your workplace.

There’s a sign that hangs in Brused Books that reads “It’s not funny, it’s not romantic. It’s called stalking, and it’s a crime.”

Mr. Robles, if you had to be escorted home at night because of the possibility someone you had repeatedly spurned would attack you, would you trivialize it then?

If someone knew all your contact information, in spite of you never giving it to them, and used it frequently to harass you, would you still joke about it in front of thousands of people?

If you knew someone who had been injured, raped or murdered by a stalker, would you make light of women and men who have to file restraining orders for their own safety?

If you had an ex who followed you and blackmailed you into all sorts of things you didn’t want to do, would you still joke that women should be flattered by a stalker?

It’s appalling, but this is the culture we live in. Where men can make jokes about stalking and other similar violence and a crowd, even a crowd of Cougs, laughs along.

It’s on us to change that. Some things are not funny, nor should they ever be considered a joke. Stalking is one of those things.

This isn’t a matter of me being too easily offended. It’s a matter of what we as a society think is funny resulting in the perpetuation of rape culture. As long as people laugh at it, it’s going to remain okay.

Stop laughing, Cougs, and take stalking and rape culture seriously. There is something we can do about it, and it starts right here. Comedians need to stop making these jokes. And we need to stop laughing at them.

Michelle Fredrickson is a senior communication major from Issaquah. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by opinion@dailyevergreen.com. The opinions expressed in this Column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of The Office of Student Media.