#25 T’ain’t funny, McGee
January 15th, 2015
Dalhousie University is trying to figure out what to do with some fourth-year dentistry students who formed some kind of “gentleman’s club” on Facebook and regaled each other with grotty posts about rape and about sex with patients who were under anaesthetic. Some of the women in the class learned about it and complained and now the fat is in the fire and the debate rages. In many ways it’s like a continuation of the uproar when Jian Gomeshi was fired. Amazing how many people seem willing to accept “boys will be boys” and let such evidence of hatred go unpunished.
There are people who seem incapable of connecting the dots, people who can’t see that those kind of “jokes” are not only hurtful and harmful but indicative of a deep-seated hatred of and contempt for girls and women. And that doesn’t really surprise me, we live in a society which still seems to see little wrong in pay inequality, a society where one thousand-plus women, mostly Indigenous women, are missing or murdered and our Prime Minister casually says a full-scale investigation is not on his radar right now. Well, admittedly the poor guy is very busy supporting the neo-Nazis in Ukraine, you can’t expect him to lose sleep over a minor problem here at home. Our prime minister has his priorities and women aren’t on his shortlist.
I admit I’m sometimes accused of being “radical” (although I can’t imagine why). I have little tolerance for rape jokes or mother-in-law jokes, or women driver jokes or… and yet more than a few people have said I have a wacko sense of humour and can find the funny in almost any situation. For several years I was very involved in establishing and supporting a transition house where women and kids who needed to get out of and away from domestic violence could find a measure of safety. Maybe the people who see nothing offensive in rape jokes should spend some time helping out in a place like that. Maybe they’d stop snickering when they saw the technicolour bruises, the sutures, the broken bones, the damaged faces or heard the sound a terrified child makes when she doesn’t dare cry out loud but just can’t hold in the horror any longer.
Years ‘n’ years ago I wrote a script for a CBC drama and as part of the research was given a tour of “Project P”, the anti-pornography unit of the Toronto City Police. I’ll spare you a description of what we were shown but I will tell you I wound up hurling into a waste paper basket. And we were still on the bottom shelves of the evidence room, and what we were seeing was evidence presented in cases which did not result in conviction. That’s right. Did NOT result in conviction but did result in me losing my morning coffee.
There used to be a programme on the radio (remember radio?) called Fibber McGee and Molly and in almost every episode Molly would say “T’ain’t funny, McGee”. That’s how I feel about rape jokes. It’s how I feel about violence against women and girls.
There is an abortion pill that has been widely used in France for more than twenty-five years now. It has been available to women in the U.S. for almost fifteen years. It’s called RU-486. It’s still not available to women in Canada. Medical doctors say it is safer than or driving a car. Safer than penicillin. It is available to women in many countries. It has been awaiting for approval from Health Canada for more than two years now. That’s a longer waiting period for approval than any previous drug. You’ve got to wonder.
I’ve been up since before three ayem. I’m sending you this letter at 5 ayem. My cat, “Dustbugger” wanted out, he had places to go, things to do, and wasn’t willing to wait until a civilized hour. What need has he of civilized behaviour, he’s a cat. And somehow, sleep vanished. The world beyond my window is swathed in darkness, the streetlight at the corner is out and I couldn’t be more awake if you paid me… Howzit that violence against women is never discussed on Cross Country Check-up or CNN? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks this way.
Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.