Why Some Jokes Just Aren’t Funny.  

A Mummy Vlogger, Mrs Meldrum, found herself in serious hot water this week, when she posted a video of herself and her friends enjoying her thirtieth birthday at a posh hotel and left in a racist comment from one of her friends, regarding the Ku Klux Klan. Then, in an overt move to show her followers that she was not racist, she posted a Follow Friday recommendation involving a black influencer and a vlogger, who has mixed-race children. Many people called her out for her behaviour, but they were instantly blocked, and complaint comments were deleted. Mrs Meldrum did not issue any form of apology for at least five days. When the apology appeared, it was along the lines of “I am sorry if you have been offended by this comment.” Rather than “Sorry. I messed up. I should not have done this.” She failed to admit her culpability. All her social media accounts have been temporarily shut down. There were some people who tried to show their support of her by using that phrase,” Oh it was only a joke!” or even, “Well, she didn’t make the comment.” As if this was justifiable in some way. No, it wasn’t. It was not a joke.

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For those who might not know the full extent of the racism in this so-called, “joke”, the Ku Klux Klan were an American, white supremacist, vigilante group who preached hate. Dressed in white robes masking their identities, the Klan group sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against blacks and white Republicans. Certainly not something that people should joke about. There is nothing funny in targeting people with extreme violence, because of the colour of their skin. There are some things in society that we rightly do not find funny. The Ku Klux Klan is one of them.

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I was talking to a friend of mine this week, who mentioned a comment that had been made to her about one of her very attractive friends: a model. The comment had once again been made in the guise of a “joke”, but I am not going to repeat it here because firstly, it is not remotely funny and secondly, it presents a view of women that is misogynistic and sexist.  My friend did not have the confidence to speak out to this person, but she knew that it was wrong and felt shaken by the remark. Just because someone is a model, does not give other people a free licence to make sexual comments about their body.

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This reminded me of a time, a few months ago, when a man made a very sexualised comment to me – in the guise of, guess what? yes, “a joke.” My initial reaction had been to let the comment go. But this small remark made me feel as though I was back in the playground. I felt it was crude and inappropriate, but more than anything, it made me feel disgusted. It wasn’t just a joke. It was a comment that disrespected me and my husband. It painted me as though I had no moral code of behaviour. I decided to speak to the person about it, because more than anything, I didn’t want to normalise this behaviour and allow them to think that they can continue to make these comments to other people, especially younger women, who might not have my confidence.

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All of these examples show the importance of speaking out and correcting someone who has made a bigoted comment. Someone might believe that it is just a harmless “joke”, but if you are the person on the receiving end, frequently these remarks leave someone feeling uncomfortable or disgusted. By remaining silent and not showing our hurt, then we are ultimately condoning this kind of behaviour. Furthermore, as parents we want our children to learn from our example. It is our moral duty to ensure that all forms of bigotry are stamped out immediately. That way, our children learn that this behaviour must never be tolerated. It is never right to discriminate against someone in the guise of a joke.

Mrs Meldrum might feel that the remark of her friend was innocuous and therein lies the problem. I think she would do well to educate herself and learn what has happened in the past, when we have enabled someone to target a specific group.  Failing that, I think that a bit of humility and an admission of guilt would not go amiss.

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Elisabeth.

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