Humour

Humour

There’s nothing immediately funny about online abuse. It’s annoying. It’s scary. It’s draining.

But what if by finding the funny in the unfunny, you could regain control of a dynamic that has turned abusive? What if giggling at the trolls ended up being one of the most effective ways to deal with online abuse, since it offers us the opportunity to humorously acknowledge our abusers for the sole purpose of shrugging them off?

By defusing a tough situation with a joke or an ironic emoji, you’re more than likely to come out of the interaction feeling like a rockstar. We’re talking about that sweet rush of endorphins you get from exchanging hilarious memes with your friends. We’re talking about the fact that laughter really is the best medicine.

Plus, by making it clear to harassers that what they say affects you so little it actually makes you laugh, you’re also more than likely to have belittled your abuser beyond recovery, which is always a delicious bonus.

Because you know the thing about fragile cis male egos? They don’t always do so well in the face of laughter.

[Abusers] are cowards and bullies. The only way of dealing with them is to stare them down. Use humour to deal with them. One needs to hit them where it hurts, their ego. - Anshika, interviewed for Don’t Let It Stand

So laugh at them.

A strong sense of humour may well be a major source of power on the Internet.

Presenting a by-no-means-exhaustive collection of sharp and witty responses to abuse on Twitter from India and beyond.

Ex-editor of Buzzfeed India, Rega Jha, is always happy to receive 'constructive feedback' on her writing from trolls.

Twitter user Rega Jha quotes an abusive tweet to say she's making her parents more and more proud everyday.

[Translation of the troll's tweet: 'Wow, your tweets... you're a total...']

So is author Roxane Gay.

Twitter user Roxane Gay responds to a tweet saying that her Black Panther Comic was terrible by saying "Tell that to my royalties."

Credit: Roxane Gay's personal Twitter

Journalist Maggie Serota just couldn't contain her excitement when she found out that this man had… wait for it… an opinion!

Twitter user Maggie New Year quote tweets a tiresome explanation of why female Ghostbusters is harmful to feminism, by saying: "A dude is gonna explain something! Hooray!"

Of course, Rega Jha's also an expert at shutting down gross dudes weirdly fixated on her body.

Twitter user Rega Jha quote tweets someone commenting on her looks to say she resembles a witch by saying: "#DreamDoComeTrue".

[Translation of the troll's tweet: 'Rega ma'am, you're looking like a witch, reduce your make-up a little bit, you're spoiling the image of the 'Indian woman'.]

Artist Naina Redhu and pop star Ariana Grande have also dealt their own sweet burns on the issue.

Twitter user Naina says "It's only Indian men who are staring at my shorts-clad legs at the hotel buffet. What's up boys? LA not treating you well? Homesick?"

Credit:Naina's personal Twitter

Twitter user tweets at Ariana Grande that his 9 year old sister has bigger tits than she does. Ariana Grande wonder whether the user spends a lot of time staring at their sister's tits?

Credit: Uproxx

And journalist Ash Sarkar wasn't here for this troll's Islamophobic sexism.

Twitter user Ash Sarkar responds to an abusive tweet saying her arranged marriage husband controls her Twitter while performing FGM on her, by saying" "Wow, a man adept at multitasking? I'm a lucky gal."

Bonus:

Twitter user Ash Sarkar responds to someone asking if she has a husband by saying: "No, but I've had a kidney infection before which is kind of the same thing."

Takeaway

Humour is a powerful way for women to acknowledge abuse and harassment and dismiss an abuser in the same breath.

Ah, memes. Even if you haven’t created one of your own, you’ve definitely seen them being used online. All. The. Time.

Memes (rhymes with ‘dreams’) are usually stills, gifs, or text from movies, shows, and other bit and pieces of popular culture that evoke giggles and spread like wildfire across the interwebs.

Even celebrities are no strangers to memes. Someone made the mistake of calling Bollywood superstar Sonakshi Sinha ‘damn ugly’, and she replied in the only graceful way she could.

Twitter user tweets to Sonakshi Sinha asking what makes her so damn ugly.
Sonakshi Sinha responds with a picture of a dishevelled animal, with the caption "haters be commenting on your posts and their profile pic be like".

Credit: The Indian Express

When words don’t do enough justice (or rather, have difficulty being understood, *ahem*), memes come to the rescue. Because sometimes there isn't much difference between the fictional world of Mad Max and the not-so-fictional world of the Internet.

Twitter user shares a screenshot from a movie where the subtitles say 'Men yelling indistinctly', and captions it "The internet in a nutshell."

Credit: Spencer Perry

Feel free to use any of the following for appropriate (or inappropriate) situations.

For the ever-so-ubiquitous ‘mansplaining’.

Twitter user shares a cartoon with a man opening the door and text accompanies it with 'Behold, A man has arrived to share his manly view'.

Credit: Unknown, taken from chiller

Or, if you prefer, you could use Aishwarya Rai’s version of ‘talk to the hand’.

Twitter user beautiful gandhi shares a picture of Aishwarya Rai with alta on her hands showing her palm in a dance pose. It is captioned "my new 'bas/enough/are you done?' reaction pic".

For when bros get ragey and sad because you no love Richard Dawkins. Or because you have a voice. Or an opinion. Essentially, your existence makes them weep.

Twitter user shares an image of 'Ultrasoft tissues mansize', saying: "for all those male tears."

Twitter user shares an image of two forearms emerging from a swamp with thumb-up, saying: "Me, surviving in a world flooded by male tears."

If it all gets too much, throw a Ryan Gosling meme in their face. A study by two PhD students from the University of Saskatchewan showed that Gosling memes made cis men more ready to embrace feminist ideas. Whatever works, we guess?

An image of Ryan Gosling taken from below, with the text "Hey girl. If I had a hammer, I'd smash the patriarchy."

Credit: Feminist Ryan Gosling

If you’re looking for something a little less phoren, though, you can always rely on Feminist Deepika Padukone.

An image of Deepika Padukone, taken from her wedding, where her arms are up in the air as if she is holding a poster. The altered image has 'Smash Brahminical Patriarchy equalitylabs.org' on it.

Credit:Unknown, taken from Shan

And, finally, for more home-grown memes, look no further than the anti-caste satire group, Savarna Fat Cat:

We aim to bring you up close to the psyche of this marvelous creature [upper-caste/savarna folks] and observe it in its natural habitat in one of the pioneering attempts of its kind.

Savarna Fat Cat's #IsThatASavarna? collection – a series of posts mocking common upper-caste beliefs held by far too many of us – is nothing less than iconic.

Meme where there's a cartoon image of a person, named 'Savarnas', looking at a butterfly called 'Dalit who speaks English' and a caption that asks 'Is this an Elite Dalit?'

Credit: Savarna Fat Cat

Meme where there's a cartoon image of a person, named 'Savarnas', looking at a butterfly called 'Dalit assertion', with a caption that asks 'Is this reverse casteism?'.

Credit: Savarna Fat Cat

Meme where there's a cartoon image of a person, named 'Savarna feminist', looking at a butterfly called 'Bahujan women's labor', with a caption that says 'Is that the next subject for my poems and blogs'

Credit: Savarna Fat Cat

The website you're currently browsing is brought to you by many privileged folks - including upper caste and white feminists - and we can see the irony of us featuring Savarna Fat Cat's memes here, particularly that last one.

But we'd be remiss if we didn't include these stinging memes that make us reflect ourselves, in a section about taking back your space through humour.

Takeaway

Since you might not be feeling particularly funny in the face of abuse, there are tons of fab memes you can use instead of coming up with your own jokes.

In no mood to come up with witticism yourself? Outsource some of the work to Zero Trollerance – a ‘humorous feminist-toned re-education programme for sexist trolls on Twitter’ launched by the Peng! Collective in March 2015, and very much worth checking out.

A banner of a website with a sullen looking man in a suit, with the words "With my help even you can become a decent human being!"

Credit: Zero Trollerance

Zero Trollerance is made up of 6 mock self-help videos designed for abusers on Twitter.

It goes from ‘Step 1: Zero Denial’, in which bald-headed guru Adler King asks: ‘are you struggling to engage with anyone who doesn’t identify as a heterosexual man?’

onto ‘Step 4: Zero Fear’ (‘challenge your perceptions of gender and privilege and face your fears’)

and up to the final ‘Step 6: Zero Troll’, which briefly features a ‘reformed troll’ wearing an ethernet cable around his wrist (in a mock-repentant gesture to ‘remind [himself] of his past on the Internet’).

The Zero Trollerance website states, ‘For trolls, this [website] is the first step towards a new life’. And the proof is in the pudding, a.k.a these mock tweets from reformed trolls.

(For an example of Zero Trollerance taking on actual abusers, check out this strategy.)

Takeaway

Although the extent to which they deflect or discourage actual abuse may not be clear, initiatives like Zero Trollerance are funny, accessible ways to comment on sexist abuse online.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the interwebs are full of, uh, colourful men. But, they’re also filled with equally creative responses from women. Sometimes quite literally.

@SanitaryPanels is an imaginative burst of feminism that all of us need on our Facebook and Instagram timelines. The artist behind the account, Rachita Taneja, shows us that all you need to explain online gender politics are stick figures and a biting sense of irony.

A stick figure drawing of a person walking in from a door saying 'You don't know me but I saw your art on the internet & I'm here to give you unsolicited advice on how to improve your art even though I know nothing about your art & probably can't even draw straight line'. There's another person in the corner of the frame with a laptop, saying 'Ugh fuck. I forgot to lock the door again.'

Credit: Sanitary Panels

Rachita also has zero patience for seemingly ‘feminist’ cis straight men – those mansplain-y bros you'll usually find soaked in some good ol’ Eau de Hypocrisy.

A three panel comic with stick figures, where the in the first panel, stick figure 1 says: 'Ladies, be confident about your body and looks.' In the second panel, stick figure 2 or presumably the lady says 'I'm confident about my body and looks. The final panel has stick figure 1 saying 'ok not that confident.'

Credit: Sanitary Panels

For more proof that making fun of pseudo-feminist bros just doesn't get old, take a look at Imaan Sheikh's spectacular parody account, Bare Minimum Basheer. Using Apple's Animoji technology, Imaan animates the average 'woke' South Asian male feminist.

Just look at what Basheer has to say about the repeal of Section 377.

Credit: Woke Desi Boy

Of course, the world of feminist media would be incomplete without some anthemic tunes to soundtrack our struggles. And the People's Art and Literary Association (PALA) from Tamil Nadu, India know this so very well.

Credit: The News Minute

God’s own country – Ladies, no entry!

PALA’s satirical track responds to the intense level of gendered abuse that followed the Supreme Court’s decision to allow all women into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. The Court’s judgment had become the focus of a national ‘debate’ – mainly conducted on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp – that turned very toxic, very quickly.

But through this sharp and super quotable video, the women of PALA have taken the online virality of the Sabarimala debate into their own hands. The video’s lyrics and images expose the abusive double standards that have kept women in the margins of religious freedoms for far too long.

Hilarious feminist art? Sign us up!

Takeaway

There’s nothing actually funny about creepy or disrespectful men, but Sanitrary Panels, Bare Minimum Basheer and the work of PALA sure do a great job of making us laugh.

In Summary

Humour

  • Soak up those endorphins, friend. Laughter really is the best medicine. And in the wise words of Donna Meagle: Treat. Yo. Self.
  • Bonus: using humour is also an effective way of taking control of an abusive online dynamic and hitting abusers where it hurts. Their egos.
  • Using humour against abusers can give the impression that they’re so insignificant, they make you laugh (even if, really, they don’t).
  • Humour is a key part of the way many women talk about abuse to their online communities – for example, when they retweet an abusive message while adding a funny comment.
  • Since you might not always feel particularly hilarious in the face of abuse, the interwebs are always full of fabulous and inclusive memes at your disposal.
  • Though it’s not clear if they are able to intervene effectively in actual instances of abuse, initiatives like Zero Trollerance provide funny and perceptive commentary on online harassment.
  • Feminist art – from drawings to animation to song and dance – can provide a wonderful outlet for responding to online misogyny in a spirited manner, and without necessarily engaging with an abuser directly.