That joke isn't funny any more

by Helen G // 25 April 2008, 21:21

The notion that ‘feminists have no sense of humour’ is a bit of a cliché so I thought I’d update it a little and put on my ‘humourless trans feminist’ hat. So here goes: Graham Norton’s recent ‘jokes’ about Thomas Beatie were transphobic and Not Funny.

Okay, Helen, so what’s brought this on?

Well, I’ve just read this post by Tekanji over at the Official Shrub.com Blog. Tekanji says, "The BBC has chosen to defend some transphobic comments made by a gay comedian whose show they sponsor. In this clip where he’s talking about Thomas Beatie, he says: ‘If he hasn’t had genital surgery surely that just makes him a lesbian’ and ‘that thing is still a woman’."

Selina, who saw the programme, explains on her blog how she sent a complaint to the BBC Complaints Department and received a reply in which, Selina says, "Not only have they completely misunderstood my comment, they’ve dismissed it in a really aggravating ‘generic response’ way".

And, reading the reply - you can read it in full here - I can’t help but agree. As Selina points out, this is about transphobia in a wider context than ‘just’ the Thomas Beatie case. The reply is dismissive and, in its way, every bit as offensive as Graham Norton’s ‘jokes’. Would the BBC defend, let’s say, homophobic remarks? Oh wait - I forgot - they already have...

According to this page, "The BBC is paid for directly through each household’s TV licence" - which means that any trans* person who pays the television license fee has, in effect, contributed to the making, and broadcasting, of Graham Norton’s transphobic remarks.

To quote Tekanji, "Why is it that the dehumanization of a person/group of people is still considered funny?" Answers on the back of a £20 note to Helen G c/o TFW.

Thank you and goodnight.

Comments From You

liz // Posted 25 April 2008 at 23:19

Hey - the BBC are appaling, I sent them a complaint about their enoch powell 'documentary 'and they wrote me a reply that couldn't be more dismissive if they were writing to a piece of turd.

Suzi K // Posted 26 April 2008 at 08:33

I'm really annoyed that Norton has done this, - I cannot understand why anyone thinks it is ok to mock and insult Thomas Beattie.

Fair enough for whatever reason some people are offended by his reproductive choices. I can see (though not understand) how some people would be offended/freaked out. That's fine - everyone does (no matter how disagreeable) have a right to an opinion.

What is NOT ok, is the widespread media and societal acceptance of condemnation aimed specifically at this man, his wife and their unborn child. The Beatties aren't hurting anyone, they have merely found a way to have a child which challenges society and the gender binary. There are far more impoertant things for people to be offended by than whether or not one man and his wife choose to have a child in a slightly unconventional way.

I propose letters of complaint are sent to the BBC, and perhaps one of the LGBT organisations should get involved - it is about time organisations like the BBC realised that there is difference between humour and satire and being offensive and discriminatory to sectors of society that have enough discrimination to deal with already.

/rant button off.

Mary Tracy9 // Posted 26 April 2008 at 13:03

The BBC are appaling indeedy. I've just blogged about some BS on RADIO 4 ("intelligent speech", btw) and I considered making a complaint. I was right not to do it in the end, as the response would have probably pissed me off more than the BS itself.

Marlow // Posted 26 April 2008 at 16:19

I remember seeing that, actually. I was just skipping through the channels and only watched it for a few minutes but I was really angry about it. It really annoys me that people will be so insulting to a man they don't even know.
I'm in high school and friends of mine have made stupid comments about it but I've learnt that it's best to keep quiet about certain things now or face the 'Erin's put on her 'feminist' cap again, let's talk about something else' attitude. :/

Sara Helen // Posted 26 April 2008 at 23:49

I can't believe that the Beeb doesn't take its viewers seriously. Well, I can, but it's still shocking!

Going completely off topic, I'm glad I'm not the only one with a 'feminist cap'! That's something which really annoys me - just because it's an issue people (my friends) know I care about, somehow makes it less legitimate, and makes my opinion worthless. Eh? Even if someone else has brought something to do with gender issues/feminism up, and I start "talking feminism", it somehow gives them an excuse to tune out completely. I'd like to think that I'm getting through to people and making them at least think about what they say, but how can I - or anyone - when we just get ignored?
I would guess that this is not an unusual phenomenon, what are other people's experiences?
(sorry for hijaking the board...)

Leigh Woosey // Posted 27 April 2008 at 12:29

Has anybody who saw the programme registered their complaint yet?

here are some useful links:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/complain/progs/specific/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

Hope they help.

Helen G // Posted 27 April 2008 at 12:35

Leigh: I believe Selena used the BBC Complaints option originally; she posted the reply she received on her blog, link here

Claire // Posted 27 April 2008 at 16:04

"Why is it that the dehumanization of a person/group of people is still considered funny?"

Bertrand Russell said "some people would rather die than think". I totally believe that.

Graham Norton should never have got further than bit parts on Father Ted. The BBC is a disgrace for employing him. Apart from what Helen mentions, this moron has also made jokes about Heather Mills - not that I like her, but the point is he chose to focus on her disability for the purpose of his cheap laughs. I think a lot of the time he must surely be violating the so-called equality/anti-discrimination laws. But people just keep laughing laughing laughing. And not thinking.

Caitlin // Posted 27 April 2008 at 20:51

I was really disappointed to read this about Graham Norton, as I've grown to like him a bit since he started presenting I'd Do Anything and all that malarkey. But to call a transgendered person a 'thing' is unacceptable - I'm amazed that the BBC were willing to let that go.

(On a side note, the Firefox dictionary doesn't think that transgendered is a word. It wants me to replace it with transgenic, or transended or transponder. That's pretty interesting...)

Blake // Posted 19 July 2008 at 01:14

"Why is it that the dehumanization of a person/group of people is still considered funny?"

And yet I almost never see anyone complaining when the group of people being dehumanized and denegrated is male, especially of the caucasian and/or hetero persuasion. Hmm. Double standard perhaps?

Helen G // Posted 19 July 2008 at 07:05

And you, sir, would do well to examine the privileges of that group comprising "male[s], especially of the caucasian and/or hetero persuasion", as you call it, before you shoot your mouth off about a post by a trans woman on a feminist forum. Your comment oppresses me and my trans sisters and brothers, and that is unacceptable. And you have the arrogance to accuse me of double standards?

I would respectfully suggest you read the following before you fire off that disgruntled reply which you are even now writing in your mind. Hopefully then you will have an inkling why I find your comment so offensive.

White Privilege
Male Privilege
White Male Privilege
Heterosexual Privilege
Straight Privilege
Non-Trans Privilege

Blake // Posted 05 August 2008 at 17:40

You completely failed to address my concern, merely deflected. Yes, white hetero males have caused a lot of pain and harm over the centuries. Yes, white hetero males have been the oppressors throughout history. But thimes have changed a lot. Maybe not as fast and as far as you would like, but they have been and are still changing. Since when do two wrongs make a right? Does the oppressed becoming he oppressor make it all better? It concerns me that you seem to think (from what little I admittedly know about you from a couple of blog postings) that to become like what you fight against is not only okay, but a valid goal. Does not becoming the opressor make you as bad as those you fought so hard against? A tyrant is a tyrant is a tyrant, whether it comes from the left, right or center, whether it is male, female or transgendered. And no, I am not calling you a tyrant, not by any means, please understand that. I am merely trying to point out that it is a slippery slope that you are on. I thought the goal of feminism was equality, not superiority. Yet when I see time and again how it is okay to denegrate and debase one class and no others, I see a major double standard. And when I point it out, rather than an honest and open discourse, a debate, I am attacked, my thoughts are not taken seriously (nor my feelings), and rather than address the issue(s) I raise, the "discussion" is steered in another direction.

Holly // Posted 05 August 2008 at 18:02

This is in response is to Helen G's hormonal feminazi response to Blake's post... although my thoughts, no doubt, are also, 'unacceptable' . Let's hear it for free speach Yay! The 'double standard' is a fact ! ' Accuse you'? Wow, what an ego! I am posting this becasue your comments are beyond offensive...Look around..it's NOT all about you; you are not that special! There are few enough enlightened, intelligent women who know their place...geez! Too many women would rather be a 'sis' than a thinker..so sad. In closing, i respectfully suggest that you learn to capitalize the 's' in Sir from this point on!

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