Making fun of violence and rape: Wumo disrespects women

// 28 August 2012

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This is a guest post by Elin Weiss and Hennie Weiss. Elin has a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies. Hennie has recently earned her Master’s degree in Sociology. Their interests include feminism, gender, the sexualisation of women and the portrayal of women in media.

sad clown.jpgContent note: The links in this post connect to comic strips that, among other things, depict coercion and abuse and might be upsetting and triggering.

The F-Word recently discussed Daniel Tosh and his group rape joke and the responses his joke elicited. We would like to continue the discussion and turn our attention to the comic strip Wumo and its disrespectful jokes that involve coercive sex and domestic abuse.

One of the strips features an acting improv class in which a man is having sex with a woman in front of the other actors while the text reads: “In improv it’s a rule always to say ‘yes’, which can have its consequences”.

At the improv class, the men “up next” are smiling in anticipation of the sexual act while the women are clearly uncomfortable. This fact appears to very much reflect reality; that many women who are aware of how common and detrimental rape and coercive sex is, are not laughing, while some men are making fun of rape and rape behaviour. Strips such as these serve as a reminder to women of the constant fear of rape and the common belief (often expressed in media) that coercive sex is a trivial matter.

Rather than being critical of coercive sex this strip tells us that: “You should always say yes to sex, even if you do not want to”, “If men could they would gladly rape”, “Men enjoy sex that is non-consensual”, “Even if you do not want sex, it can still happen, your voice does not matter”.

A second strip shows a crowd of women at a convention for abused women, upset as the magician on the stage states: “…and now I’ll saw this woman in half”. The women are upset, screaming, crying, or are simply outraged. The strip appears to make fun of the women responding to the magician sawing a woman in half; thereby suggesting that they are overreacting and that they are fragile and hysterical, words that are often used to describe women and their emotional state. Magic, however, is an illusion while violence against women clearly is not.

Other strips are insensitive as they use words such as “she-male” and make fun of bulimia.

None of the “jokes” are funny if we consider the daily suffering or discrimination many women who are abused, identify in non-stereotypical ways, suffer from bulimia or are/have been sexually assaulted face. How come sexual coercion, rape and violence against women hold such entertainment value? How come it is supposedly funny to joke about groups that are the most vulnerable and the most discriminated against?

The comic strip Wumo is allegedly famous for its critical take on social problems and taboos. But is it critical or simply misogynist? Wumo is belittling women being abused and coerced, rather than criticising abuse and coercive sex. Apparently, “jokes” about violence against women and coercive sex are funny and innocent. Tell that to the millions of women who are abused, raped and assaulted daily.

Photo of a sad clown who’s sick of rape jokes by melingowagamama, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Comments From You

LorrieHearts // Posted 28 August 2012 at 5:21 pm

Rape is a common theme on Wumo – see this ‘humorous’ take on the financial crisis (SERIOUS trigger warning for rape) Basically, it’s the same old, using-rape-to-describe-things-that-aren’t-rape trope, and it’s neither provocative nor intelligent. It does, however, typify the male-dominated media that think that sexual violence against women and girls is both funny and useful as a metaphor.

Denise A. // Posted 6 December 2012 at 3:29 pm

You make a really good point in pointing out that women are conditioned to think that the fear of rape is normal. Society teaches women to “not get raped” while failing to teach men not to do the raping. It seems like rape in the media is rapid now. The biggest problem have with rape in media like this is that men are commended for it. They are encouraged to take on masculine aggressive traits. In comic strips like this rape is humorized to condition us to think that it’s no big deal. This could be the reason why rape convictions have fallen. That does not mean that rape rates have gone down. Studies show that 1 out of 10 women said they experienced some form of sexual victimization (including rape) since the age of 16. 1 and 20 women said they have been raped at least once since the age of 16. In order for the media to change there has be more awareness of this misuse in rape. The public has to respond to the media, starting with the local media.

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