Remember those jokes that annoyed you so much that you wished you could crumple them up and throw them out with the garbage? Yes, yes, the ones with lousy puns on the female anatomy? Or how long women take to 'dress up'? Or how much make-up they put. And oh, how they are just not interested in sex at all. Someone just took that brand of sexism up by several notches to produce the most astounding piece of regressive, violent 'joke' in the history of regressive, violent jokes. And guess what, the same was also displayed for the public to read and perhaps mourn the devolution of humans.
A Facebook user called Anoushka Kapoor took a picture of a flyer displayed in the bathroom stall of Lemon Tree Hotel, Bangalore. The flyer, which carries the logo of the hotel, seeks to 'humour' its customers with a joke. Now, what's the joke?
It's basically how a woman in a 'strappy dress' is out on a trip to a zoo with her husband. A gorilla,on spotting the woman, displays human lout behaviour and gets very excited. The husband is 'amused' and eggs on the woman to pull the straps of her dress down and finally lift the skirt of her dress to further excite the gorilla. Because, you know, men will be boors. And women, on acquiring a husband, must lose all agency. Then, the man opens the door to the cage and shoves the woman inside, asking her to furnish excuses like she has a 'headache' and deny sex to a gorilla.
The kind of disregard for consent the 'joke' advocates is dangerous. In fact, it encourages violence in response to a woman exercising her agency and saying no to sex. Kapoor rightly points out in her post: "I can't even call this sexist, it's blatantly advocating rape culture. Rapes can only ever be minimised if and when we stop treating consent as a matter of humour. Humour that relies on bringing down one sex/treats consent lightly/treats women as sex objects is not funny."
When HuffPost India got in touch with Lemon Tree Hotels, this is what they had to say in response: "As a part of the fun element in our brand, we download humor from the internet. The selection of the humor is never to offend anybody on the basis of caste, creed, religion or gender. The item in reference appears to have offended the sensitivities of certain people. We regret the unpleasantness caused. We have immediately removed this collateral from circulation."
Unless, the hotel's 'fun element' head was Googling 'rape jokes' as a part of its brand building exercise, one fails to see how it didn't occur to anyone employed in the hotel that the content is offensive and legitimises violence against women. In fact, what it does reveal, however, is the extent to which we have normalised the idea of sexual violence against women. So much so, we can proudly display similar ideas as jokes in an upscale commercial establishment.
Also note, how in its statement, the hotel doesn't quite admit that the content displayed was crass and its selection was misguided or unfortunate. In fact, it says that they are removing it because it has hurt the 'sensitivities' of some people. Here's the thing: if you consider yourself a part of the species called humans, this 'humour' should make you want to throw up.
Unfortunately, it is believed that sexism can have a less harmless extension — called 'casual sexism'. And often, they also pass off as 'jokes'. A while back, a Delhi bar had put up a sign saying, they 'don't serve women'.
With inputs from Rimin Dutt.