“Don’t Make this Personal” or, Things People Say to Preemptively Shut You Up

Dear world,

My concerns about race, gender, and class inequality are personal insofar as they affect me, but are not “about me.” They are not an ego trip. They are not an excuse to whine and complain and make myself out to be a victim. They are not “about me.”

Note: I’m using the example of rape jokes because I think it’s the easiest to sympathize with and requires less of me revealing personal info/situations, but I’ve been told not to make things personal/be so sensitive about pretty much every issue under the sun. 

Me calling you out on your rape joke is personal insofar as whenever I walk alone in the dark or in an unfamiliar place I have a constant internal monologue going in which I identify potential rapists, feel bad about identifying them as potential rapists, wonder why I’m identifying them as potential rapists, and then see a white van and freak the fuck out. So yeah, rape affects my daily life (in a way that is thankfully insignificant in comparison with the experiences of others, but still sucks), so yeah, I guess rape is personal.

But I’m not calling you out on your rape joke because you hurt my feelings, I’m calling you out on your rape joke because I don’t want you repeating it to a rape survivor. I don’t want it scrolling on the newsfeed of the mother or father or brother or sister of a rape survivor. I don’t want you telling that joke to someone you don’t know is a rapist, because I don’t want you laughing with a rapist about a crime that destroys lives, because I don’t want you reinforcing the idea that rape is hilarious, that it’s not a big deal, that it’s not something that happens to “people like us.” Your test didn’t rape you. That c*nt in your knee-slapper of a story didn’t ask for it. Rape isn’t an oopsies. Raping mentally handicapped individuals isn’t funny. Raping old women isn’t funny. Raping men isn’t funny.

Me calling me out on your rape joke is not about me. It’s not about you, even. It’s about living in a world in which at least half the population lives in fear of a crime that, once perpetrated, they will be blamed for, shamed for, or simply ignored. And don’t even bother with that free speech shit. You use your free speech to tell your rape joke. I use mine to tell you that you’re being an ass. And if you want an example of a joke about rape that isn’t terrible in all ways, shapes, and forms, check out my second paragraph. 

That’s problem number one.

Problem number two:

So what if it is personal? What is it about my feelings that invalidates my opinion on the appropriateness of your rape joke? Let’s be real, here, the subtext is that I’m being too emotional, illogical, and/or “crazy,” and therefore am wrong. My feelings are wrong because they are not your feelings and the existence of my feelings makes you feel squicky inside because you like to think of yourself as a good person and you don’t like to think that you could say things that would offend others and my feelings are evidence that that particular conception of yourself is just not true. So you say “Don’t make this personal,” because that way the fact that you just upset me is my fault. And if I keep talking, if I get angry, I’m just proving your point. Once you’ve cast aspersions on my motivations, there’s no way for me to respond that disproves your claim, other than shutting up. And if I shut up, you win.

If we were to do a little role reversal, this is roughly the equivalent of me calling you a shitfaced douchebag, you telling me that I hurt your feelings, and me accusing you of infringing upon my God-given right to call you a shitfaced douchebag by having your feelings hurt. Your feelings are wrong. You shouldn’t be offended by me insulting you. You should suck it up and deal with it. Stop talking. Oh, you’re still talking? U MAD? U MAD?

“But “shitfaced douchebag” is an insult! I was just joking!” you say. Ok cool, so let’s say that your dad has testicular cancer and I’m making jokes about how he’s going to lose his dick, and there’s actually a possibility that he might and, more than that, testicular cancer runs in your family and someday you might get it too and you actively worry about this possibility every day. Maybe my intention isn’t to offend you or make you feel bad, but if you ask me to stop making dick jokes, it’s a dick move on my part to keep going. It’s an even bigger dick move to tell you to shut up and stop taking things personally. It’s the biggest of all dick moves to accuse you of being petty and/or hysterical for continuing to speak.

“Stop talking,” you say. “Don’t make this personal.”

Subtext: The things you are saying are making me feel uncomfortable.

Funny, isn’t that what I just said to you?


That Girl


Filed under Gender, Life

13 responses to ““Don’t Make this Personal” or, Things People Say to Preemptively Shut You Up

  1. stumbled upon your site because you are freshly pressed… then started nosing around. Great post. I agree. There seems to be very little awareness of this—and I am noticing that “Rape” has become a joke, taboo to talk about, etc. I’ve always been very aware of the men in my life. Most recently though, a very close friend of mine was raped and now I am more aware. I noticed that the things that are said to her or others such as “what were you doing? Were you drinking? Where were you at?” are distasteful and absurd. I noticed also more jokes about rape or women. As I was being told a joke about rape by one of my friends about 2 weeks ago I said “yeah that isn’t funny.” He was upset that I “got all depressing” on him. SO sorry that I don’t think a man or women for that matter that rapes someone is not funny. I still think the best way to handle situations like this is to confront the person—“Does it matter where she was at? Do you think it would be funny if it was your sister–brother? So if she is drunk does that make it okay?”

    Anyway… I ranted on for a while now and I am going to subscribe to your blog. Have a beautiful day.


  2. I think you make a great point in your second “problem” paragraph. They are invalidating your feelings. Some things are just offensive. I can laugh about a good many “inappropriate” things. Jokes about race and religion. If you know the stereotypes, you can often see WHY something might be humorous, even if you don’t personally AGREE with said stereotypes. But some things just aren’t funny. I used to belong to a FB group called “no holds barred” where they joked about offensive things. The line was drawn when they started making jokes about that teen-aged bully victim who killed herself, Amanda Todd. Just. Not. Funny.

  3. sociologification

    YES! YES YES YES! I have no words except infinite exclamations of YES YOU FUCKING ROCK!

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve had this conversation with a few people, and my bottom line is “is it still happening to people? Yes? Then it’s not funny, and will not be funny until it’s obsolete. Then you can make jokes about it. But until then? Shut up.”

  5. Your writing style had me hooked! The seemingly lighthearted message cleverly masks the seriousness of the point you make..in other words, I feel your style is a metaphor; people who make rape jokes make light of how vile the act really is and you’ve communicated this so very well!

    Great read!

  6. sporadicblogger

    You summed up the problem really well. Those who make rape jokes really out themselves as complete dicks.

  7. Pingback: “Don’t Make this Personal” or, Things People Say to Preemptively Shut You Up | Know me b4 u Hate Me

  8. sharply articulated- fantastic piece!!

  9. hellllll yeah!!!! you my friend are my new psych deadly weapon!!!

  10. blowingoffsteamandmore

    This is the 3rd post I have read and so far it’s my favorite. As a date rape victim and eating disorder survivor I can assure you that these things aren’t funny, nor will they be funny when they are obsolete. Thanks for the awesome posts. I am hooked!

  11. irrationalitydestroyer

    Yeah, rape jokes are like racist jokes that you constantly hear from people. I used to to them because “oh, I’m not racist, but it is so ironic and funny” until I realized just how ignorant I was. The same is with all those “women are inferior” jokes like the one that says “What is a woman doing by looking at a white paper? Reading her rights, of course!”. They are awful and just reveal the ignorance of the person that tells them. People don’t do them because they want to be sexist or racist, they don’t even realize they are being racist or sexist. And that’s what it is so awful about these jokes. It enables sexism and racism into our society by hiding behind the banner of humor.

  12. The problem with people who take offense at being called on rape jokes, racist jokes, and other ugliness that passes as humor:

    They are privileging their amusement over someone else’s (real-life) pain.

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