It’s Just a Joke Man!
During my last month of school, I conducted a study. In this study, I numbered how many times a “crude” or “disrespectful” joke was said. Over the course of thirteen days, I heard 40 of these “jokes”. Of these jokes, nineteen were about disabilities, such as Autism and Mental Retardation; three were about mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety; ten were about suicide; thirteen were about rape. These listed are not the only “crude” or “disrespectful” jokes I witnessed, there were also jokes about the LGBT+ community and different races. Most of these jokes, an estimated 75%, were said by teenage boys. All of these jokes, no matter who said them, were either laughed at or ignored. I have spent hours trying to elaborate on this issue, but, with no other facts besides the ones I have found myself, it feels hopeless. So, instead of facts and information, let’s take a journey into the heart.
The disability jokes, “you’re such a retard” or “are you autistic?”, were dropped on the daily. Given that I conducted a thirteen-day study and I observed nineteen of these jokes, I heard approximately one joke referring to disability a day. There are people that are low on the spectrum — the autistic spectrum — that are in “regular” classes. There is approximately one autistic child for every 59 children. That means that, in your average classroom, there is a 1.7% chance that a child with autism is in your class. If you were a child with autism and someone made an autistic joke, how would you feel? For me, personally, I would be offended to have my disability treated as though it were not something that is very serious.
Making a joke about disabilities is similar to making jokes about diseases. Although they are not as common, jokes about cancer are still said. As a person who knows people who have had cancer, it makes me angry for someone to compare a simple mistake or whatever to a serious illness that is killing people.
The rape jokes, “it isn’t rape if you like it” or “I’m gonna rape you”, were nearly as common as the disability jokes. I heard approximately one joke about rape a day. It boggles my mind to see students, predominately male students, make jokes about such matters. People ages 12–24 are the most likely to be sexually assaulted. One in every six women is sexually assaulted. This means that any one of your female classmates has a 16.6% chance of having already been sexually assaulted or being sexually assaulted in the future.
Men are also at risks of being sexually assaulted, though it is less common. People that are transgender are the most common to be sexually assaulted. In every school there are students who are transgender or students that relate to gender dysphoria. How would you feel if you were sexually assaulted and you heard people joking about it? I would feel uncomfortable being around these students, seeing as they, probably, do not see rape as a serious issue. I truly do not understand why someone would make this kind of joke. I don’t even know what to think.
The suicide jokes, “I’m gonna kill myself” or “just kill yourself”, are the next most common jokes. Around 17.7% of high school students have reported considering suicide, have attempted suicide, or have attempted suicide and needed medical assistance. Even one of my gym coaches admitted to having suicidal thoughts. People don’t realize how these “jokes” can affect their fellow students. By saying one of these “jokes”, it could be the last straw for someone considering suicide. Why would you risk someone’s life for a few laughs? That’s just, it’s not cool, man.
The mental disorder jokes, “this gives me depression” or “haha look I’m schizophrenic”, are the least common. I used to hear these jokes nearly every day, and I am grateful that they are not said as much. Imagine that you are someone dealing with anxiety or depression or any other mental disorder. If someone joked about something you are going through, how would that make you feel? I have to admit, even I have made these jokes. Once I realized how serious they were, I stopped telling them. I do not wish to make anyone around me feel uncomfortable or that they are dealing with a miniscule problem. I don’t want to be that person who makes other people feel worthless. Do you want to be that person? I don’t think you do.
I was not instructed to conduct this study, no adult or authority figure told me to do this. I have heard these jokes for a large portion of my life. Since middle school, I have heard these jokes on a daily basis. These jokes are said in classes, in front of teachers, in front of parents, in front of the principal. These jokes are said in front of so many people, and no one has done anything to try and stop it. We all know how important it is to not bully people or to be kind to others, but we don’t even think about how these jokes could be affecting our fellow students or even our closest friends. So, instead of sitting around and being a bystander, what are you going to do to help stop these “jokes”? During this study, even if it disrupted my observations, I told people how disrespectful those jokes are — giving that I had the courage to do so. I have done my part, and I will continue to do my part. Are you going to do yours?