When does fun(draising) spill over into sexual objectification and exploitation?
And what does objectification mean anyway?
Recently you may have read about the Chief Exec of a Shropshire NHS Trust refusing to accept £2,500 donations raised at an annual bed push in Ludlow. The reason? The men pushing the bed were dressed up in drag as nurses.
They were of course no ordinary nurses. They were pantomime nurses, yes with bra or lace or short skirts, etc. Silly wigs. Heavy makeup.
The CEO thinks this is demeaning to nurses. Local Shropshire people disagree (96% in a poll).
So I was minded to meditate on this. Or philosophise. Or something.
By the way, the money was to go towards an ECG marching in the community hospital, and the event has been help annually for twenty years.
Is dressing up as a pantomime nurse an insult? Or demeaning?
Is it demeaning of the person/role that is derided?
Is it implying a stereotyped sexual attitude?
Is it humiliating to the person/role that is portrayed?
Is it about suggesting that every person working in the nurse role portrayed dresses and behaves like the men in drag?
I think in this case the objection to men dressed as caricature nurses must be that they lead us to believe that all female nurses are like these portrayals? Unkempt, ragged and a little skimpily dressed, joke characters to be taken as jokes.
Well, if the sight of men dressed as caricature nurses makes you think all nurses are like these you probably already have an excessively warped and misguided view of female nurses. I don think a bit of drag fun isn’t going to warp you!
Is humour that uses stereotypes acceptable?
What about the mother-in-law jokes?
Or the chartered accountant Monty Python jokes?
(I admit that I was training when those jokes were around and they made me cringe with embarrassment. I was determined not to be boring and silly. Not sure if I succeeded.)
What about the carry on films, and the pantomime characters?
Perhaps you are demeaned if you feel demeaned? But lots of personal history and experiences go into how we react and feel about things we see and hear. So that’s highly subjective and unreliable as a test.
Does a man dressed as a woman demean the woman? (Or perhaps the man?)
I think one test is whether the portrayal is caricature or realistic?
If it is caricature, it is obvious and visible, and not subtle or subversive. Caricature is usually comic, and often designed to make a point, usually critical. It has one of two purposes…either to make you laugh or to make you question something.
If the portrayal is realistic, it may be designed to deceive you into doing or thinking something.
In other words, if it’s realistic how do you know if it’s true or false? If it’s caricature you know it’s not deceiving you because it’s obvious,
There are some cultural stereotype jokes in every society. They are frequently found in pantomime and stand up comedy. The buxom, bossy mother in law, bronzed medallion man, sexy nurses, officious traffic wardens, and many more.
Should we outlaw these as incorrect and unacceptably demeaning? Or laugh along?
Do these jokes make us behave adversely towards these stereotype roles in real life when we meet them? Perhaps occasionally.
Do the jokes make the people actually carrying out these roles feel upset or angry, and make them change how they dress and behave? Perhaps occasionally.
Should we therefore make use of stereotypes for humour unlawful?
That would stop legitimate ways of criticising the behaviour of politicians, businessmen and others through humour? Should we ban cartoons, novels and films that use caricature and humour to highlight and criticise?
I think not!
There will always be people who are offended by others, by jokes, by cartoons, by stories, by behaviours. Perhaps because they have raw personal experiences and feelings that are touched. Perhaps because the implicit criticism is a bit too close to them for comfort.
Fundraisers use lots of ways to attract attention and therefore money. Sitting in a bath of baked beans, having wet sponges thrown at your face, dressing up as clowns or… nurses?
Are drag artists insulting to women? I think not. You don’t have to like them or enjoy their acts. But if you feel insulted by them I think the problem is yours not theirs.
One last thing, is this offensive?