49 thoughts on “Reasons when its (sic) acceptable to punch a woman in the face

  1. What kills me is the section where they say “for all the haters this is off color humor…the point of off-color humor is to induce laughter by evoking a feeling of shock and surprise in the comedian’s audience.”

    I think that the group’s creators think that this is shocking and edgy because no one really thinks this.

    And so people who get all upset about it have an inappropriate reaction. Therefore, touting these reasons-that-no-one-really-believes is funny because some people (the haters) do take it seriously.

    But really, it’s only shocking because the plenty of people who do think this way just don’t say it out loud, or they couch it in different terms.

    And it’s shocking because the group thinks its more poignant to make fun of the people who get upset by violence than the people who commit such violence.

    I want to call them cruel, but they’re only cruel insofar as they don’t understand what is actually going on.

  2. kudos on the nice use of ‘sic’, anyway.

    this group has something like eighteen thousand members. eighteen thousand people out there in cyberspace think that domestic abuse is a funny joke. incredible.

  3. logosk, nice points!

    I’m wondering if they actually like the way thinking about it makes them feel. E.g., is it appealing to possibly not very latent fantasies about ‘having their way.’

    In my report I picked the “racist or hate speech,” though I’m not sure the higher powers will understand that this is hate speech.

  4. jj: I picked “incite violence” because any moron should be able to see that punching somebody in the face is violent, whereas, as you state, the “higher powers” might not “understand that this is hate speech”.

  5. j, good idea. It is probably easier for them to get that hitting a woman is violence than that joking about it is hate speech.

  6. I reported it and wrote a blog post in the hopes of getting more people to report. This site is disgusting and how its creators believe that this is “off colour humour” is beyond me. I wonder if they would be able to laugh at the funeral of a woman that is killed by her partner because that is where domestic violence leads. Funny ha ha my ass. Domestic violence kills.

  7. Thanks for blogging it, Renee– and thanks to everyone else for reporting it. I also went with incitement to violence, largely because it was the first category I saw and it seemed to fit well: After all, saying that it’s acceptable to hit someone in the face for breathing seems like a pretty good incitement to violence.

  8. Funny, although it’s an open site and everyone can view the content, in order to report abuse, you have to be logged in.
    Beep that, Facebook, I am not joining.

  9. Just thought I’d post something somewhat good on facebook. There’s a group called, I believe “If breastfeeding offends you put a blanket over YOUR head” that’s devoted to allowing photos of breastfeeding on facebook. They just posted their first collection of breastfeeding photos the other day.

  10. The collection of 13 photos, many of which are mock-up posters, are really appalling – a common theme seems to be violence as a means of causing miscarriage. Or “birth-control” if we’re going for the laughs.

  11. albert, i assume, is talking about the woman-punching group. not the breastfeeding group. tho i was going to add that the breastfeeding group, predictably, seems to keep getting vandalized: people leave violent porn on it in the middle of the night, etc. humans amaze me. f&^king sick.

  12. I’ve given up on trying to convince people that this or that joke is okay or not-okay (though arguing for censorship is a significantly stronger move than mere condemnation). I guarantee that there are jokes which those who oppose this FB group find funny and harmless but which others find offensive. You can’t win. I’d love for someone to give a clear, precise account of exactly what makes an off-color joke truly inappropriate.

  13. extendedlp – yes, I was talking about the woman punching group. Sorry, I should have been clearer!

    You can report the individual photos too by the way.

  14. Worth noting something (following discussion with AC): this discussion shows how inadequate the reporting procedure is on FB – I (and, it seems from this thread, others) wanted to complain about a number of parts of the site, for a number of reasons, and this was not possible.
    Being able to communicate the many different ways in which a group is objectionable seems important
    One easy way of rectifying this would be to allow more of the ‘buttons'(don’t know technical term!) to be filled in.
    It seems that it might be possible to let FB know that revisions would be desirable via their suggestions page, here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/help/suggestions.php

  15. hi im the creator of the face book group “reasons when its acceptable to punch a woman in the face”
    now i want to know how you would determine whether a joke is ok or not. because that is what the group is…. a joke. all because you dont find it funny doesn’t mean it should be shut down.

  16. Thanks for stopping by, Lekan. I don’t have necessary and sufficient conditions for deciding when humour is OK, and I admit that it can be difficult. However, yours is explicitly stating that it’s often OK to punch people and listing a wide variety of reasons, which include breathing– so it’s always OK. This seems very likely to help in legitimating violence against women (which is already widespread), even if it was not intended to do so. It’s very near to an instruction to go punch women. And whether or not you intend it, it helps to perpetuate the idea that hitting women is OK and indeed kind of funny.

  17. Turn it around, Lekan. Would it be funny if I said it was appropriate for me to punch you in the face because you were breathing?

  18. Surely you see that if we substitute ‘black people’ for ‘women’ in your site, your site would be illegal, and rightly so? If I start a group that has a list of Situations In Which It’s Okay to Stab a Black Person (1. If they’re dating a white person. 2. If they have a mixed race child. 3. If they attend my kids’ school. 4. If they get a job I want. etc) , it would get shut down no question. Same for Gay Person, Muslim, Disabled Person, Asian Person.

    You seem to think that your site is some sort of bastion of free speech, in which you’re being Just So Radical, and we’re all being Just So Oppressive because somehow we don’t get the joke. But actually, whether or not it is funny is irrelevant to (a) whether it is a joke, and (b) whether it should be protected by a right of free speech. We can all agree that it’s a joke – it is not actually a condition of something’s being a joke that it be funny. Plenty of jokes suck, but still remain jokes because that is what the speaker intends them to be. You are mistaken to think that whether the site should be closed rests upon whether it is a funny joke. Whether it should be shut down rests upon whether it exceeds the realms of ‘reasonable offence’ of the sort that should be allowed under free speech. Your site exceeds the realms of reasonable offence not by failing to be funny, but by encouraging violence, by encouraging harmful treatment of a particular group or person, and by perpetrating harmful stereotypes of a particular group or person. That it does these things has nothing to do with what you intend. That you intend it to be a joke is irrelevant to whether it actually encourages violence. And it is this encouragement that means it should be shut down.

  19. @PhilosophyBarbie: As Facebook is headquartered in the US, US law on speech governs its operations, not UK law (which I assume is where you’re getting the “reasonable offence” standard). I am trained in US law, and I can categorically state that his content is not illegal. Incidentally, the last thing most posters to Facebook would want would be for it to be governed by UK law, as it would then become impossible to criticize individuals, corporations, or pseudo-sciences like homeopathy without facing ruinous damages for libel.

    The enforcement issue, therefore, is not whether his content is illegal, but whether it violates Facebook’s terms of use and thus should be removed by the company. Legality is a red herring.

  20. Sorry – I did have UK law in mind, which counts the circulating of racist material as a crime. But my latter point about the right to free speech was really a moral claim rather than a legal claim. And Facebook’s content policy seems to endorse the view I described, noting that whilst “users should be able to express themselves and their point of view”, this does not include content that is “derogatory, demeaning, malicious, defamatory, abusive, offensive or hateful”. I presume (perhaps incorrectly) that this amounts to the view that whilst people may publish content of which others disapprove, there are reasonableness restrictions upon such content. But like I say, I wasn’t writing with that in mind – I was simply making a moral claim about the limits of free speech in response to Lekan’s assumption that this debate is about whether his site is funny.

  21. Let me note in this regard that many abusers claim that they are just joking, teasing, playing, etc. So they hurt their victims by speech or more physical actions and then try to turn any objections raised by the victim against the victim.

    I’m wondering whether I or we should be surprised that in effect the routine is operating here. A site is put up that we think encourages violence against women and then we’re told it’s just a joke when we protest.

  22. Reminds me of the Onion News Networks “joke” that showed the conclusion that there really is no violence against women – presented by women who had obviously been abused. Totally tasteless and disrespectful to those of us who have survived DV. (If I can find a link to that video, I’ll post it…)

  23. @ j-bro yes i would find it funny, unless you actually hit me

    @PhilosophyBarbie would you be happy if i put disclaimer saying its a joke?

    @jj have you actually read the list? its obvious is a joke, a group of 4 of us including a girl made the list. no one is saying you cant complain, but it honestly is really a joke group. none of us think hitting women is ok

  24. A study on the effects of sexist humor showed that sexist humor impacts actual behavior toward women. One of the faculty members involved in the study said this, “Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men – especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women – to express those attitudes in their behavior…The acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability.” See here for more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106083038.htm

    So, even when it’s “just a joke” it’s not really just a joke because it effects the way people actually behave.

  25. @ kathyn, you do know that in psychology multiple studies contradict each other and that anyone, can tailor an experiment to make it give you the results you want.

  26. @Lekan. Even if I had doubts about the methodology of a certain discipline, if I was provided with evidence that my actions might contribute to violence against a group of people, I’d think very hard and carefully about whether those actions could be justified, rather than just dismiss the evidence off hand.

    Or, I’d look carefully at the methods by which the data was produced, and consider whether this really was just a case of ‘engineering results’.
    But I wouldn’t just dismiss it.

    Especially if, as you’ve stated, you don’t think that hitting women is ok.

    Given that we all know that violence against women is a serious and pervasive problem, and given that it is worth thinking hard about what might contribute to that problem, your dismissive attitude is pretty startling.

  27. Yes studies can be flawed, but it doesn’t follow from that, that every study is. Feel free to read it, and then tell me where you think they went wrong.

    I’d also like to point out that the fact a woman helped you write the list doesn’t immediately excuse it from sexism. That’s like saying that Pakistan couldn’t have sexist policies while Benazir Bhutto was in charge.

  28. Hi Lekan,
    I found this reference for the study:

    More Than “Just a Joke”:
    The Prejudice-Releasing Function of
    Sexist Humor
    Thomas E. Ford, Western Carolina University; Christie F. Boxer
    University of Iowa; Jacob Armstrong & Jessica R. Edel Western Michigan University.
    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2007.
    This link worked for me:
    (not sure if you need a subscription – if so perhaps I can email you a PDF?)

    I haven’t read it in detail (but hope to get the chance!). At a first glance, there are some of the problems that beset many studies – e.g. sample taken from a narrow group (in this case, male undergraduates), difficulties of generalising from lab conditions to behaviour in ‘normal’ circumstances. Still, these concerns wouldn’t lead me to outright rejection of the findings at this stage.

    The results (from my cursory glance over the text) seem to indicate a shift in reported attitudes to how worthy various women’s organisations are (willingness to donate).
    So of course, it isn’t as simple as ‘sexist jokes cause violence against women’ (as Kathryn’s initial report on this reflects).

    But I’d be interested to see what you make of the study, and whether – in addition to the considerations of offence caused to individuals – it leads you to revise your thoughts on the FB group.

  29. I was thinking about the problem of jokes that come at the expense of others yesterday while at work. It seems to me that the biggest problem with making jokes of this style, be they racist, sexist, or, more generally and usually, stereotypical, is that they implicitly reinforce a society’s image of those that are the butt-end of such jokes. Glancing at the list from the page in question, we see a list of ‘ways that women are’, which may be contrasted with the violent (dominant) men that are implicily not-like this and are advised to show their disapproval physically.

    On the page there is written that this joke is supposed to be one that falls under “topics that are considered to be in poor taste or overly vulgar by the prevailing morality of a culture”. The problem is that, in many ways, jokes which perpetuate caricatures of different groups only serve to reify those views in society-at-large. That is, while the “prevailing morality of a culture”, may overtly disapprove of such jokes, the idea that there is a ‘nugget of truth’ in many jokes is often internalized.

    Lastly, and (at least for me) most importantly, there are so many better jokes out there guys (and gals)! If a large contigent of people find your joke offensive (and you happen to be implicitly endorsing harmful stereotypes), why not come up with some better jokes?

    PS, I love the onion: onion rebuttal video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnX-D4kkPOQ

  30. i think anon is right.

    searle could shed some light on it. the presuppositions are perhaps the problem: what you have to assume about women (that they are such-and-so; sorry, i can’t remember what it is that women do, and i can’t bear to look at the facebook page again) in order to follow the joke in the first place is what’s insidious. tho surely, in this case, there’s more to it than simply the sexism. there’s a violence element that seems a further violence to people who’ve suffered domestic abuse. so, the presupposition re women would only be one element of its harmfulness…hmm…

  31. I think it’s important to separate out two distinct cases.

    My two cents is that The Onion story mentioned earlier in the thread is funny and isn’t terribly problematic. But it’s critical to see that the subject matter of the joke *isn’t* domestic violence. Rather, the joke is about the American media. In this sense the joke is similar to the episode of Chris Morris’ Brass Eye about paedophilia. This is genuinely hilarious. But again, it’s absolutely critical to see that the subject matter of the joke isn’t paedophilia, but the ways in which paedophilia gets discussed in the British media. In both cases, we have jokes which are related to very horrible things. But in neither case is the joke *about* the very horrible thing: their respective subject matters are very different than what’s presented on the surface. That’s part of what makes things like Brass Eye disturbing, but at the same time very very clever and challenging.

    But, of course, it’s totally transparent to everyone that there is no subtlety or cleverness in the kind of stuff that’s being written on the wall of the FB group under discussion. Indeed, it’s totally unclear what the “joke” is meant to be about other than domestic violence.

  32. The Ford et al article referred to above is reported here:

    Some of what is said:

    A research project led by a Western Carolina University psychology professor indicates that jokes about blondes and women drivers are not just harmless fun and games; instead, exposure to sexist humor can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women.
    “Sexist humor is not simply benign amusement. It can affect men’s perceptions of their immediate social surroundings and allow them to feel comfortable with behavioral expressions of sexism without the fear of disapproval of their peers,” said Thomas E. Ford, a new faculty member in the psychology department at WCU. “Specifically, we propose that sexist humor acts as a ‘releaser’ of prejudice.”

    (I see this quote and reference is given by Kathryn above, but I’m leaving it in since it connected the other references together.)

  33. These are interesting points, R, about The Onion story. The reason why I found that video troubling is because “she just fell down the stairs” is such a common way to hide domestic violence.

  34. @Rachel:

    Yes, the onion story plays up and on all the traditional (stereotypical) ‘excuses’ for injuries – with the joke being instead of an (imagined) incidence where an individual would be relaying such excuses on a personal (person-to-person) level, ‘professionals’ in the field are making a (pseudo)scientific claim based upon the same ‘reasons’. (That’s what the joke is, I don’t think it really has to do with the media.)

  35. @r: just to add this: the problem is that the joke is (at least at first (and second…) glance) on women. So the *target* of the joke is women. The *vehicle* of the joke is domestic violence against women.
    So the facebook group joke about domestic violence against women is on women. And this is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

    So, the difference between the Onion-thing and the facebook group is, while both have domestic violence against women as the vehicle of their jokes, the Onion-joke is on the media (not vunerable as to experiencing domestic violence; perfectly acceptable) and the facebook group joke is on women (vunerable as to experiencing domestic violence; unacceptable).

  36. @Lekan: the point being that, if I’d hit you before and then started a Facebook group for jokes about when it’s okay to hit you, that wouldn’t be very funny. It’d be very close to a direct threat. Similarly, women who have been hit before — and domestic violence is more common than you may think, so it’s a lot of them — aren’t going to take your Facebook group as a joke either.

  37. Just a quick point to add is that jokes like this re-victimize the people who have experienced domestic violence. Running across descriptions of crimes like rape and other group-based offenses (hate crimes) can recall the incident for those who have experienced that kind of crime. This is not true of other kinds of crime (e.g. having your car stolen is not likely to result in this kind of trauma). This is why many feminist spaces use “trigger warnings” on posts that discuss assaults of this nature. See here http://objectifythis.com/?p=546 or here http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Trigger_warning for an explanation.

Comments are closed.