Dee Rodriguez, Reading, PA, USA, SSH Blog Correspondent
It seems like memes have really taken off in the past few years. Whether it’s making fun of celebrities and pop culture or addressing social justice issues, memes have become a way to communicate with friends and social media followers. What’s the first thing we do when we come across a funny or relate-able meme? The instinct is to share it or tag a friend.
Whenever warmer weather starts to approach, one particular meme seems to pop up:
I would always chuckle when I came across this because not only was the “why you not smiling ma” scenario my experience growing up in New York City, but a street harassment report would be super helpful! I wanted to share this picture with friends but I hesitated. The meme is funny, but it’s funny in the way we joke about tragedy.
Street harassment is part of the sexual violence continuum. The continuum includes everything from rape jokes to sexual assault and anything in between. Making jokes about rape or street harassment may not seem like a big deal, but it is part of rape culture which normalizes rape and the different types of sexual violence. Joking about these issues contributes to rape culture as well. Some folks defend these jokes as being a way to deal with how normalized sexual violence has become or that it’s just humor and it doesn’t mean anything, but it’s not funny to those that may have experienced sexual assault.
It’s certainly not funny to those of us who are advocates. When you’ve had to sit through a rape kit, rape is not funny. As a sexual assault advocate, I’ve sat with victims during their examinations. I’ve talked to parents whose children have been sexually abused. When you fear walking down the street alone because you may be harassed and killed, street harassment isn’t funny. Sexual violence is not a joke.
The meme may have been created as a way to make fun of the street harassment that many folks face each day and as a way to cope but we shouldn’t have to cope. The fact that street harassment has become so pervasive that people can now joke about it is a tragedy. While a street harassment report would be helpful, you know what would be more helpful? If we didn’t get harassed in the first place.
Dee is a volunteer coordinator and domestic violence/sexual assault advocate for a non-profit social services agency and works on a project to better serve Latinx women survivors. She has a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with a focus on Latin American Culture from Penn State University. She originally hails from New York City and is a proud daughter of immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. You can follow Dee on Instagram at @missdeerodriguez.Share on Facebook