Tuesday 14 February 2012

Banter Rant Canto

Like everyone in Britain who has some brain cells, I've been getting heartily sick of this phenomenon which people have decided to call banter. Banter: an interesting word in itself. Meant to denote the dashing interplay of duelling bon vivants, wiseacre intellectuals who delight in tossing bon mots around, giving each other metaphorical duelling scars with their rapier-like wit, the Algonquin round table, Oscar Wilde in full flow, all that jazz - banter, as a word, always had the problem that it's a stupid word. Seriously. It's clunky. Banter. Ban-tuh. Ban-tuh. It sounds like the Hulk trying to say 'bran tub' after being punched in the head with Thor's hammer.

It's a stupid word for something which is meant to be intelligent, but it only completed its segue into total douchery when misogynist trollscum at knuckle-shuffler hang-out 'UniLad' started using it to defend jokes about rape.

I don't think jokes about rape are 'banter'. I think they're harmful and horrible and demeaning and contribute to an environment where women (and many men too) are made to feel unsafe. There's a very good explanation of why rape jokes are problematic on Tumblr, which boils down to this: if you speak to a group of, say, ten guys at a bar, there's a pretty good chance one of them is a rapist, and there's also a pretty good chance one of those guys at the bar was raped themselves. When you tell your rape joke, the guy who was raped has to relive all that trauma again, while the guy who's the rapist gets confirmation for his sick delusion that rape isn't that big a deal. Not. Cool.

The UniLad trolls seem impervious to this reasoning though, because they have their magic shield: banter. Mighty Ban-Tuh, god of stupid, thuggish jokes, protects his people from the basic human moral duty of examining their own actions. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant advocated the Categorical Imperative that one should act in such a way that one willed one's actions to be a universal law: essentially, you should only do something if you think it acceptable universally, by all people at all times. Not so much 'everyone's doing it, why can't we', more 'I will do this because I think it's right that everyone should do it.' A position which imposes a high standard on the moral actor. A position that UniLad readers will find hard to engage with because they're too busy making up jokes about what Kant's second name sounds like.

How, then, to get through to these idiots? What words might get them to realise the fundamental indefensibility of their moral position? How could one reach them?

Well, I think I have a way. I've tried to reach them in the following poem. It's a sensitive piece. A plea for understanding. A demonstration that 'banter' isn't really a valid shield for saying the indefensible. An attempt to get them to empathise and to see that, if the shoe were on the other foot, the 'banter' defence would ring hollow. It's an attempt to build bridges, really, which is why I call it...

You’re Fucking Dead LOL Jokes!

I see you at the bus stop. I see you in the bar.
I hear the sordid shit you jeer, leering from your car,
see you laugh in homeless faces while the hundreds you withdraw
you stuff, dead-eyed, into the garter of a girl that you call whore
because you know she has to take it, and pretend she doesn’t hear.
I watch you. And I dream of how I’d make you disappear:

strike while you stumble homewards at the end of Friday night,
then take you to a secret place and tie your hands up tight,
bind chains around your back and metal shackles to your feet,
then, just to make my pretty little picture look complete,
cinch a ballgag in behind your head to keep your piehole shut
then spread your legs and kick your balls and sweetly whisper ‘Cunt.

That’s what you like to say, no? It’s your special little word?
Like wench and slag and slapper, growler, fuckpig, bitch and bird?
It makes you feel good, doesn’t it? Makes this soft thing feel so hard...
Well, it’s time that you were hoisted by your little pink petard.
I’ve been looking through your hard drive. I’ve seen everything you stored.
You’ve heard, of course, that some say virtue is its own reward?

Well, vice can be rewarding, too, when used to the right ends.
Your sobs tell me you’re very, very keen to make amends.
Is that what you want (nod for me)? Forgiveness for your sins?
Well. Let...me...just...remove...this...from...you...and we can begin.
First, I’ll...’ Sorry? What was that? You say these lines offend?
Forgive me. For a moment there I thought that you were men,

‘cause it’s just banter! It’s just banter! See, I’d never do that really!
I’m just jokin’, love, it’s banter an’ I mean that most sincerely!
It’s just banter, it’s just banter darlin’, can’t you take a joke?
It’s just banter, that’s my humour, see, coz I’m a fackin’ bloke!

Banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter
excuse me if I come over all Lisbeth Salander
when I hear your banter,
banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter:
anti-homo faux-heroic woman-hating slander.

Joke about domestic violence, chuckle about rape:
put it on a T-shirt ‘cause it’s just a little jape!
Joke about rohypnol, be ironic about poofs,
then smirk and roll your beady eyes and mutter, weary, ‘Strewth!
You can’t say anything these days! Political correctness!
Next thing you’ll be telling me John Terry’s fucking racist!

Banter. Banter. Oh-so-witty banter.
I feel battered by these ever-mounting chants of
‘Banter! Banter! Oh-so-witty banter!’
I’ve never seen a whiter more entitled pack of wankers.

They tell you the life unexamined isn’t worth the living,
but when you’re white and male and cis the world is so forgiving,
so why inspect your conscience? Why try being better men?
A guy who sneers calm down dear’s pissing right in Number Ten!
Make your Facebook pit off-limits to the ones who won’t click ‘like’
because if a girl doesn’t like banter, baby, she must be a dyke!

Banterbanterbanterbanter oh-so-witty banter:
Bantering in numbers that would baffle Mr Cantor.
Batting round such bullshit they make Sutcliffe look like Santa.

But one day you might find your jokes aren’t funny anymore.
You might be beaten down and humbled by the girl that you called whore,
be relieved by force of those ill-gotten hundreds you withdraw.
You might just not quite make it from the nightclub to the car.
One day the ones you laughed at might just make you disappear
and amuse themselves by sticking razor blades up your urethra....

It’s just banter. It’s just banter! We’d never do that really.
Trust us. It’s just banter. And we mean that. Most sincerely.

Banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter:
isn’t really much but rape-culture propaganda.
Banter, banter, oh-so-witty banter:
well, what’s good for the goose...