01 June 2013

Not So Funny: Vice Ganda's Rape Joke

Vice Ganda's Rape Joke
Blame it on Vice Ganda. Because of “Showtime’s” host outburst during his recent concert, the entertainment industry will be taking about rape jokes for days now. Are they ever funny? Who can tell them? Who can’t? And if they aren’t funny, are you an awful person for laughing at them?

José Marie Borja-Vicera, the real name of Ganda, started one segment in his "I-Vice Ganda Mo 'Ko Concert last 17 May 2013 with a bad joke about GMA-7’s anchor Jessica Soho. He named Jessica as one of the famous personalities who would be preposterous in sexy roles.

The comedian said a weighing scale would complain "One at a time, one at a time" if Jessica were to step on it.

Not everyone found his weight joke funny, but what irked many was his rape joke. It set off online hate against the comedian, not only from GMA reporters but from many in the online Filipino community.

Still talking about Jessica, Borja-Vicera said any rape scene with the seasoned anchor would have to be gang rape. He said the rapist would say, "Ipasok ang lechon (Bring in the roasted pig)!" the comedian said further, adding that Jessica would ask "Nasaan ang apple (Where is the apple)?"

I know the relationship between feminists and stand-up comics can be notably contentious on the rape joke issue, but I wanted to ask Borja-Vicera if his intention was really to make them mad at each other (offensive versus the right to offend). Instead of firing back and forth from the comfort of personal Facebook accounts and Twitter channels, maybe it is time for the comedian to face the critics in an interview and clarify what his intentions are.

I doubt that the Borja-Vicera’s jokes were the first for 2013, but it definitely was the one that triggered the pervasive cultural conversation. It is like a bubble that burst out of the surface with no real lightning rod to set if off. I think it became big because it was made into a personal attack on one of the most celebrated journalist in the country.

And to be blunt, I don’t believe Borja-Vicera can find a justifiable reason to joke about rape. According to Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), rape is one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women (VAW). Reported rape cases ranked third (13.1 percent) of the total reported VAW cases in the country from 1999 to 2009.

The hard fact is that this is not yet the true representation of the problem. Due to cultural and social stigmatization associated with rape, many women victims prefer to maintain their silence and not report their ordeal to the authorities.

I acknowledge that there is a good chance that rape joke will not disappear. For comedians, it is attractive to make fun of something that they think is "untouchable" or a "very high fruit on the tree". But, perhaps, they can be told to entice the victims to report the crime and to promote awareness among the public. Or maybe Vice Ganda should have read more about female comedians like Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, and Tig Notaro who were held up by the media on How to Tell a Rape Joke.