I've just finished reading Jon Ronson's latest book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. It draws attention to, among other instances, the story of Justine Sacco, who's life has been ruined by the Tweet she sent, "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!", before boarding a plane to South Africa. Sacco explains to Ronson that the tweet was satirical; that she thought the idea that white people couldn't get AIDS was so ridiculous, nobody would take it seriously.
This is obviously not what happened: everybody took it very seriously, and Justine Sacco is currently unemployable and undateable. While this story raises one obvious point, namely that we're probably being too harsh online to people who make mistakes (the New Zealand X Factor scandal is case-in-point of this), it raises another one around our ability to be satirical in the public, political arena too. While Sacco admits that because she isn't a comedian, and because Twitter isn't a forum necessarily known for satire, her tweet was inappropriate, but if we don't forgive her, which satirists and comedians will we keep away from public commentary because of their fear of retribution if they're misunderstood?
It would be a shame to loose any comedians in the realm of political and social commentary for this reason, because they can be an invaluable mechanism for popularising important issues.
Yesterday was #EqualPayDay, the 14th April being chosen to represent the number of days extra women have to work to earn the same amount their male counterparts did in 2014. The comedic world is taking to this issue with gusto, probably because the fact that it still exists, and still exists to such a large extent, is fucking ridiculous (and funny in that awful way). Whether it's Jon Stewart and Kristen Schaal comparing the end of the gender pay gap to other things that will occur in the quite-distant future, or Sarah Silverman's promotional video for her crowd-sourcing initiative, these videos highlight how ridiculous it is that, in 2015, women still earn 78 cents to every dollar earned by men.
1) Jon Stewart and Kristen Schaal on The Daily Show
We'll achieve pay equality in 2058, which, according to this spot on The Daily Show, is around the same time the earth will be completely covered in water. This sounds like a very futuristic time for one half of the population to finally be earning the same as the other half.
2) Sarah Silverman's promotional video for her pay equality Kickstarter project
At the end of last year, Sarah Silverman joined forces with the National Womens Law Centre to try to crowd source the $29, 811, 746, 430, 000 lost by all of the working women in the US earning less than their male counterparts (i.e. all of them). In the clip she decides that the most cost-effective thing to do would to become a man, because the cost of the associated plastic surgery procedures pale in comparison to the "vagina tax" she will pay over the course of her lifetime.
3) Jimmy Fallon making punters discuss the gender pay gap while dancing
When the US Congress voted against equal pay for women last year, Jimmy Fallon sent an adorable reporter onto the streets of New York to ask people what they thought of the gender pay gap...while dancing! This clip proves that, firstly, most decent human beings, that is, those human beings who are prepared to dance for a Jimmy Fallon vox pop, find the gender pay gap abhorrent, and that, secondly, everything is better while dancing.
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