Doctor Science Knows

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Right to Mock

In comments at a Pandagon post on Zombie Feminism, someone wrote:
It’s not as though mocking Islam is any less important than mocking Christianity, which is an extensively developed art form.
and I said:

It is for *us*. Mockery *must* begin at home, otherwise it’s bigotry.

You get to mock your own culture. You *must* mock — or at least acknowledge the bad, silly, arbitrary, or stupid aspects — your own culture. Once you’ve got a track record for mocking your own culture, you *might* — maybe — get a pass to mock someone else’s culture. But the chances are you won’t be very good at it, because only those really inside the culture know the most mockable bits.

Salman Rushdie gets to mock Islam. Madonna gets to mock Christianity. Rushdie may be cross-cultural enough to get a Christianity-mocking license, but Madonna doesn’t get to mock Islam because it’s not part of her psyche.

Here’s another way to put it: humor that is directed at the Other is an ingroup/outgroup marker, it gets us in the habit of being divisive and cruel. Humor that is directed at the *self*, at the ingroup, can be a road to self-understanding, to becoming *less* cruel.

Another other way to put it: Islamic culture helped shape Rushdie, and that means a small part of it belongs to him. Catholicism helped shape Madonna, and so part of it belongs to her. The culture in your head is *yours*, and you get to do whatever you want with it — including mock it.

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