Dear Nefoos: Be All The Funny You Can Be

Dear daddy

My dearest nefoos,

This video has been circulating widely over the interwebs in the past week. It’s a tough one to watch. Right now you all are far too young to see such things, but you aren’t too young to learn the message.

I was called a whore when I was 9 and a half years old.

I don’t tell you this to gross you out, but because you need to know that the message in this video is terrifyingly true for many girls — girls in your class, girls in your Sunday School, girls on the bus, girls in swimming club, girls on your block. You see, I developed a little bit early. Boys honed in on that reality quickly. And, like the video, made horrible statements about my sexuality, my body and my personhood because… it was funny.

They had learned that “whore”, “bitch”, “slut”, “cunt”, “dirty-vag”, “fag”, “les” and a whole host of other sexually explicit derogatory terms were hilarious. They were taboo, it it made them giggle for saying naughty things. But some of them had parents that openly laughed at crude jokes — invented them even — and learned that anyone who was hurt by these jokes was just plain over sensitive.

Like the women in the video, I ask of you to be the kind of boys and men that calls out rape culture. When you hear your pals making disgusting “jokes” like this, be brave and put a stop to it. I can’t say it will be easy. You may even be mocked or made fun of for doing so. But I guarantee you, these jokes are part of a larger, more sinister system that is set up around humour. If we make girls’ bodies fun to mock, deride and objectify, we make it easier later on to accept violence against those same bodies.

Except… it’s not just our bodies that become violated. The jokes? We hear those in our minds and spirits first. Our spirits are violated long before our bodies are. We learn we are stumbling blocks, dirty, naughty, made to be hidden, and worthless because of our developing forms.

You see, if we’re repeatedly told that the jokes “mean nothing”, then we learn that we ourselves mean nothing. We’re funny things to point at and laugh at. We’re nothing.

Tragic, no?

But I want to challenge you a little bit more than the video did in two ways:

  1. Boys will be made fun of too.Maybe you. I hope to God, not; but maybe you at some point.

    And I’m sad to say that it’s often harder for boys and men to speak out about the bullying they face because you guys are supposed to “suck it up”.

    Don’t fall for it.

    Any joke that sticks in your gut as wrong or scary or embarrassing, you go straight home and tell Mommy and Daddy. Don’t ever be afraid to be totally honest. Maybe the joke will be meant to truly be funny and someone will have used a word you simply hadn’t learned yet.

    And maybe it will be a joke that your spidey senses tell you is W-R-O-N-G.

    If you or another boy gets made fun of like the girls are made fun of in this video, you tell. You stand up. You speak out. Got it?

  2. Sadly, girls will call each other these awful names, too. It’s funny right? They’re just jokes. We’re being too sensitive if we stand up to these jokes! It’s how we talk nowadays. We can’t stop kids from learning how to relate to each other.

    My beloved boys, be as funny as you can be. Cubbie, never stop with your knock-knock jokes; Dodger, always keep your giggles like bubbles; and Rex, remain forever in that wide-stretching grin that never fails to light up a room. Be funny. Make us all laugh until our sides hurt and tears stream down our faces. Humour is a gift!

    And I promise you, each and every one of you makes me laugh in your own special and hilarious ways. You are jokesters! You are pranksters! You are mischievous! Never lose these things.

    But…

    When a group of girls stands around on the playground, and one says to another: “Hey, Bitch!”, call it out. Not in a mean way. But ask yourself, “Is this girl a female dog?” If your answer is no, then the person using the nasty name — whoever it may be — has no right using the word. Just because girls are at greater risk for being victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse and assault, it is no reason for us to shame one another.

    But we do.

    And that makes me sad, too.

    Girls and women have no right to giggle and laugh while calling each other “whore”, “slut”, “bitch”… you get the idea. If these aren’t jokes boys should be calling out at girls, then the same holds true for girls.

    These aren’t jokes.

    These are veiled insults that break the spirit. We’re considered tough if we can “take it”. We’re conditioned to “take it”. And we’re made fun of if we don’t “take it”.

    Now trust me, girls are fully able to stand up for themselves and speak. But we often don’t. Like you, our feelings get hurt; we feel ashamed; or we become scared. We need help from our friends, whomever they may be.

It’s sad that this is the world we live in, boys. But with lights like you growing up so fast, I know it will be brighter.

Be all the funny you can be.

Make the world laugh.

Show us what’s really funny.

Bring joy to the world.

Watch how Daddy jokes around with Mommy. Listen to how Grandma and Grandpa make each other laugh. Learn from Opa and Oma how girls and boys can be funny with each other without hurting.

And learn from me.

My jokes will be corny and silly; they’ll make you groan and you’ll want me to stop. But I promise you: they won’t make fun of your bodies; they won’t make fun of girls’ bodies; I won’t use bad language to make another person look or feel bad.

By sharing with us what’s truly funny, you’ll be able to shed light on what’s not funny. What’s hurtful. What’s dangerous. And your gentleness and courage in exposing these lies will help end some of the most violent and deadly actions our world has too longed found acceptable.

Much love,
Auntie Erin

2 comments

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  1. DB

    As the father of three adult daughters, I understand how important a father’s role in his daughter’s sense of self is. Thanks for this reminder

    Like

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