I try not to make fun of the conservative parties’ ugly side. They tend to do it for me, more than I ever thought previously possible. Still, Rep. Todd Akin has reached new heights of dumbassery. Downplaying rape is a tough stance, but by gum he tried. Akin’s idiocy isn’t as offensive as it is impressive, like when anthropologists find a culture that has had no interaction with the rest of humanity. Maybe Akin merely hasn’t kept up with the last 1,800 years of progress and technology. He saw a crew of men holding tall sticks and black boxes with flashing red devil eyes surrounding his thatch-roofed hut, approached them covered in animal furs with the day’s waste for protection, and jammered on to an anthropologist about how the monster in the water protects women from differentiating rapes as long as the tribe’s council doesn’t tax its richest members. After all, any other explanation not involving water gods comes off as a sexist stereotype that was meant to be a compliment: “It’s cool that you and other females can totally just shut down shop during ‘legitimate rape’ and go about the rest of your day making spot-on quiches.”
It’s been a week of culture shocks. Injustice always shocks me. Then again, I’m a white male in America; everyone else faces injustice and I eat pizza rolls for breakfast. Back to injustice: Pussy Riot. After performing their punk prayer, Pussy Riot became a global name. The new single they released upon being sentenced to two years in prison sounds pretty good, too. They’ve become a local symbol for a new Russia that very much still follows the rules of old Russia, but also a global symbol for how hard it is to fight for speech anywhere. The outpouring for Pussy Riot by celebrities has caused a backup. Madonna is getting sued by Russian protestors for supporting gay rights onstage, which is like going to a Rage Against the Machine show and being a corporation, or going to see Van Halen and suing for harassment towards hot teachers. Even in the last 50-60 years, promoting gay marriage in a more conservative country or city has been considered a celebrity faux pas, and publicists attempt to do damage control while escorting the celebrity through the torch-and-pitchfork-bearing public.
Phyllis Diller’s schtick was self-deprecation, and now it all seems sad. Don’t get me wrong, she was great and deserved all of her success. She had her own television show several times, appeared on any important late night talk show and paved the way for every female stand-up since. Her rapid-fire punchlines and concise setup structure are still daunting to duplicate. Now, I can’t remember if this is an actual quote or if I had a very vivid dream about Phyllis Diller (both are equally possible), but I remember hearing her say that you can say any terrible thing you want, as long as it’s about yourself. Regardless of whether Phyllis or Dream Phyllis said it, it follows her career perfectly. She was the last female stand-up who had to dress up in clown gear, mess up her hair and appear funny and non-threatening in the notoriously “boys club” atmosphere of comedy.
She found empowerment from owning her hatred of gender expectations like ironing and cooking, but with such a great comedic mind, it’s a tragedy that this was all she was limited to: jokes about herself. Watching her old stand-up from the 50s and 60s, somewhere else in the world during her performance, Lenny Bruce was in the same business and was most likely jailed for the night. Now we have Twitter, in which every comedian has their own spin on “legitimate rape.” It’s amazing we’ve even gotten this far in a short amount of time, despite a population perpetually not prepared to be shocked. That’s the best time to shock.