Saturday, October 24, 2015

When do you take a joke too far?

I have a heuristic that I use nowadays. When I feel I should not write about something because it's sensitive and could be just my view, I go against my instinct. There's a corollary: some things like that are better to be dealt with not publicly and sometimes there is a fine line between what to blog on and what to deal with by email. Blogging is more of a self-reflection instead of an action.

I just had a great time at TinyTestBash in Brighton. So many amazing people. So many great discussions. Inspirational new speaker talks. And an overall sense of belonging.

But there's one thing that left me thinking. There's a TestBash meme going on with one particular person and a tutu. Tutu, as in a ballerina skirt.

This meme was around in the main TestBash to an extent that the person at the heart of the meme included it into his talk, wearing a Desmond Tutu -hoodie and made remarks of not wearing a tutu the skirt. It was all fun and good, and everyone seemed to be taking it as a fun thing.

The tutu-theme continued with TinyTestBash. A tutu was made available for the person at the heart of the meme, and he again refused to wear it. But this time it was different. I felt it was at the brink of too much. It might be just me who thinks this way and I'm transferring my feelings on someone who has none of those.

Here's my line of thought. If I was a constant center of a joke that I considered funny at first, I could feel very uncomfortable when that joke turns out to be the thing that defines me to new people. And at that point, I have two options. I could get visibly upset and tell everyone to just stop it. Or I could laugh along, but find it just less funny. Kind of like the laughter I do when I get to hear very gendered jokes about my gender. Not funny, but not laughing is a worse option socially.

I think we might need to stop to think when we take a joke too far. I borrowed the tutu from him and wore it for the day.  Then again, tutu on me is normal, not funny. Just for the fun of it, I could wear a tutu for my next talk TestBash NY, just to show that the tutu has moved on.

I think we should stop to think if we're about to take a joke too far when the joke becomes the thing to talk about with that particular person. And in case we are,  how do we change the joke so that it becomes positive in a different way. The TestBash-spirit brings forth wonderful jokes and memes, like the TestBash briefs that we saw handed out this year. There's a time for every meme. It might be time for the tutu meme on a person to go away or transform into something different.