Last year, one of those ‘breast cancer awareness’ memes went around Facebook. One of those ones where you post a cryptic status based on something like your birthday, then pass it on, making sure ‘the men’ don’t find out. These are stupid on a whole lot of levels (like doing nothing to promote breast cancer awareness). This one was particularly cruel, though, encouraging people to post a status that they were ‘x week and craving y’. Pretending they were pregnant.
So, what, you might think. It’s just a joke, it doesn’t mean anything.
Except, maybe someone on your friend’s list is going through infertility. Every month is a struggle for them, and it’s hard work to be happy for the people around you who just seem to fall pregnant automatically. When you’re going through infertility, you see pregnancies everywhere – it’s like magic. So, suddenly you see friends announcing pregnancies, with cryptic messages, not even bothering to give you a call to tell you first. And then, after everyone’s congratulated them, they say – no I’m not pregnant. It’s just a joke. Now you’re upset, and you feel foolish. And nothing’s been done to raise awareness of breast cancer (which, by the way, can cause infertility).
It’s just a joke, though. It doesn’t mean anything. Your feelings don’t mean anything.
Another blogger put together an elaborate version of a fake pregnancy joke. They used cryptic messages and images to get people all involved in the story. Then they posted a status on Facebook that they were expecting. Except it wasn’t a baby they were expecting, it was Santa.
I don’t think the blogger meant to upset anyone. I think she’s a genuinely nice person, who maybe hadn’t thought of the joke from this point of view. But when I pointed out that it might be funny to some people, but it might be hurtful to others (especially if friends or family are following and feel bad they weren’t told) I was immediately told that it was just a joke, it doesn’t mean anything, it was all just in good fun.
Your feelings don’t mean anything.
Humour is not an excuse to make people feel bad. Jokes about race, disabilities, rape – they’re not funny, and they aren’t clever. They’re a tool people use to put other people down. Yet, constantly these jokes are defended because it’s just meant to be funny. It doesn’t mean anything.
And when someone speaks out, when someone says that a joke can be hurtful, they’re put down, their feelings disregarded. And less people speak out. Less people say anything. The ‘humour’ goes on, unquestioned.
Infertility is silent enough as it is. People don’t talk about it. People don’t want to hear about it. So when someone talk about it, points out that people going through infertility are people with real feelings, don’t silence them. Acknowledge that there might something you may not have thought of, resolve not to cause that kind of hurt again. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, just that you may not have thought of something from a certain perspective.
Because everyone’s feelings mean something.