Monday, February 11, 2008

Cat Jokes?

I like to use this space to be supportive of other people and their work.

However, there are things I read about that I don't get. So I like to use this space to put them out there to see other opinions. Like dead animal jokes. I find them harmful and hurtful. I don't believe in censorship, and I realize I don't always get Kiwi humour (for example the Grammy for best comic album to Flight of the Conchords), but what is so funny about dead animals?

When I read Linley Boniface's essay in Wellington's Dominion Post 11 February, about returning from vacation, I did not laugh at her dead cat joke. She wrote about finding rancid dairy products in the refrigerator and lamented that her cat was still alive: "…(I) … discovered … the vicious and much loathed family cat that had again ignored our instructions to get run over while we were away."

Abandoning cats and dogs while going on vacation is too common in New Zealand. Many homes have cat doors and cats like to roam. A neighbor's cat often comes for a visit in our home and hangs out on the sofa, but the owner would never take off for two weeks abandoning their pet. It's against the law. Boniface may have made arrangements for her cat while she was away, but the intention in the essay is to say otherwise. Why? To be funny?

Why is it funny? What if you substitute another word for cat? Like child. Not funny? Where do you draw the line? While reading this essay I realized how common it is to see and hear dead animal jokes in the media. By laughing at these jokes we are adding to an acceptance of this type of humour which reinforces our already shameful neglect for those who can not speak for themselves. Many years ago I read a book that I will never forget: "The Dreaded Comparison," by Marjorie Spiegel, which shows how slavery was (and is) only possible because of our tolerance to oppress animals. Perhaps Ms. Boniface doesn't realize her own contribution to a long history of cruelty to animals and it's connection to slavery of people of color through mindless jokes.

If she truly has a "...much loathed and vicious cat..." perhaps she should look at her own environment and family. Pets often exhibit the personality of their owners. Maybe her cat needs to be rescued by the SPCA!

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