Jordan: Sexist Comedy Draws No Laughs

Muslim women receive meals for Iftar, or the evening meal, to break fast at Takeyat Um Ali, a humanitarian services center, in Amman 26 July 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Muhammad Hamed)

By: Ahmad Zaatari

Published Monday, August 6, 2012

“These guys are cut off [from women].” This phrase introduced last Monday’s episode of the Jordanian stand-up comedy show N2O. It should have been a warning as to how far the show and its actors were about to fall from grace.

Carried by the independent channel Ruya TV as part of its comedy hour, N2O claims that “all views expressed in this episode are heavily satirical.”

But the satire backfired badly, and was in bad-taste given Jordan’s discriminatory laws against women.

The episode in question was dedicated to mocking women’s rights, but it was devoid of any wit or humor.

It merely attempted to trivialize women’s demands, and portrayed women as preoccupied with nothing but “cooking, makeup and fashion.”

In the nine-minute episode, the show’s regulars tried to outdo one another in touting sexist views and stating that women’s rights are as worthless as “the rights of children and animals.”

The show, whose first season was broadcast online before moving to Ruya TV, resorted to attacking Zayyi Zayyak (We Are the Same), a campaign aimed at combating discrimination against women.

Nevertheless, N2O’s episode attracted a large number of viewers on YouTube, with over 20,000 hits in less than 24 hours.

The video turned into an arena for a heated debate, with almost 1,000 people posting comments either supporting the ridicule of women’s rights, or opposing it.

The company that produces the show, Kharabeesh, declined comment on the controversy. One may wonder how serious its creative founder Wael Attili is in assuming responsibility for his company’s productions.

Attili is quoted as having once said, “The internet provides the means to chronicle our history and heritage for future generations, in addition to having a tremendous influence on many political and economic issues.”

But thoughts towards this rather large responsibility were somewhat absent in the episode on women’s rights.

It will take a lot for Kharabeesh to atone for this error. It will not easily be forgotten, even if the production company often collaborates with Omar Abdallat, a cartoonist close to the pulse of the street and youth movements and writer Ahmed Hassan al-Zoubi, who is also tapped in to the public mood.

In the episode on women’s rights, Kharabeesh championed extremist preachers, the patriarchal society at large, and the state, whose laws allow punishment for rapists to be dropped if they marry their victims.

It seems that the comedians have forgotten that stand-up comedy is a social and political phenomenon that seeks to censure the worst in our behavior.

The best proof of this is the New York Times’ obituary for the famous comedian George Carlin (1937-2008), which was titled “George Carlin, Comic Who Chafed at Society and Its Constraints, Dies at 71.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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