How do atheists respond to the misogynistic comedy of fellow atheist Jim Jefferies?
It is Comedy Festival time in Melbourne, Australia (where I live) and so there is comedy in the air. I’m actually running a couple of comedy forums myself
I recently stumbled across this video of Australian comedian Jim Jefferies. I saw Jim Jefferies live at the Global Atheist Convention back in 2012 as a part of their comedy show on the Friday night. Jeffries made the same joke then.
To be honest I couldn’t quite believe he made the joke. I failed to laugh at the Global Atheist Convention and I failed to laugh now. He says, one of the reasons he couldn’t be gay was because he couldn’t ‘fxxk’ something he respected’.
Now I understand that the context is this is a joke, but I fail to see how this is funny (I am also staggered at the 465 likes on YouTube). In our modern egalitarian, anti-discrimination culture where we are developing anti-domestic violence campaigns and where religion is so often criticised as being misogynistic, I found it staggering to hear this joke.
It’s very clear that Jefferies is an atheist (and seemingly has the support of the Atheist Foundation of Australia who invited him to perform at the Global Atheist Convention and never issued an apology over his joke). Now I’m not trying to say that because Jefferies is an atheist he thinks like this. But it’s important to note that his atheism hasn’t stopped him from making the joke!
Hence my questions revolve around, how do Jefferies’ fellow atheists respond to Jefferies misogyny? Can atheists condemn his joke? I have a series of questions for atheists.
1. Should an atheist condemn him for misogyny? If so, on what basis? Why is your brand of atheism more morally acceptable than Jefferies? It’s unclear how that could be without resorting to some arbitrary rule.
2. Could a ‘well-being’ case be made against his joke? It’s hard to see how a utilitarian argument can be mounted against Jefferies because people laughed at the joke and it has a massively higher number of likes than dislikes on YouTube (on 120,000 views). It would almost seem that the utilitarian would suggest that his joke is a ‘good’ thing because of the enjoyment and laughter he has brought into the world. Hence the utilitarian would almost have to condone the joke.
3. Would Jefferies adopt the same stance if he were a Humanist? No, he could not according to the Humanist Manifesto of the American Humanist Association which is ‘critical of sexism or sexual chauvinism’ (I don’t know if Jefferies would ever call himself a Humanist, but if he is, he is a hypocrite!) If he isn’t a Humanist (which is probably likely), then how will he be convinced of becoming a Humanist? Who will call on him to repent and change his life? Do humanists evangelise in this way? According to their manifesto in Australia, humanists do not impose their views on others. Which creates a bizarre paradox, if a Humanist fails to live according to the dictates of Humanism, there is no mechanism within Humanism to call someone to ‘repent’ because no-one is allowed to impose their views on others. Moreover, what about the unrepentant atheists (like Jefferies)? Should Humanists seek to ‘convert’ them? Again how is this not imposing their view on others? Given this situation, it’s hard not to see Humanism as a fairly weak and arbitrary ethical system.
4. Should other atheists accept his view because morality is ultimately all subjective? If this is the case, then on what basis is religion (or anything) condemned for being ‘immoral’? In this view there is no right or wrong, misogyny cannot be condemned and no ultimate morality.
5. How is this consistent with Seth Andrews’ blithe assertion (in this presentation) that humans are all basically good? I cannot see how Jefferies blatantly (and unashamedly) misogynistic joke is consistent with the assertion that people ‘have the goodness’.
This is a very puzzling issue and I’m very keen to hear some responses. How should an atheist ‘rebuke’ Jefferies, if at all?