Is Carryminati a martyr of free speech? Free Speech, however, does not give you a license for hate speech. Ridiculing a community that faces unchecked discrimination, making jokes about their dressing sense doesn’t exactly come under the ambit of free speech.
Last week Carryminati took social media by a storm. His roast of tiktokers garnered over 53 million views in a day and he was also trending on twitter with thousands of tweets. But his video was taken down because of homophobic content and cyberbullying. In a video for the Quint, Queer Rights activist Rishi Raj summed up what was exactly so problematic about this video and how the language used here is discriminatory.
However, this is not an isolated incident of homophobia on social media. Carry’s videos themselves are filled with subtle references and jokes on sexuality. He is not alone in this either.
carryminati claimed that his words have been taken out of context. He appealed to everyone to stop ‘assuming things.’ His fans were less forgiving. In what can only be called targeted harassment, channels belonging to tiktokers were mass reported and their videos were deliberately disliked. In the comments section, the arguments ranged from “you’re being too sensitive” to “learn to take a joke” and “don’t watch it if you don’t like it.” Another set of responses was “this is what roasting is, we make fun of everyone, don’t take it seriously.” These points were also put forward by Lakshay Chaudhary, another YouTuber whose videos were taken down.
To Carry’s complaints, let us put everything in context. We live in a society where the majority considers homosexuality to be some sort of moral degeneration. Queers live in a closet, afraid of opening up about their sexuality even to their parents. It shouldn’t take a stupid online debate for us to realize that joking about sexuality is common. Calling someone ‘chakka’ (gay), ‘meetha’, and ‘hijda’ (trans) is perhaps most overused and banal ploy at humor. We may think that “oh no, I only joke. It’s nothing serious. I love lgbtq….” This doesn’t absolve us. When we joke about their sexuality, we make the normalization of their identity difficult. They remain, after all, a butt of jokes.
Just to understand the extent to which this community has been marginalized, let us consider these questions: How many homosexuals or transgenders you know? Or have encountered in life? How many of them were your classmates? I personally never have encountered one in a classroom or was ever a friend with anyone. Think about impersonal encounters. Have you ever found them as your co-passengers in travel? Or perhaps casually came across one while buying fruits in a market? Not that there is some physical peculiarity which makes them visually conspicuous. But get the gist: can you see them? If not, then why? Social invisibility is a mark of discrimination. The LGBTQ+ community lives on the margins. They are forced to conceal their identity.
Words have their etymology-their meaning as it evolved through history. In the past, words like ‘chakka’, ‘hijda’ ‘chamar’ etc were used in discriminatory and condescending sense. People associated with words like these were undesirable. There were a plethora of other words that inspired social exclusion. Languages are an important aspect of systems of exclusion and discrimination. Yes, languages can be racist, classist, homophobic, and casteist. Now to use the same words to inspire laughter and condescension is to prolong the same language of discrimination and thus prolong and perpetuate discrimination itself.
Our socio-cultural and religious traditions enforce heterosexuality. Everyone is consigned to one of the two genders. Anyone who doesn’t conform is ostracized, discriminated, or laughed at. Language and by its extension humor, enforce this heteronormativity. Jokes about a man who behaves like women enforce gender conformity. Humor and language thus become instruments in mass suppression of sexuality.
However, internet culture exhibits a curious contradiction here. On social media, women donning typical masculine symbols are not frowned upon nor laughed at. ‘Bro’ can also refer to girls but Carryminati calling Aamir Siddiqui as ‘beti’ (daughter) was supposed to be funny. Parents casually call their daughters as ‘beta’ but how many even once call their sons as ‘beti’. After all, weak, emotional, and effeminate boys are a subject of laughter, aren’t they? Internet culture, like our society in general, not only enforces heterosexuality but also masculinity. It elevates masculine traits as the ideal which must be protected from being corrupted by feminine traits. While women adopting masculine symbols like a black leather jacket and an iron-clad Bullet are considered rebellious and even desirable, men being ‘girly’ or emotional is a sign of weakness and effeminacy. And no, I am not talking about ‘boomer uncles’. I am talking about the ‘cool’ ‘dank’ and ‘dope’ Millenials and Gen Z who were born in urban areas studied in private schools and top-class universities and are deeply engrossed in popular online culture.
Much of what gets passed around as humor on YouTube and other platforms is soaked in a language of homophobia, misogyny, and patriarchy. They thus consciously or unconsciously perpetuate discrimination, marginalization, and suppression.
Shaheen Muddassir studies History and Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia. He tweets at shaheen93345.
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