Abortion is a laughing matter: The powerful political protest of "a laughter that will bury" the war on women

Anti-choice legislation is no joke — but comedy isn't just an escape from oppression, it's a weapon

Published September 16, 2016 4:11PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)
(Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

I don’t think abortion is funny.

That’s a weird thing for me to say, because on Saturday night, I’ll be at an event where women not only talk about their abortions, but make actual, literal fun of them.

And even though I’ve helped plan the show, a part of me did so reluctantly; abortion is a serious subject. No matter what side of the debate you fall on, it’s something that is so intensely personal and unique that I can’t imagine making light of it.


Maybe. Or maybe the Germans were onto something when they coined the phrase galgenhumor — gallows humor — the kind of dark humor sociologist Antonin Obrdlik referred to in the mid-twentieth century as “an index of strength or morale on the part of oppressed peoples.”

In the last few years, 300 new abortion restrictions have cropped up in 38 states, forcing dozens of clinics to close their doors and deny women access to their constitutional right.

The best part is that these laws don’t actually work, not to mention that they’ve forced hundreds and thousands of women to attempt self-induced abortions.

There’s also what happened around this time last year, when a doctored video almost succeeded in shutting down the government and closing Planned Parenthood, thanks almost exclusively to the pure joy that Republican members of Congress seem to get from using a wealth of misinformation to fire up the base.

Oh right, and I almost forgot that a man in Denver got so inspired by what his representatives in Congress were saying that he shot up a Planned Parenthood and killed three people (none of whom who were even there to get abortions).

And then, of course, we get to wake up every morning to a reality in which the living and breathing Republican nominee for president of the United States said that women who get abortions should be punished, while his pick for vice president recently signed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country.

We live in a world where some countries legally allow a man to “lightly beat” his wife, and others won’t prosecute men who rape or kidnap women as long as they marry the victim afterwards. And the United States has the gall to herald itself as an example of how these countries should treat women while passing the legislative equivalents of what are simultaneously pats on the head and kicks to the uterus.

No matter which side of the abortion argument you fall on, what the anti-choice argument ultimately comes down to is this: You don’t trust women. You don’t think we’re capable enough, rational enough, thoughtful enough or compassionate enough to make one of the most important choices a person can ever make.

When you stop to think about the lengths that men will go to in this country to take decisions away from women that they themselves will never have to make, you have two options.

You can cry (because you’re on your period).

Or you can laugh.

Many women are choosing to opt for the latter, because humor isn’t just a coping mechanism. In 1977, Italian protestors believed that humor and irony could not only encourage the oppressed, but ultimately threaten the oppressors. They had a special name for this idea: “A laughter that will bury you all.”

As more lawmakers try to write even more anti-choice and anti-woman bills, maybe our laughter will be the thing that buries them, chiefly because it might just inspire us to opt for a third option: vote.

Tickets are on sale now for Lady Parts Justice DC’s Postcards from the Vag: Hilarious Stories from People Who Bleed from their Wherevers, starting at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 17 at Black Cat DC.

By Eva Harder

Eva Harder is a member of Lady Parts Justice DC.

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Abortion Anti-abortion Extremism Donald Trump Mike Pence Pro-choice