No, slap in the face cannot (never)

Image: Martins Krastins
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By JULIAN RODRIGUES*

Worse than the aggression perpetrated by Will Smith is a certain wave of normalization of violence

Sunday night, March 28th – dividing attention between the Oscar ceremony and the BBB. Suddenly my husband came to get my attention. Will Smith had just gone up onstage at the Oscars and slapped Chris Rock in the face, who was anchoring the presentation at that moment.

It would have been an outraged reaction against Chris Rock's offensive joke related to the baldness of Jada Smith, wife of star Will - who we all grew to love since Fresh prince of Bel Air (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air).

Jada, in a beautiful green dress, sparkled in the audience. As she suffers from alopecia, the actress opted for the totally shaved head look: dignified, empowered, radiant.

At one point, Chris Rock hosted the awards and joked that Jada was bald so she could star. GI Jane 2, in a reference to what would be a sequel to the film Up to the edge of honor, which in English is called GI Jane. In the work, Demi Moore, without hair, plays the protagonist.

A weak joke for sure. In bad taste, even. Until then, it's part of it. What's the bad, embarrassing joke going around... What doesn't make the cut is Smith's reaction. No, guys, you can't. It's not cool. It's not chivalry. It's not legit.

First of all: no physical aggression can be tolerated in this type of situation. We're not talking about self-defense, fighting fascists, or anything like that. I saw a lot of good people delirious along this path.

Secondly: jokes in good and, above all, in bad taste are recurrent, especially in the hegemonic type of humor in the USA – which, incidentally, has greatly influenced the standers and new comedians here in Brazil.

If we relativize physical violence, we open up a terrible flank. Again: we are not talking about self-defense or revolutionary processes. The right to beat up someone I don't like is not a right. It's a right-wing thing, Bolsonarists, reactions, neo-fascists, sexists and racists around the world.

Even more serious is the sexist aspect. You mean Jada is a helpless little girl who needs to be protected by the alpha male? Can she not speak or react on her own?

It seems like that archaic argument to save face from murderous men, who would have acted “in legitimate defense of honor”. Their honor, when they killed their wives, or their honor, when they killed their supposed “lovers”. Trying to “pass cloth” to Will Smith is to reinforce the hegemony of toxic masculinity. It is almost a celebration of the figure of the ogre, the primitive male, reproducer and provider, territory demarcator, protector of females and their offspring. A rough stretch – totally incompatible with feminist, egalitarian, progressive advances.

Don't normalize violence. Don't normalize physical aggression.

In short: Chris Rock made just one bad joke (like so many others, he's really weak); Jade Smith is not a victim and needs no heroes to save her from the dragon; Will Smith was a sexist asshole; physical aggression is never cool, classmates, never!

* Julian Rodrigues, professor and journalist, is an LGBTI and human rights activist.

 

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