“Funny” office emails – and why they’re not funny

May 28, 2010

Picture the scene: It’s the Friday before a long holiday weekend and everyone in the office is skittish, ready for home, even though it’s only 2.30pm.

So one of the guys (and it’s always “one of the guys”, isn’t it?) sends round a “funny” email to make everybody laugh and wind down ready for 5.30pm and the end of the working day.

The email has the title “For those who are thinking of buying a bicycle” and the text says “When you purchase your bike, make sure the colour of the bike seat is taken into consideration!” And this image is attached:

Oh how everyone giggled. Everyone except Helen, the humourless trans harpy. She didn’t think it was very funny at all, because she recognised the cissexist thinking behind it.

It goes like this: Oh! That woman looks like she has a penis. That’s funny, because women don’t have penises. Not real women, anyway. So it’s funny because she’s obviously not a real woman. And because she’s not a real woman, then it’s fine to laugh at her, because she’s clearly less than a woman. A joke. Unimportant. A freak. Disposable.

It’s the kind of thinking that underpins the idea that any woman with a penis is not “really” who they say they are, that her identity is somehow a fraud, that her lived experience counts for nothing and therefore she can’t expect to be treated equally with everyone else. So it’s okay to harass her, abuse her, beat her, rape her, murder her. Because she’s worthless. Because she’s a woman with a penis.

Sometimes it’s hard not to hate cis people.

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ETA: And I don’t want to hear one word about how I’m being oversensitive, or how I just enjoy being offended, or that I’m taking things too personally, or any of that shit, okay?

9 Responses to ““Funny” office emails – and why they’re not funny”

  1. earwicga Says:

    And leads to this amongst many many other crappy and horrible things: http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com/2010/05/video-iraqi-government-complicity-in.html

  2. kinelfire Says:

    *sigh* Like you, I fail to see the humour.

  3. HarpyMarx Says:

    I agree Helen, it isn’t funny it’s offensive. And you aren’t taking it personally or being over sensitive (god I hate that when people say that!). It’s a shitty and nasty email.

    Btw: are there protocols/policies in the workplace re offensive emails? Sorry… I have gone into trade union mode…

  4. shiva Says:

    I’d like to view the woman in the photo as a brazen, arse-kicking queer who chose that bike saddle precisely because it would make her look like she had a penis when she cycles in a short skirt. Then i’d be able to find the photo funny.

    Sadly i very much doubt that was the case though :(

  5. rosslyn helen Says:

    Actually, I think – there is more visciousnes & nastiness behind this than appears at first blush…..yes what you say is right – but the emailer isn’t saying the girl in the photo is trans – “be careful of the colour of the saddle when you ( “real girls” ) buy a bike” is the caption.

    He is saying more – “if you don’t heed my advice – you ( “real girls”) may be perceived as trans”…….in one sense , in addition to “real women don’t have penises” , this even more pernicious…..for a “real woman” to be mistaken for “trans” is such a calamity and such a diminution of femaleness and womanhood- it requires a bloke to warn against it !!

    And in so doing the joke co-opts “real women ” into transphobia & trans misogyny- even if such women don’t wish to be co-opted – rather like traditional colonizing strategy co-opted people within the colonised community…..it assigns the stautus of “real women” to every cis woman who receives this…..and in ascribing that privilege to them it operates to suppress any challenge……..rosslyn helen

  6. Ruth Says:

    “Funny” office emails are rarely that and this is a particularly bad one, and I wonder, in some offices that kind of thing would be a disciplinary offence; is there any way to report it anonymously? Also, it does worry me because, I don’t know if your coworkers know you are rarely trans, but if so, I really hope this was just a stupid, clueless attempt at “humour” and not designed on purpose to get at you. :( (((hugs))) What a horrid way to start your weekend. :(

  7. Ruth Says:

    “Rarely”? No idea what happened there, predictive text or some mobile phone thing, sorry!

  8. Anji Says:

    Ugh, that’s horrible, and not funny in the slightest. I’m sorry that you had to have that staring at you from your email inbox; is there anyone you can complain to? *hugs*

  9. queenemily Says:

    I am rarely trans, Tuesday afternoons only for me.

    But yeah, if said man knew that you’re trans, then it goes from oblivious nasty cis privilege to something even more nasty and personal. I think Rosslyn’s reading is right, *but* if the man’s aware there’s a trans woman in the office then the latent meaning may very well be a message designed to say to Helen ‘you are not welcome here’ by forming a cis community which she can never be a part of, since implicitly SHE is the threat to be waged by the man against cis women.

    Yech.


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