Geoffrey Rush has won $850,000 in his defamation case against the Daily Telegraph, and stands to receive millions more in damages. The fact that the Murdoch tabloid is sensationalism posing as news will come as a shock to precisely no one.
But Murdoch is not the real loser in this case — it is the women who have fallen victim to Rush’s self-described “loony” antics over decades of his career. You know, the ones who can’t take a joke.
It is a truth universally acknowledged among men that women need to lighten up. Every single one of us has been that woman at some point — or many points — in our personal and professional lives.
I was that woman in my early 20s working in a bar outside of London, where the all-male customers liked to order “hand shandies” and pretend to masturbate EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Because the joke never stops being funny even when the woman isn’t laughing. When I refused to serve them, I went from being the woman who can’t take a joke to a “stuck-up bitch” in the blink of an eye.
I was that woman in my late 20s at a job interview in New York when my potential employer told me I’d have to show more cleavage to customers in the restaurant. He asked, laughing, “Is this a job interview or a date?” and I answered “A job interview,” cursing myself for accepting the glass of wine he offered.
When a Hasidic woman accidentally walked into the back room, looking for the bathroom, he sniggered, “She’s scared I’m going to try and fuck her.” These were all jokes, you see. Funny ones.
As soon as I walked out of that interview, I burst into tears and called my boyfriend, squatting in the snow in a deserted car park in Brooklyn. We were flat broke and really, really needed the money but he told me not to take a job where I’d have to put up with these kind of jokes every day.
Instead of texting, I called the guy — which took just about all of my courage. I wanted him to hear me say his jokes out loud back to him, so he’d hear how uncomfortable they must have made me feel. Except he didn’t.
I said I didn’t need the job as much as he seemed to think, to which he replied — what else — “Why don’t you have a sense of humour?” and hung up.
The hospitality industry is no doubt rife with these kinds of stories — but so is every industry. I’ve been that woman in my early 30s, setting out as a filmmaker and looking for advice from others who had trod a similar path.
I used to chat online with a male film director, who I’d met once on a film panel in Sydney. He thought it was okay to message me “Babe wen we hanging lol” with offers of sex or “getting drunk and naked”. Offers is a loose word, it was usually just saying the word sex at random moments during the conversation. Hilarious, right?
When I asked him why he talked to me this way, he probably wondered why I couldn’t take a joke. But he didn’t answer at all. So now I’m the one who avoids going to film events where he’ll be, because I don’t have a sense of humour and he makes me very uncomfortable.
As women, we’ve been trained to prioritise men’s comfort over our own — and that often means we laugh along, even if it’s blatantly not funny. Then we feel guilty because we must have encouraged them to keep on joking.
For a while, I laughed along with the men in the bar, the potential employer, and the film director — until I couldn’t pretend any more.
And even after all these years, I continue to laugh along — most recently with the film festival organiser who invited me as a guest filmmaker and still found it funny to tell a crowd of people again and again how I wouldn’t go on a date with him.
Yes, I laughed and I hated myself for laughing. I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of all those people. And yet he didn’t think twice about embarrassing me.
Geoffrey Rush has probably gone through his career with women laughing along to his “loony” jokes. The accusations may well have come as a shock to him, and the effort of re-assessing a lifetime’s worth of behaviour — or god forbid, apologising — is just too great.
No, it’s much easier to write off women as not being able to take a joke. Those stuck-up bitches.
Men, we’ve heard the joke over and over our entire lives. Maybe it’s not fucking funny — especially the thousandth time. Maybe it never was.