Friday, 9 April 2010

Bullying is not funny

I was sad to read this story about Frankie Boyle making fun of people with Down's Syndrome during a live show. I would definitely count myself as a fan of his and it's his near the knuckle comments that most people find funniest - he says the things you just wouldn't dare to. But you have to draw the line somewhere and laughing at someone because they have a disability is where I would draw it. I saw Billy Connolly last year in Glasgow and had a similar experience to the woman in this story. Obviously it was more personal for her because her wee girl has Down's Syndrome but I, too, noticed that just about everyone else was laughing when Billy Connolly impersonated the way someone who'd had polio might walk.

It didn't make me feel obliged to laugh but I definitely felt self conscious about the fact that I wasn't laughing although I did wonder how many of the audience were laughing out of obligation.

I felt like standing up and telling him that rather a large section of the audience that night had disabilities and they'd paid bloody good money to get in to see him. I have a feeling Frankie Boyle will reconsider where Billy Connolly would just stick two fingers up to anyone who complained - at least I hope so.

It's not illegal to say these things, nor should it be. And we can agree or disagree as to the rights and wrongs. For me though the most important thing is that it's just not funny. What is funny about someone struggling to get out of work with one leg shorter than the other in case they get crushed in the rush (Billy C talking about guys in the shipyards)? What would make you laugh about someone with Down's Syndrome "talking funny"?

I don't get it. Do you? Are you one of these people who laughs because everyone else does? I understand and it can be hard especially when it's your friends but I honestly think that we all have to be true to ourselves and do what we believe to be right, not what everyone else is doing. It's a slippery slope and for people with disabilities sometimes this attitude of "it's only a laugh" results in serious bullying and we've heard recently about people who've taken their own lives because of it.

If I were Frankie Boyle I'd be apologising, admitting it's not really funny and speaking out against people who bully people with disabilities. We can all make mistakes and people who can own up to them gets loads more respect than people who pick on others because of something outwith their control.

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