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Valentine's Duh: There's Nothing Funny About Stalking.

Valentine's Day is next week—a time for Occupying VDay, celebrating Galentine's Day, or, for the more traditional among us, spending lots of money on fancy cards and pink candy. While a polarizing event to be sure, Valentine's Day is, in its purest form, about love (and candy). What it is not about, at all, is stalking.

You know who missed the "stalking is not romantic in any way and therefore should not be included in any Valentine's Day paraphernalia" memo? LOTS OF PEOPLE.

red card reads: stalker is a harsh wordinside of card reads: I prefer Valentine
From Target...

pink card has a photo of a white man with binoculars on the front. Text reads: somewhere there's someone who dreams of your smile, and finds in your presence that life is worthwhile. So when you are lonely remember it's true, somewhere a STALKER is thinking of you
One of MANY from Zazzle...

Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction on a card that says Happy Valentines Day
One of MANY from Etsy...

someecard that reads: Your stalker wishes you a Happy Valentine's Day
One of MANY from someecards...

You get the idea.

Considering the very unfunny fact that 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers, and well over a million people are victims of stalking in the US each year, I don't think my Cupid's arrow is off the mark here when I say this is not something that should be made light of or associated with Valentine's Day. AT ALL.

Why then, is this acceptable Valentine's Day "humor"? Sure, many of the outlets selling stalker valentines are user-generated (someecards, zazzle, Etsy), but why are users generating them in the first place? Is holiday-themed violent crime that much of a chucklefest? Why not a line of Christmas murder cards, then? A set of assault-themed wedding invitations? (Please no one make those cards.) My guess is that, since the vast majority of stalking victims are women who know their stalker, some misogynist douchebags have decided that knowing someone who commits a crime against you is the same thing as loving them. And that it's fine to make light of crimes that are typically perpetuated by men against women (see also: rape jokes). I mean, they're just women, right?! Can't they take a (stalker-themed, humorless) joke?

No matter how you feel about Valentine's Day as an institution, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that stalking humor shouldn't play a role in your celebration. But I'm telling you (and the purveyors and purchasers of these cards) anyway: Stalking isn't funny, and it sure isn't romantic. Stick to the sappy hearts and pink candy, people.

There's a Care2 petition you can sign to ask Target to take the stalking card off their shelves before Tuesday.

Further reading: Hollaback!

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Comments

14 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Stalker Valentines

I agree, this is distasteful. I had a mentally compromised person stalking me for over a year. It is scary. After I found out I was expecting a baby, I contacted the police. I was afraid for my life. (It was not his baby, we had never had a dating or intimate relationship.) These valentines are not funny or acceptable to me at all.

First, I completely agree

First, I completely agree that stalking is unacceptable behavior and is in no way defensible, romantic, cute, charming, etc. But that's exactly why I think those cards are funny. Then again, I also joke about child molesting, bestiality, and any number of other things to which I am deeply morally opposed. I don't think joking about a thing, even a horrible thing, means that a person supports or condones that thing, even unconsciously.

This actually (and weirdly) brings to mind a conversation I had on an internet mailing list dedicated to the band XTC in the late 1990's. They have a song called "My Weapon" which is pretty clearly about a guy who is misogynistic, both hating and fearing women and their sexuality. The chorus is a suggestion that he is venting these feelings on her using "his weapon" during (possibly non-consensual -- it's never really stated) sex. Anyway, I always liked the song, because I clearly saw it as making fun of small-minded idiots who actually viewed women in that way. It boggled my mind that anyone could hear that song and interpret it as condoning or celebrating the behavior in any way. Yes, the song was written from the point of view of the guy in question, so the song didn't outright state that it was parody. But I liked the song because listening to it showed just how fucking ridiculous that way of thinking really was.

Anyway, I kind of feel the same way about some of the cards cited above. They are funny to me precisely because of how obviously inappropriate and wrong such behavior would be. Thus the humor is in juxtaposing that with the ostensibly romantic framework of a VD card.

I do get that some people probably see these and don't see them as ironic, they just take them at face value. But I really can't imagine anyone who otherwise wouldn't be a stalker being influenced by these cards. The sort of people who would send one and consider it a true endorsement of stalking is probably someone whose mindset was already pretty pro-stalking in the first place. Or that's how it seems to me anyway.

To be clear, I am totally opposed to stalking, and I do agree it is responsible for a great deal of sexual violence, I just don't see joking about it as being part of the problem. But I joke about pretty much anything. I can't really think of a topic that I consider off-limits for humor. The more potentially offensive a topic, the more it can be humorous, I think.

Honestly, Mitch Harding, the

Honestly, Mitch Harding, the reason these cards shouldn't be on sale isn't that they might give someone ideas - men who are stalkers don't need cards to give them ideas, they seem to have no problem coming up with it on their own. The reason the cards shouldn't be on sale imo is that, for a woman who's been terrorised, threatened or harmed by a stalker, seeing these cards in a shop is an unnecessary trauma she shouldn't have to endure.

And before you claim women have no sense of humour, I'm not sure if anything has ever traumatised you in your life, but it has then imagine that thing and imagine seeing it all over the place or hearing people joke about it. Or if you haven't been traumatised, then imagine it. Imagine you were raped and then saw jokes about male rape all over the place. Imagine your most loved person was killed in a car accident and then you saw jokes about ppl getting killed in cars all the time, ppl claiming it was 'so funny'...

How would you feel? Would you find it funny? Or would you just never want to go out again into a world that makes a joke of your worst lived experiences? Making jokes about horrendous experiences is. not. funny. You only find them funny because they don't affect you personally, but such a lack of concern for others is pretty much a sign of all that's wrong with this world.

For the record I've never been stalked, but I can imagine how terrifying the experience might be and for that reason alone I would never *NEVER* make a joke about it because it might be intensely upsetting to someone else and it doesn't take much to care.

SO Agreed!

That's what's so disturbing about our narcissistic, self-centered, self-absorbed society and culture of people with the attitudes of "It has never happened to me yet, so I will make fun of it just to bring attention to the matter," offending victims and concerned others in the process.

I was stalked over a period of two years and even that was a scarring, life-changing experience for me. My life was ruined in so many ways, the only good that came out of my experience was my newfound empathy for other victims of stalking, rape, assault, and other crimes that affect people for the rest of their lifetimes. Why must it take other victims of crimes to empathize and raise awareness to these matters and not EVERYONE? Sorry Mitch Harding, rape and other horrendous crimes against humans are not funny. Ever.

Like most things in life,

Like most things in life, it's a matter of perspective. I've never been stalked (by anyone dangerous, anyway) but like most people I've endured my share of trauma in my time on this planet. Something being a painful experience for me doesn't make it not funny for me. When my father died, a man whom I loved dearly and deeply, joking about it specifically and death in general were part of how I was able to work through it. Same thing with my depression, my struggles with alcoholism, etc. To me, there are funny aspects to all of those things. I understand that not everyone feels that way -- humor is totally in the eye of the beholder. This has nothing to do with whether something has happened to me or not. Generally speaking, the more personally I can identify with something or the more strongly I feel about it, the greater my tendency to try and find humor in it. I have no need to joke about things which don't disturb me on some level. That's not the role humor plays for me. As I said, I recognize that humor doesn't work this way for everyone, but that doesn't make one of us right or wrong about when humor is appropriate.

V-day

LIGHTEN UP!!!!!!! Jeez...there's far more things to be upset about. You don't get it, don't buy the card. It's that simple.

Ah, the ol' "lighten up" argument

Yeah, I don't think we should "lighten up" on stalking just because it's Valentine's Day—I'm sure stalking victims feel no safer on February 14 than they do the rest of the year.

Jokes about stalking (whether I buy the cards or not) make light of a serious issue and normalize the behavior, which is not just offensive, it's dangerous. Maybe we could "LIGHTEN UP!!!!!!!" some other way on Valentine's Day? Like eating candy? (I prefer candy to stalking jokes.)

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I have to admit that I agree

I have to admit that I agree with Mitch on this one. And before you say "you don't know what it's like to be traumatized"..I know what it's like. During my whole chldhood, and most of my teenage years, I lived with an alcoholic, abusive father. Only thing that actually makes me feel better is joking about it. So, I wouldn't advise giving out these cards to women who have actually been stalked and advise them to "lighten up" (is that a troll ? It must be), but neither would I tell people to forbid dark humor.

I also agree

I also agree - humour is one of the few adaptive defense mechanisms that we have access to. I too have had trauma in my past, and I always think that if you can't laugh about it, you'll only cry. As a person with mood and anxiety disorders I once got a card (and a book!) that made light of antidepressant use and neuroses and thought it was hilarious. This does not mean that people's attitudes and misinformation about mental illness don't drive me to drink and outright infuriate me at times, but I can also have a laugh at my own expense when occasion calls for it.

Certainly people who are unaware of how trauma may continue to affect a person long after it happened can be aggravating. But I think this post has entirely missed the point: I actually find these cards more problematic in that they mock stalkers, not their victims, and making light of something that results out of a mental disturbance is more harmful in the long run than re-experienced trauma by someone who has been stalked.

In any case, there are better ways to bring awareness to stalking than to poke holes in the idea of an ironic Valentine's Day card (or cards). And I hardly see this as the main concern with Valentine's Day cards. Personally I find these amusing, and I'd rather get one like this than some sappy ridiculous card. Valentine's Day is a satire unto itself at this point.

Shut up Mitch

I feel like Mitch is posting many times under different names. What a troll.

Not trolling

I assure you, I'm not trolling. I just checked back on this page today for the first time after I posted my original comment. While I do agree with much of what these other folks have said, they're not me and they're not (as far as I know) friends of mine. Is it really that surprising to you that multiple people, even multiple feminists, would disagree that joking about something is automatically offensive?

I will say that one of the above comments did hit close to home for me, since I have suffered from clinical depression since adolescence. Humor has helped me get through that as well as other traumatic events of my life, such as the death of my father or my personal struggle with alcoholism (I've been sober for several years now, thankfully). Just because humor isn't a coping mechanism for everyone doesn't mean it isn't a coping mechanism for anyone. I can understand that it doesn't work that way for some people, but I don't feel that makes joking about sensitive topics to be wrong.

I'm not alone in this view, even if you actually believe I'm responsible for all dissenting comments on this post. Read Dan Savage's views about comedians whose bits involve humor that some gay rights activists find offensive. Personally I don't think I'd be able to make it through life without joking about the painful, awful things that happen. I do try to be aware of my audience when doing so, of course, and aware of the context. I think plenty of comedians must feel similarly, though, since so often their material is drawn from traumatic experiences in their past. Look at old Kids In The Hall skits about alcoholic parents -- at least one member of that troupe grew up with that as a reality, and the comedy was part of their way of working through it and connecting with others who had the same trauma.

Finally, even if all of those above comments were posted by me, I'd hardly describe them as trolling. Trolls don't tend to give reasoned explanations for their positions, they just say stupid stuff to get a rise out of people. I can't speak for the other commenters, but I'm posting here because I find this topic to be interesting and worth of intelligent discussion.

A quote and alternative interpretation

One quote I heard recently that springs to mind after reading this conversation is "Gallows humor is for the person on the gallows, not the picnicking crowd." I use gallows humor to get through my own life, but do not welcome it from those who have not "been there" and nor would I ever try to apply it to some else's experiences.

However another way to interpret these cards might be by that they are pointing out that what is deemed romantic in fiction, is (rightfully) considered stalking in real life. This actually could be part of a brilliant commentary.

I'm probably over thinking it though.

Your second paragraph hit the

Your second paragraph hit the nail on the head for me. I think what I find most funny about these cards is that they point out our schizophrenic idea of love and romance. If everyone used movies, books, poems, etc, as their guides to romantic love, then we'd all be stalkers. I don't think these cards would be funny except that, other than the word stalker, they tend to describe literary/cinematic romantic ideals. And it's the contrast between that fantasy and the fucked up reality of stalking which is, as you say, a brilliant commentary.

(Don't worry, overthinking is a hobby of mine -- hence my novel-length comments on here!)

A bitter medicine.

Hello ladies and men. My name is Kyle. These cards make me feel un-easy. Your posts make me feel uneasy too. I feel like you hate me before I say a word. Someone called me a stalker once. I didn't think it was funny. It upset me terribly. I didnt view any of my friends facebook pages for weeks. I think every good Parent is a stalker. So is every good friend. I think. Unfortunatly so is our worst enemy. I think that is what these cards are saying. At least, that is what they say to me in the best light.