Jennifer Lawrence Makes Joke About "Hermaphrodites" That Was Offensive & Unnecessary
I'm not ashamed to admit that Jennifer Lawrence is an actual treasure to me. I think that everything she says is funny and adorable. She's not as flawless to me as, say, Beyoncé, but she's right up there on my list of people who can pretty much do whatever they want. At least, she would be if it weren't for all of her problematic aspects. Lawrence is a human being and human beings are flawed by their very nature, meaning that it's kind of a given that she's going to mess up. Her Vanity Fair interview might have featured a Lawrence that refused to apologize for the nude picture leak, but it also featured some troubling statements. First was her admission that she worships Woody Allen, a confession that still makes me cringe. Now, with the interview published in full, Lawrence made an offensive joke about "hermaphrodites" that really disappointed me.
"She can still find some humor in the situation: 'It could have been worse,' she says. 'At least I'm not a hermaphrodite. I could have been outed—'Jennifer Lawrence, hermaphrodite!' And there's your silver lining'," reads the Vanity Fair article. Let me be the first to say that hermaphrodites — or, as I suspect Lawrence actually meant — people who were born intersex are not funny. They're not a joke. They're not a punchline. They're human beings. And for Lawrence to find humor in her own violation by discriminating against another group of people was just the absolutely wrong move here.
Let's start with terminology. A hermaphrodite is an organism that has both male and female reproductive organs. This is a term that is currently applied to animal and plant species, because the Intersex Society of North America said that referring to human beings as hermaphrodites is "stigmatizing and misleading". In fact, it's physiologically impossible for human beings because it implies "that a person is both fully male and fully female" and that's not what actually occurs biologically in an intersex person. Instead, what actually happens is that an intersex person has sexual organs that do not allow them to be defined as solely male or solely female or that are an incomplete combination of male and female sexual organs. So, on a fundamental basis, her use of the term is wrong because it's impossible.
Next, there's the fact that she considers it a humorous silver lining that her nude picture leak didn't out her as an intersex person. Being outed is not a punchline. It's not funny. She herself should know that well enough from her nude pictures being leaked in the first place. It's an incredibly violating experience that can lead to all kinds of feelings of anxiety, betrayal, anger, and depression. It has taken Lawrence well over a month to get to a point of speaking so openly about her violation, so for her to casually imply that she's glad that she at least has a body that is considered traditionally normal is very short-sighted and more than a little insensitive.
Then again, Lawrence is no stranger to insensitive jokes. At a Vanity Fair after party at the Cannes Festival, Lawrence allegedly joked about having a "rape scream" that she broke out in the excitement of seeing one of her favorite directors. It's not even the first time that Lawrence has proven herself insensitive to gender issues. On an appearance on The Ellen Show, Lawrence talked at length about gendered energies as it relates to her cat, Chaz Bono, and why she assumes all cats are girls and all dogs are boys. As much as we might love Lawrence, it can't be denied that her sense of humor is and has always been set firmly on crass. However, it's not always in the cutesy, refreshing kind of way. Sometimes she's just straight up offensive.
Quite honestly, I feel that Lawrence owes an apology to the intersex community for her comment. Intersex people are still struggling for mainstream understanding and acceptance. By perpetuating not only a stereotype and a stigmatism, but also offensive terminology, Lawrence is turning her back on a community of people that are just that — people. Think of how many of her fans could have been born intersex and are now left feeling embarrassed and shamed by their own idol all in the name of a joke. I won't deny Lawrence her right to find humor in what was a rough situation for her, but there were better ways to go about it than a joke like this.
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