Clinical Law Prof Blog

Editor: Jeffrey R. Baker
Pepperdine University
School of Law

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones...and Words Can Hurt: The Case of the Chatty Chalkboard

Just a little Tuesday outrage to go with your afternoon snack via a posting on fellow clinician Margaret Drew's Facebook page.  Perhaps you saw this - then again - perhaps not:

Image: Sign posted outside Bar-Ly in Philadelphia's Chinatown

It seems harmless, right? But upon some reflection, the real problem is the underlying message, which, without being hypersensitive, implies that domestic violence is funny.  After many complaints, the sign was taken down, and the employee who wrote the message was fired, yet for anyone who has experienced domestic violence or worked with survivors, the message touches a significant nerve.  And that nerve smarts a little, even when faced with something seemingly so tongue in cheek.

Humor can be an effective tool - for reflection, for stress relief, for group bonding.  That being said, how do we combat these sorts of larger public messages as advocates working to spread altogether different messages (i.e. domestic violence is a serious issue)?  Is raising awareness enough?  Are there arenas where humor is appropriate for sensitive topics, and if so, when/where/how do we do that?  How do we handle sensitive issues in our clinics, and how do we use humor in that setting?

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Posted by: Warren Binford | May 6, 2014 11:06:38 AM

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