Photo by Jessica Waite
Jasmine Don had her “Karate Kid” feminist moment in high school when a male classmate made her physically uncomfortable.
“I was like ‘oh, no, I know this,’” says Don. “Thinking about all these feminist articles and social media posts that I had seen about how you as a woman have the right to assert yourself and say ‘no’ in situations that make you uncomfortable. You shouldn’t have to put whatever the fuck men want in front of your own discomfort. I think that was the moment I felt empowered to be like, ‘You know what? I don’t want this to happen. You need to stop doing this because it’s making me uncomfortable.’”
Don is a graduating third-year English and creative writing major at UCLA. For the entirety of her UCLA career, Don has been a writer and editor for The Westwood Enabler, UCLA’s satirical newspaper. As a comedy writer, Don is unafraid of tackling tough topics like oppression and social justice in her work.
Don argues that “satire teaches us to think critically about the media we consume and what narratives have been normalized for us.” While fake news is meant to mislead readers, satire is meant to encourage readers to engage critically with “serious media.”
“Humor and satire are very powerful tools. This common perception is that feminists can’t take a joke or women can’t be funny. People say that women, especially women of color, can’t be funny, or that all Asians are really uptight,” says Don. “Being an Asian feminist and being funny is empowering in that way.”
In her work at The Westwood Enabler, Don tries to emphasize jokes that “punch up” rather than jokes that “punch down.”
“I don’t understand people who think that humor, by definition, has to be offensive and edgy. And I also disagree with people who say that comedy shouldn’t engage with sensitive issues. The key rule that I try really hard to abide by is ‘don’t punch down’ — basically, if you’re writing a joke to call out an existing power imbalance, it can’t be at the expense of whoever’s already disempowered.” Don pointed to a Reductress article titled “New Bill Requires Women Seeking Abortions to Paint Still Life of Fetus” as an example.
“We’re not reading this like ‘haha, women who seek abortions are idiots’ — we’re laughing at how ridiculous, invasive, and unethical these anti-abortion regulations are. This article ‘punches up’ at these oppressive systems and institutions and turns them into the butt of the joke,” says Don.
Don feels that feminism lends itself very naturally to comedy. When it comes to double standards and misogyny, there are some structures of power that are “so ridiculous they need to be ridiculed.” As an intersectional feminist, Don wants to make sure that feminism is inclusive of all women.
“I think it’s really important when we talk about feminism we’re not just talking about what it means to be a straight, white, cisgendered, middle-class American woman. A lot of other things factor into it. What that kind of woman needs is different than what I need as a woman of color, and that’s different from what trans women need and what all kinds of women need.”
Don wants to encourage women to feel free to express themselves however they want to. “People think being a feminist is all about being really angry all the time about everything — and there are feminists who are very justifiably angry and that’s important. But I, personally, don’t have the type of personality and energy to do that. There are other ways to express your feelings about how ridiculous everything is.” For Don, that’s what comedy is.
For some of Jasmine Don’s work, check out her author page on The Westwood Enabler’s website.