by Pritha Nag
There is no such thing as a “sexist joke,” if anything is even remotely offensive towards any gender, there should be no reason for any laughter. Regardless or not if it offended you, or you think someone is just taking it too personally, you don’t know what the other gender feels like reading that joke.
Sexist humour can demean, insult, stereotype and victimise another gender. What one person may find funny isn’t always funny to the other. The phrase “it’s just a joke, don’t take it so seriously.” Shouldn’t be used as an excuse, several times personally I’ve felt like I’ve made a big deal of finding a joke slightly offensive, and have spoken up, with people turning it down saying “Don’t take it seriously, he doesn’t understand”. And that’s where the problem lies.
Sexist humour relies on others recognizing stereotypes that are the base of the joke. It asks the person to not to take discriminatory stereotyping seriously, and that it’s okay to generalise a whole gender to what the media portrays them to be.
Sexist humour gets passed around through the ripple effect, which allows actions to get passed around because of the result of an event or action. It encourages others who hear the joke and manage to get away with it, that it’s fine to say these things. It plants the seed that it’s okay to say these jokes and if people don’t laugh at it “they don’t have a sense of humour.” A study done in 2010 found that the more respected reputation of the person who is harassing, the effects are said to be worse. This further shows the ripple effect that is used heavily in this topic. The more respected the person the harder it is to call them out.
The pressure society puts on women to be a good sport, and not take the whole “gender thing” too seriously, embeds that it’s wrong if we choose to get mad and speak up. (This article linked, is a really well written article on sexism in science, and the “sexist” jokes that has been made about her). We are then looked down upon as if we cannot take a joke, and take things too seriously, which isn’t the case. If it comes in the form of a meme format it further implies that this is a joke and really shouldn’t be taken seriously.
No one ever thinks that maybe the reason we aren’t laughing is because it ins’t funny. As women, we are required to uneasily laugh, and move on, otherwise we can’t take a joke. Something I’ve done several times, laugh, move on and explode in my head. We can take jokes, we really can, maybe the problem isn’t us, but is your joke.
Which is where this needs to be stopped. We must make it seem like a comfortable environment for us to call out people, and make them learn. Call out people when they’ve said something that is offensive, call out people regardless of how respected they are. The more you do this, the more you are helping society get one step closer to breaking sexism.