on sexist (mormon) humor
By Hannah Wheelwright
Today in one of my political science classes at BYU, we were discussing how people tend to choose marriage partners who share their political party affiliation (Democrats tend to marry Democrats, Republicans tend to marry Republicans, etc). The professor asked, “In a marriage, who is more likely to change their party affiliation?” to which three guys in my class blurted out in unison “The wife!”
Before you roll your eyes and tell me not to get my feminist panties in a twist, let me make myself clear- I laughed. I knew they were joking, and one of them specifically stopped me after class to make sure I knew he was joking. But I share this story because I am interested in hearing opinions on sexist jokes from a young Mormon feminist perspective.
My personal opinion is that while I would prefer that people not tell jokes that could be misconstrued to support or perpetuate sexism, I don’t see how we can practically draw lines and say definitively which topics are off-limits and how far is too far. So things like the Tosh rape controversy, while I sympathize for the young woman who tried to speak out about using rape for comedy, don’t bother me. I hear sexist jokes all the time from Mormons- far less extreme, but still jokes about demeaning women, and I don’t see how I can define boundaries that I can then expect everyone to maintain. I can advocate for these issues to be taken seriously and I can call people out when I think they are advancing a destructive perspective, but as far as comedy goes- I can’t help but quote Michael Scott from The Office: “There’s no such thing as an inappropriate joke- that’s why it’s called a joke.”
Share your thoughts in the comments section!
8 Responses to “on sexist (mormon) humor”
Something is funny because it’s wrong. Sexist jokes may actually help people realize that.
It usually depends on the context. I heard some great commentary on the Tosh debacle and how Wanda Skyes manages to make rape jokes funny on s consistent basais. But it is due to her intent and the context in which it is shared. I will laugh if I know a sexist joke is not meant to be offensive, but as I posted about the other day on the Facebook page, it can sometimes be downright offensive. Oh and nice use of a Michael Scott quote.
I love the little jignle at the start and end of each video, very 50 s :DHeard/seen most of this before (MontrealMeets etc.) but it’s always great to listen to this kind of stuff for that extra bit of motivation. Gonna look up that James Cameron video now as well, keep the inspiration flowing 🙂
Context. When the context indicates that it’s funny because women are stupid so let’s make fun of them, haha, that gives people permission to degrade women because it’s socially acceptable and their friends will back them up in doing so. And when you feel like it’s ok degrade people, it doesn’t usually stop at jokes. Jokes are just the warmup for actual miscreant behavior.
However. When the context of a joke indicates that misogynistic (or racist, or homophobic, etc) behavior makes you an asshole who will die sad and alone, that’s a lovely teaching moment.
My personal favorite example here! http://www.jumbojoke.com/the_debutante_ball.html
I guess it just goes back to that line about pornography, “you know it when you see it.” I can’t say where the line between funny and offensive lies, but I think there are definitely some jokes that are off limits.
Funny: the picture at the top of this post.
Offensive: a friend’s institute teacher told her class to write their names on the right side of their papers, then says “now, women, the right is on THIS side.”
Um, not all jokes are created equal, just as (contrary to #officewisdom) hardly any joke is amoral, but rather charged with significance external to its first-order meaning. It makes zero sense to juxtapose the party affiliation “joke,” apologetic, unthreatening, (not to mention banal) as it was, with Toshgate, which is loaded with the normalization of rape culture. I’d argue that one cannot advocate for rape culture to be taken seriously without considering its varied forms of manifestation – and this includes (rather prominently) jokes.
So, maybe making fun of sexism is O.K.
But making fun of women in a sexist way isn’t?
Generally, I think that if a similar joke about race wouldn’t be socially acceptable, then a joke about gender shouldn’t be either. In many cases a joke about how all black people, for example, have a certain negative quality would be considered inappropriate, yet for some reason it’s acceptable to make a joke about how all women have a certain negative quality. To be clear, I think this goes for jokes about men, too—it would be hypocritical for me to make a joke about how all men are a certain way.