No, it’s not just a joke.

A study published in 2007 explains in its abstract,

The results of two experiments supported the hypothesis that, for sexist men, exposure to sexist humor can promote the behavioral release of prejudice against women

To which I say, OF COURSE!! Who doesn’t know this?

A lot of people, apparently. I don’t believe the results of this study are only true for sexist men. I believe it’s true for everyone, and not just with sexist jokes but with other types of discriminatory jokes as well. And I believe that anyone who doesn’t think so, anyone who believes they are above this and can remain unaffected, is the same fool who believes that he/she is not brainwashed to at least some degree by advertisements. The very fact that you find it funny means that you are affected.

And yet shock humor is not only prevalent but popular in our culture, for reasons I cannot fathom. Because it’s cool, I guess? I went to high school with hipster racists and liberal sexists. These are people who make a racist or sexist comment or joke in order to appear above it all, claiming that if they were really racist or sexist they would be serious, not laughing and finding it funny. Because, you know, racist/sexist/oppressive people never use making fun as a weapon to torment you. Besides, how can they be racist when they have friends who are minorities or women or both? They can’t, of course! They are being ironic! And everyone laughs, because it’s so witty and cool. After all, that’s why it’s a joke–because we all know it’s ridiculous, right? Right?

Racist/sexist/oppressive jokes perpetuate stereotypes at their very core under the guise of satire. It’s in advertisements, movies, television shows, and even serious news. The Huffington Post, supposedly a liberal and progressive news site, regularly dismisses the complaints of women who are frustrated with their history of not only underhanded bias but blatant use of linkbait strategies to trade objectifying photos of women’s digitally dismembered bodies for hits. Advertisements are filled with “ironic” sexism, racism, classism, and ableism, leaching off stigma achieved through hard feminist work to twist out selling material.

They do so in the same way television and movies attempt to repackage strong women so that they appeal to men, conditioning us to redefine strong women as sexually appealing–to men. Because she fights with swords and kicks ass, that must mean she is empowered, and we should totally ignore the skimpy outfits, belittling nicknames, sexually suggestive positions in action scenes, and the fact that she is a secondary and disposable character in the plot. You can’t watch an action movie without this repackaged male-defined version of a strong woman–a sex toy with masculine strength. (Looks like a woman, acts like a dude! It’s like she’s one of the guys! This is true empowerment, ladies. Femininity is stupid. Be more like men! But don’t look like one. You still have to be hot.) We are not that stupid, Hollywood. You are leeching off the achievements of feminism.

And you can’t watch a comedy without finding hipster racism or liberal sexism. And it has an affect, on everyone.

“Almost dropped my phone.”

“Of course. Women can’t be trusted with technology. What? I was just joking. You take things too seriously.”

But you have to laugh. You MUST find this type of humor funny, or you’re too uptight and you just “don’t get it.” You’re too sensitive. Feminists have no sense of humor. Women are too emotional, and by reacting, you are proving my point.

People are uncomfortable when I don’t feel a social obligation to laugh. If I don’t find it funny, I won’t laugh. Eat it, bitch. It’s not my fault you’ve been sucked up to by people who feel the pressure to laugh for the sake of politeness/appearing chill and that you consequently believe you’re hilarious like an American Idol contestant who’s been told for a lifetime that he/she can sing only to make a fool of his/herself during auditions.

And that’s another thing. In addition to being problematic, it actually is not funny. Really. There’s no wit. It’s just random and weird. I’m doing you a favor. You’re welcome.

UPDATE. I figured this is a perfect opportunity to compile a list of things that make me laugh, since it’s such a damn mystery.

Monty Python
Lucille Ball
humor breaks in horror movies
the Onion
Libba Bray
Calvin and Hobbes
Molly Lambert
my friends
first season of The Big Bang Theory (went downhill after that)
first season of Modern Family ” ”
roller coasters
nerdy jokes
J. K. Rowling
Bad Hemingway Contest essays
Jill Filipovic’s commentary
Sarah Haskins

Rene Magritte parody

“The Importance of Being Ernest”
And satire that is actually amusing.

10 thoughts on “No, it’s not just a joke.

  1. This reminds me of the Obama Chimpanzee joke. She also claimed to be "not racist" since she had many "black" friends.What are your thoughts about an individual of an underpriviledged group making jokes about the same group?

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  2. I don't believe that excuses them entirely either, because other members of that group may find it offensive–depending on the joke itself and how it's delivered–and the person who makes the joke is not representative of everyone else in that group.

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  3. almostclever

    I find myself laughing to keep from tearing apart the entire room. My hubby asked me "why do you laugh at some of the sexism, and get pissed at the others?" This totally confuses him. I try hard to bring him into my world on a simple evening just watching television. If I got mad at all of it, I would be mad all the time – and that is simply no way to live.

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  4. It is pretty subjective, but I think each person has his/her own reasons for each–there is a method to the madness!–and we can take the time to learn them. The best we can do is be courteous to each other's comfort levels. There's also that difference between real satire and discrimination disguised as satire. The speaker and audience need to be taken into account; context matters. And then there's stuff that just…isn't…funny. It's flat, overused.

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  5. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It's not that we don't have a sense of humour. It's just that that stuff's really not funny. Not even a little bit. Because being reminded that you're a second (third? fourth? How many intersections of marginalisation can we fit in one 'joke'?) class citizen doesn't make most people inclined to curl up in a ball of incoherent hilarity. Blogs with pictures of dogs doing incredibly silly things, though? Incoherent. Breathless. Tear-streaked. Hilarity.

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  6. So timely! I just deleted someone off my Facebook yesterday for saying that laughing at sexist jokes doesn’t mean you’re sexist. Um. Yes it does. At the very least, you’re supporting it by treating it as something that is not to be taken seriously.

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  8. Nav

    First season of Big Bang theory is actually quite transphobic, misogynistic and homophobic. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show and I can’t stop watching it (I’ve spent my last 3 days watching season 1 and 2), but I can still see its weak points

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