Sexist Memes: Funny or Not?
While I understand that there is humour in provocation, this meme (the picture to the left) that's been making the rounds on websites like 9gag and We Know Memes made me throw up in my mouth a little. Although I love these websites to death, and I think the political potential of memes is huge, these websites (9gag in particular) feature so much overt sexism that I often get mixed feelings. I think 9gag may be conditioning women to think that sexism is funny and perfectly acceptable.
Honestly, sexist jokes -- such as the "woman-in-kitchen" variety -- never used to offend me that much. I didn't think that they really had much to do with women, just like yo-mama jokes have nothing to do with mothers. I figured they were just convenient frames used by comedians to prove their linguistic creativity. To avoid conflict I usually gave them a laugh.
But then I realized that there are so many of these jokes being told, in so many shapes and sizes (Good girl Gina, friendzoning, women logic etc.) and all of them to some degree are sexist, that writing them all off as harmless is a bit of a stretch, and probably detrimental.
Despite my weakness for such jokes, nothing makes me as angry as jokes about hormones (or anything involving female biology in a negative way). They are just too specific, and also inherently sexist. You can’t turn them around. There seems to be the misconception that boys or men are not at all influenced by hormones, as if testosterone is not in fact a hormone, but some kind of magical substance that, granted you have a sufficient amount, allows you to join an privileged and exclusive club. Estrogen, on the other hand, is a bitch and makes you act like a complete imbecile several days a month (according to these jokes).
Now I enjoy a good discussion, and I can get quite heated, but this does not mean that I have suddenly lost my accountability. So why is it that boys always seem to feel it’s ok to confuse passion and conviction in women for hormonal irrationality? Why do they feel it’s ok to tell me ‘chill out, are you on your period or something?’ This makes me livid. It is such a low comment. Let me clear this once and for all: just because a woman is frustrated doesn't make her emotionally unstable.
This is the crux. A comment like this is an attempt to discredit you. It has been done before, to countless women. Just one example: in the eighteenth century women were often diagnosed with hysteria (derived from the Greek Hystera, meaning uterus). These so-called feeble minded, delicate creatures had to be cared for because god forbid they show any sign of discontent. Shut them up, lock them away because opinionated women are scary.
In an effort to end this rant on a rather more positive note, there is something women can do to fight casual sexism like this. Namely, come right back with an even better joke. Mind you not a joke that's sexist towards men, but one that makes it known you're not going to tolerate sexism. Use comedy as the way to smoothly pave our way to equality rather than fighting. Because the goal is not to get rid of comedy, and the point is not that we must be humorless in our attempts to achieve equality. The point is that equality is a necessary condition for great comedy.
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