Sexist Jokes: Playful or Prejudiced?

Molly Bond

Today my friend, who by the way is a girl, walked over to me and said with a smirk “If your wife keeps coming out of the kitchen to nag you, what have you done wrong?” I blankly stared at her. “You made her chain too long!” I could not help but let out a huge snort of amusement, having never heard this one before.

But afterwards, I felt disgusted by my reaction. My gender had just been completely generalized and insulted, and yet I found it hilarious. Is this the appropriate response? Have I, along with many other girls, been going against the progress made in the past hundred to fifty years, brought about by women much braver than me?

In order to further my knowledge on the topic, I researched the progress that has been made concerning women’s rights within the past hundred years, and found that the greatest struggle for women when it came to “gaining their independence” so to speak was getting the gaining the right to vote. This was accomplished after many years, advocated by women such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of fighting for what are called “rights,” but seem to be privileges.

In finding this, I try to imagine a world where women were pushed to the point of going on hunger strikes and burning their more feminine clothing, all for the right to vote. And I think, in accepting jokes where women are singled out for absurd, stereotypical reasons, am I going against the advancement towards making men and women equal? Or am I being overly sensitive?

Sophomore Cody Williamson said “I think that being offended by a joke is an overreaction, because that’s just what they are, jokes.” Williamson gave the example of the “go make me a sandwich” gags, and said that “I know [girls] would not freak out because they know that I honestly didn’t believe that men were better than women.” After asking him about sexism in general, Williamson said “I feel like feminists have some prejudice in them, because they assume that men are sexist without the man even doing anything, other than holding open doors.”

And who doesn’t like having a door held open for them?

Well, feminists, actually. A study was recently done at by the Society for the Psychology for Women, and they have determined the line between chivalry and sexism. Apparently, referring to a group of men and women as “guys,” carrying shopping bags, and offering to drive on a long car trip are all examples of the “benevolent sexism” that men are apparently guilty of in today’s society.

This, to me, seems to be a tad extreme. I started to believe that taking offense to a harmless joke is indeed an overreaction, and that these feminists need to develop a sense of humor. Later, though, after speaking with sophomore women’s advocate Sarah Lemansky, I was forced to re-think this conclusion. “Some [jokes] are taken way too far,” said Lemansky. “They’re offensive because they’re pretty much implying that women are stupid and good for nothing.”

Is this the intention, though? Or are we just trying to get a laugh out of people? Freshmen English teacher Mr. DiBona said that his joking is purely to frustrate people. “I like it when people are bothered by things,” said DiBona. “And feminists in particular are easily peeved.”

In seeing that opinions have no apparent correlation to either gender or age, the conclusion has been made that this subject has been under the microscope for quite some time, and that no amount of arguing will change either side’s mindset.  Whether it be a nation-wide dispute about commercials degrading women (remember the Super Bowl a couple years ago?), or an argument across the dinner table, it all comes down to whether or not you have a sense of humor.

In my opinion, they are harmless, told with no other intention than to provoke either a laugh, or a pompous feminist. While I do admire feminists for standing up for what they think is right, I do find it a bit ridiculous to take offense at someone holding open a door for you. And while you do have the right to speak out against what you think to be wrong (i.e. a joke degrading your gender), just remember that it is a joke. And it all depends on how you decide look at it.

How do you feel about sexist jokes?


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