Internalized Misogyny in Comedy
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
By Mary Grlic
Image via NBC
You’re a woman, all you do is cook and clean. Ladies, finish setting the table while the men watch football. You’re a dishwasher, go make me a sandwich! As women, we find this type of “humor” is outdated and offensive. We’re told to “take it lightly” and laugh it off because we are being too serious. “When did this world become so soft that no one can even handle a joke anymore?” we hear. It’s not that we can’t handle jokes or that we’re too soft. It’s the internalized misogyny behind your comedy that’s the issue.
Making fun of female gender roles and stereotypes is a common trend seen in comedy. Growing up, lots of girls are subject to this sort of humor, whether it be on the playground around younger boys or on children’s television shows. Hair pulling and teasing is often viewed as a playful joke, perhaps showing a boy’s interest in a girl. Boys often make fun of girls who are interested in STEM, sports, and other male-dominated activities. This offensive humor, which can be seen as harassment, is often overlooked and justified by the idea that “boys will be boys.” However, allowing young kids to grow up with this mentality will only lead them into an adulthood where they think it is okay to make sexist jokes. This is evident in modern comedy.
Nowadays, it is normal to scroll through Youtube or watch an SNL skit just to find jokes that compare women to dishwashers, laugh about their appearance, and make other misogynistic comments. I was just scrolling through social media and saw a TikTok where a boy held up cleaning supplies to resemble a female. While some may take this as an innocent joke at first, the underlying tone is incredibly misogynistic, as it makes fun of gender roles that women were subjected to in the past as a result of the patriarchy.
Jokes not only communicate insight into the comedian’s mind, but also the minds of those who find them funny. Making sexist jokes and laughing at them shares a snippet of what these people find acceptable, which in this case, is clearly inappropriate behavior. Misogynistic jokes can be very dangerous, as they reinforce the power that men have exerted over women for years. Finding this funny not only strengthens the patriarchy, but may also cause some men to think that they are truly superior to women, giving them the opportunity to take advantage of them or treat them inappropriately. It also impacts females, making them feel inferior to men, as though they can not accomplish the same goals because they are women. Misogyny in comedy becomes an even larger problem when speaking up makes you too “soft,” insanely feminist, or unable to take a joke. It is not about being able to handle jokes or understand humor. The issue is the internalized misogyny embedded in this type of comedy. Not only do these skits make fun of gender roles, but women are also expected to just sit back and take this treatment as if it is normal. If we stand up for ourselves, we’re overly sensitive. We can’t take jokes and we’re creating problems out of innocence. But if we say nothing, we are just sitting back and reveling in a patriarchy that can never be improved upon because we allow men to treat us this way. Even if jokes are made with no intent of being misogynistic, it does not excuse the underlying tones of gender stereotypes and anti-feminist behavior.
Comedy is meant to subtly joke about modern issues, internalized stresses, and other topics that can be made fun of by the comedian. It is not meant to bash events or circumstances that the comedian themself does not comprehend or never had to experience firsthand. For men to come along and make fun of women is completely inappropriate, as men never experienced the discrimination and hatred women have faced for years. Gender stereotypes are a result of a withstanding patriarchy that still exists today, and though women may have more opportunities than they did in the past, joking about the problems we have faced for centuries will not resolve any issues.
Written by writer Mary Grlic