Academic journal article Women and Language

Gendered Jokes: Humor as a Subversive Activity

Academic journal article Women and Language

Gendered Jokes: Humor as a Subversive Activity

Article excerpt

Gendered Jokes: Humor as a Subversive Activity. Janet Bing, Old Dominion University

Humor, as one type of self-reflective activity, can reveal unexpected perspectives and new alternatives. Many jokes, however, are based on negative stereotypes and may reinforce existing assumptions and beliefs. In this paper I argue that different kinds of humor have different social consequences. Although certain types of "feminist jokes" can be liberating, other jokes which claim to be feminist can actually work against the best interests of women.

Different types of humor have different targets and different consequences. Subversive humor targets ideology and reveals the absurdity of certain social practices, including those that unfairly exclude people from power. The primary targets of subversive jokes are repressive actions, social structures, systems, and attitudes; humor can undermine these by revealing absurdities (such as the difficulties businesswomen have in getting their suggestions heard). Subversive humor ridicules unjust social causes rather than than the people who maintain and benefit from such systems.

Divisive humor, on the other hand, divides groups into "us" and "them," based on stereotypes and questionable social myths. …

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