Instead of speaking up against sexist jokes and locker room talk, it is now easier to remain quiet and be passive partners, read more to find out why this is incorrect.
Today’s times have made us realise how problematic things have been normalised by us knowingly and unknowingly. Sexism being one such thing has been so intrinsic to human nature and thus reflected in our actions. One such action involves humour. Men have now created a ‘safe space’ for themselves in each other’s company where this sexist humour is found. Where this is not considered offensive, where they can make fun of serious issues like MeToo, where they can objectify women in their locker-room conversations.
Whatsapp forwards are now a common source to pass on wife or girlfriend jokes. These jokes go beyond being funny or light-hearted because under this garb they persist ideas like how scary or controlling women are, how men are mere sheep in front of them, how everything in the household is a “woman’s domain” and so “men should stay away from it”.
While the society becoming aware has helped us all come forward, now these ideas are simply better hidden underneath the façade of being a woke boy. These jokes, of several kinds, have the same underlying idea- sexism. Many people have often responded to this view of mine with a sound of annoyance. Seeing me as “feminist girl” which is now equated to someone who “cannot take a joke” or “will start off”. This annoyance then develops into a retreat as given the environment around such issues people prefer refraining themselves.
A friend of mine on seeing my bio on Instagram (I though understanding Math was tough, then I saw men struggling with consent) remarked, “oh, you’re the feminist types, I should stay away from you yaa”. On another occasion, a friend shared how while making her Tinder account she deliberated whether writing ‘Feminist’ in her bio would reduce those who swiped right. Sanjula Gupta, of Kamala Nehru College, says, “It’s high time that we realise these aren’t just jokes, they display our mindset and perpetuate centuries-old misogynistic ideas and stereotypes which have been used to discriminate against women.”
But what shuts down other people from speaking up? Apart from the reactions social pressures also play a strong role. Often boys standing up to this are said to be weak or face social boycott. The ideas of masculinity and societal expectations often prevent men from speaking up. Initiatives like ‘Man Enough’ by Justin Baldoni try to sensitise individuals towards this toxic masculinity. This idea is yet to make an impact to bring down such super-structures like patriarchy, but we can see this as a start.
We can often find these wife or girlfriend jokes being discussed at family get-togethers where no regard of what children will learn is taken into consideration. This can have grave impacts in terms of what he or she grows up to think. These jokes are not funny. These jokes are not to be enjoyed in secrecy. These are simple regressive thoughts being expressed under the garb of humour.
Humour can be true humour only when it does not grow from putting someone else down, comedians like Hasan Minhaj or shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine have set a precedent to this. Beyond this, I encourage and applaud every other person who despite these responses has spoken up and stood by these values. Until the day where this invisiblised sexism does not exist, I will continue to disassociate from such problematic individuals, I will clap the loudest when a Feminist theme comes up in a Parliamentary Debate. We will not laugh at a sexist joke to fit in.
Feature Image Credits: Huffington Post