Monday, September 24, 2012

Just Take a Joke, Bitch!

As you may know, I run the Tumblr "Sexism! As Seen on Facebook." (For why I would do this, see here.)

It's been an interesting journey for the past 5 weeks, and one which is actually more horrifying than I had originally imagined. When I started this project, I anticipated that it would be emotionally exhausting to deal with the worst-of-the-web on a daily basis...but I'm not sure I fully appreciated just how insidious Facebook/internet bigots could be. However, I still believe in the importance of calling sexist shit out, so onward I go!

The refreshing thing is that I've received a ton of positive feedback. I'm gathering followers and people are sharing and expanding my content frequently. On a daily basis, I feel validated in this project.

However, when it comes to trolls--the biggest feedback I get via comments added to reblogs and "questions" is that I am somehow lacking in a sense of humor. I've briefly tackled this stupid stereotype before, but I'd like to expand upon it for a moment. When I find sexist "jokes" to be unfunny, it actually has nothing to do with my sense of humor (which is alive and well, I can assure you.) Instead it has everything to do with three big issues I take...

1) Sexist "jokes" are not actually funny.

If someone tells you a "chicken crossed the road" joke would you laugh? Probably not. That joke is so played out that it is utterly eye roll worthy. That's how sexist "jokes" are when you think about it. I mean--how many times has some dude said "make me a sammich" or "get in the kitchen?" It's just about the most tired thing ever. In most people's view, one of the keys to humor is originality and a keen insight into an experience. But sexism has existed for all of our conceivable human history--so what's funny about saying the exact same thing as every other dude bro? So offensiveness aside, these things just don't follow the general rules of what would make me laugh.

2) Sexist "jokes" normalize sexism.

One element to the comments I'm getting is that sexist "jokes" aren't a big deal, so I should just be OK with them and focus my attention elsewhere.

What people are missing here is that when we tolerate "humor" of this nature, we are participating in the normalization of sexism and a culture of misogyny, no matter how "small" the comments might seem. When we allow "jokes" about domestic violence, rape, abuse, slut shaming, and etc. it conveys the message that, "Hey! That's just how life is. Ah well. Ha. Ha. Haaaaa." I'm not okay with that. And that is precisely why I will never accept sexist "jokes" as something I should just get over, or worse yet, just laugh off.

Accepting sexism, rape, violence, etc. is absolutely antithetical to my life's work. So why in the world would I just laugh that stuff off?

3) Saying, "just take a joke!" is a silencing tactic.

When these men are telling me to just laugh at this stuff, they are being as sexist as the "jokes" they are supporting. They are trying to undermine my message by belittling it and deeming it unimportant. They are trying to exercise control over my opinion, mood, and feelings. They are trying to shame me into complacency, because when you're a sexist douche bag, you really don't like it when someone points out that you're a sexist douche bag. It's much more convenient when people keep their objections to themselves. (And for the record, denying sexism exists and saying that this is all in my head, or whatever, is both foolish and gas lighting.)

You see, if I talk about this stuff loud enough and often enough, other people might hear me and think that I'm on to something. And then there will be more people who don't think it's A-OK for you to hate women. And then you can't just go around hating women. Hmm...that sounds like an outcome that would be great for me.

So yeah, basically I'm not going to laugh at sexist "jokes." I'm not going to keep quiet about sexism. And I'm not going to pay ANY attention to how strangers on the internet think I should spend my time.


  1. I need to thank you for starting this tumblr and taking on the stress of curating all the horrible sexist FB posts. I sent you a couple entries that I found on the wall of one "friend," and unfriended him soon after. He sent me a message asking why I unfriended him, and I sent him the following:

    [BTW, this guy has a history of publicly complaining about people unfriending or blocking/hiding him]

    "I will explain my reasons but I want to ask that you respect my privacy and not post about it. First of all, I enjoy 95% of your posts. Unfortunately, it seems like the other 5% of your posts are deliberately racist and/or sexist. I say it's deliberate because I think you know perfectly well that what you're posting could be perceived by many as rude or offensive. In fact you seem to take pride or pleasure in 'pushing the envelope' or however you want to phrase it. I personally don't think it's anything to be proud of, the fact that you're willing to say racist or sexist things. I reached a point where I just didn't want to be exposed to the rudeness. It just got me too angry and upset."

    Absolutely no response from him, of course.

    1. Have I mentioned that I like you very much? :)

  2. wow you said everything on my mind.. sexism is a way of life for some people.. i've seen alot of young teens and adults here in Egypt becoming sexist.. Thanks to feminism I learned aloooot.. thanks for sharing XOXO

  3. I don't think sexist jokes normalize sexism at all. When men say 'just take a joke,' they aren't trying to be sexist. Rather, they are irritated because you are taking something meant to be a joke a something more. I understand that there are some people who don't like sexist jokes, but please don't ruin them for every one else.

    1. Treating sexism as a joke is inherently normalizing it.

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  5. Yesterday a Facebook friend of mine made a casually sexist comment on one of my posts, and I told him I didn't think it was funny. Oh, boy. He did not like that. He went after not just my sense of humor (or lack thereof) but my intelligence and my mental health. I know this is far from uncommon, but it's not something I have to deal with often in my personal life. So when some dudebro's fragile masculinity is disrupted and I get a deluge of insults for it, it wakes me up all over again.

    Thank you for your insight.


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