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Sexist humor

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A lot of offensive or marginalising incidents in geek communities are, supposedly, intended as Humor. These jokes, aimed at a presumed-male audience, exclude women even when they do not explicitly insult them.

Women who complain about such jokes are usually accused of not having a sense of humor, of being prudes, or making too big a number of a mere joke.

  • "Guy jokes": the joke relies upon the audience member being male.
  • Violent: the "punch line" is violence against a woman.
  • Objectifying: the joke relies upon reducing a woman (specific or generic) to her (often sexualized or stereotyped) "value", generally to a presumed-male audience.
  • Excluding: the joke relies upon the idea that women are not interested in the geeky topic at hand, or are not members of the community.
  • Excluding and objectifying: "We should invite more women into our community so we can get laid" manages to simultaneously deny the presence of any women in the room, and reduce any women to decorative/sexual, rather than any other reason. This also reduces the men in the room to the stereotype of the socially incompetent nerd who can't get laid, suggesting men are incapable of behaviour that isn't sexist or abusive.
  • Unprofessional: regardless of whether anyone present (of any gender) would consider the joke funny among close friends, it is not suited for a highly professional environment. Examples: jokes involving bodily functions, genitals, or sexual activity.
  • Presumptive: regardless of whether those present might consider the joke funny among close friends, the jokester presumes that they'll be comfortable with the topic around him
  • Pervasive: one joke or other incident might be able to be brushed off or excused, but it would be difficult to name, let alone report, all the variously inappropriate humor.
  • Escalating: mildly inappropriate jokes being accepted can result in people bringing their extremely inappropriate jokes.
  • Transphobic: the joke depends upon a woman having body parts or attributes typically possessed by men, such as facial hair or a penis. Often plays off a fear of having sex with someone with the "wrong" body parts, or involves violence as a resolution. Transphobic jokes may also depend on a man wearing women's clothing or being mistaken for a woman.
  • Cruel: mocking, belittling, humiliating, etc. an actual person and deriving amusement from her distress.

Examples Edit

The FLOSSPOLS survey on gender and Open Source Software provides several examples, such as:

"At a large F/LOSS conference, for instance, somebody tried to motivate people to take part in a competition for a particular project by announcing the winning prize would be a date out with a beautiful, blonde girl. When a woman who attended the conference because she was interested in the topic of F/LOSS and wanted to get involved in it objected, she was misinterpreted. As a reply she only received: “Oh, this is just a joke.” However, it is this type of joke which make women feel uncomfortable in the community."

Responses Edit

  • emjaybee, a commenter on a MetaFilter about Geek Feminism, responded to another commenter who said "Things that were previously OK (sex jokes, e.g.) are suddenly offensive" with:
  • Well, what kinda sex jokes are we talking? Assuming that all the males and females in the group do not have religious hangups about sex jokes in general, there's no reason for this to be true.
  • However, if sex jokes = rape jokes, you have a problem. If sex jokes = dumb bitch gets humiliated jokes... same thing.
  • Many men seem to assume that women find sex offensive. Absent religious hangups, we don't. Rape is offensive, women portrayed as targets/objects of violence/universally dumb or vicious is offensive. In the same way that racist jokes are offensive.
  • It may be that most sex jokes are also misogynistic (I have no data on this one), but women didn't set it up that way, you know.
  • "But I Was Just Joking!" Humor as a Shield describes how humor is sometimes used to mask or excuse bigotry.
  • "It's not just one joke, it's all the jokes" "A few years ago when I first started writing about games, I was able to easily shrug off sexist comments and “jokes”. I saw them as isolated incidents — moronic statements made by people who didn’t know any better — sexism wouldn’t play any defining role in my career as a journalist who writes about games. After that first sexist comment came another, and then another, and then another. It didn’t end. The first time someone makes a sexist comment and says it’s a joke, it is easy to believe. But when it happens again and again and again, it just doesn’t sit right. The more I was told that it was all just a joke, the more I felt that I couldn’t say anything when someone was completely out of line. I began to second-guess myself, I was worried that if I said anything I’d be dismissed for simply not “getting the joke”.
  • "Why Rape Jokes Are Never 'OK'" "6% of college-aged men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word "rape" isn't used in the description of the act—and that's the conservative estimate... Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape."

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