It’s just a joke!

Whenever I see the phrases “Get over it!”, “It’s just a joke!” or “You need a sense of humor.” All I really hear is “Shut up.”

By pretending that humor is an excuse for -isms and phobias is just living in denial.  When a lackluster comedian makes his living by reinforcing the idea that women are gold diggers who belong in the kitchen, he is not “just being funny” he is actively perpetuating a stereotype.  When comedians use race to crack jokes at the expense of others they are not being “edgy” they are being malicious and hurtful.

There is a line between joking and bullying.  Usually you can tell if the line is being crossed by 1: who is delivering the jokes and 2. whether they are bucking a stereotype or reinforcing it.

I know that most people do not stop to think about humor and simply laugh at it.  The same way most people will listen to music without understanding the lyrics or watch an action movie and not care about the plot.  I believe all three of these activities are LAZY and HARMFUL.

Lazy is paying $20 to buy a CD full of music that insults your sex, your race or your culture because it has a catchy beat.  Lazy is supporting a movie that insults your gender and your intellect.  And LAZY is an Oscar Award Winning actress giggling at a joke that dehumanizes her.

Harmful is telling the entertainment industry that it is okay to step on women and minorities.  Harmful is allowing yourself to be used to market products that degrade you.  Harmful is raising new generations of beings in a society that thinks this is okay.

It is not easy speaking up for what is right.  It is not fun being the “sourpuss” the “grump” the “whiner” and so many other terms lobbed at those of us who aspire to be better than cavemen.  But that doesn’t mean you should just give up.  If you are offended, speak up.  Don’t just smile nervously.  Glower, stare your verbal abuser in the eye and say “No sir, that wasn’t funny. THAT crossed the line.”

I am sick to death of being told that what I need to do is just “lighten up and learn to take a joke”.  No.  Most people who say this are in a position of privilege and have never been attacked for simply being who they are.  And when they are attacked, they react by calling us “haters” or “feminazi” or “prudes”.  Yes, I am a hater in that I hate what our society is. I hate that women, minorities and intellectuals are treated as subhuman.

But what I hate most is that the people who should be speaking out have been guilt-silenced and stomped down into submission.  So far down that they are laughing AT THEMSELVES.  So far gone that there are hordes of women, young and old, who honestly believe that a woman is just a man’s accessory.  That minority children have limited futures.  And that making money should be the ultimate goal in life.  Stop believing the lies they tell you about yourself.  Even if it comes wrapped in a joke and sealed with laughter, an insult is still an insult.

Things We Need to Stop Saying

After reading this article and ignoring all the little flaws like 1. did this even happen as described and 2. God didn’t make anything, genetics did   I still find it unnerving that even in comments and social media replies, people are still blaming the victim.

I think it’s time we start cutting certain verbal habits from our daily dialogue.  Sexist cliches only serve to reinforce hostile environments for all females.

1. “Fathers lock up your daughters.”

This phrase is used as both positive reinforcement for boys (a man so attractive he can sleep with anyone he wants) and negative (uh oh, pervy Mr. Swanson is coming to town!).  In each case the assumption is that girls cannot help themselves and need to be “protected” from men and that men cannot help themselves so locking them up would just be a crime.

2. “Boys will be boys.”

Another Nature vs. Nurture argument that assumes genetic drive is 100% un-maintained by environment or social norms.  Also, false.  “Boys” assuming the already incorrect attitude that there are predefined binary genders, will not “be boys” unless they are raised to act that way.  In this cliche case: aggressive, overtly sexual and unfaithful.  Not only does it insult and question the worthiness of any male who does NOT wish to act this way, but it excuses bad behavior and choices.

3. “… for a girl”

This one is usually tacked on to the end of a genuine compliment.  Rather than accepting that a woman can be talented at something in an entire field, the speaker decides they should be ranked against ovary bearing competitors only.  Never mind that many female athletes, entertainers and scientists have surpassed their male counterparts throughout history, there is still this need by some to say “she could have done even better if she had a penis.”

4. “Look so pretty when you smile.” “Just smile.” “A smile is so much nicer.”

I understand that this is a genuine truth.  People ARE more attractive and inviting when they look happy.  The reason I include it is that I never once heard this phrase uttered to any of my three brothers.  Never once to my dad, my boyfriend or any male character in a show or film.  So why this silly stigma that women need to be giggly perky 24/7?  The perpetual cheerleader stereotype.  The waitress, stewardess, secretary etc.  Unless that is your NATURAL personality, having false delight forced on you is cumbersome and constantly frustrating.  I once had a manager tell me I should be “smiling more” while washing dirty trays.  Sure, if I want to look like a crazy person!

** I will add more as I come across them. **

So please, make a conscious effort to scrub these cliche ideas from your vocabulary.  Future generations would be thankful if they knew. 😉