Feminism | Posted by Becka W on 01/5/2011

How To Be A Funny Feminist

bring on the funny ladies

bring on the funny ladies

“I’m really surprised you like the movie Anchorman,” my friend said, raising their eyebrows at me once more while I proclaim that I do, indeed, love lamp. “It’s not a very feminist film.”

As a woman who wants to one day write for comedy, takes comedy seriously, and is an avid fan of comedy TV shows, films, and movies, I’m often told I can’t be a feminist and be funny. “Humor writing is a guys’ world,” people are constantly emphasizing. “You’ve gotta learn to think like a guy.”

Look. I’m well aware that dudes dominate the comedy scene and that I’m fighting a bit of an uphill battle. But does that mean that I’m unable to have a sense of humor?

Let me answer that question for you – no. As a feminist, I can stand up for women’s rights and equality and take a joke. I can distance myself from the issues I am so passionate about in order to have a sense of humor.

I resent the notion that feminists can’t look past their political convictions or are just boring and have sticks up their asses. I appreciate the Hangover, even if there are a disproportionate amount of jokes about poop and penises (the two favorite P topics of the male psyche. AM I RIGHT LADIES?! ba-dum-tss!). The humor of Anchorman is funny to me because I understand that they’re just joking. They don’t really think women are inferior to men, they’re just having some fun with the sexism that used to plague the news.

To me, the biggest comedy injustice today is that female comediennes aren’t given more of a chance to flex their chops and expand their horizons in mainstream comedy vehicles, like film or television. There are TONS of hilarious characters that could be based off of female stereotypes, characteristics, and traits without being offensive. The “man-child” heroine in every single comedy is beginning to feel a little old and outdated. Let’s have some ladies grab the reins – more characters like Kristen Schaal in Flight of the Conchords, the genius of Kristen Wiig’s Penelope on Saturday Night Live, or Mindy Kaling’s Kelly Kapoor from The Office.

So how do we get there? How do we, the hilarious feminists of the world, cement our place as rightful heirs to the comedy throne? We’ve begun to break through that “glass ceiling” but there’s still tons of room for growth and improvement. I’ve put together a few simple tips for every female to easily show off their comedy chops – without compromising themselves as feminists.

Laugh. Sometimes people make jokes that, while they may be considered offensive to some, are actually funny. Don’t be afraid to laugh! Some of the greatest comedians of all time have opened our eyes to social injustice by poking fun at it. Lenny Bruce was the first white guy to use the n-word in his routine to show how ridiculous our society’s ingrained racism was; and Mae West used her in-her-face sensuality to shake up our country’s puritan values. But if you sense the joke might come from an uneducated or intolerant place, always combine it with step number two …
Educate! The next time a guy jokes around his buddies for you to “go make him a sandwich” joke back. “Oh right, I forgot – a woman’s place is a kitchen. It’s a good thing that feminism thing never caught on, because otherwise women would be educated and equals – but worse yet, men would starve!” Don’t forget to add a hearty laugh and eye-roll at the end. You’ll come off relaxed and cool and the jerk who implied that you belong in the kitchen will feel like an idiot.
Be willing to poke fun at yourself. My friends like to chime in with a chorus of “FEMINIST ALERT” every time I do something like fan girl all over Gloria Steinem, talk about the importance of feminist publications, or explain the feminist values inherent in the latest episode of Chuck. If you’re willing to laugh at yourself, people will be more comfortable with your political and personal stances.
Don’t be afraid to speak up! How will anyone know how hilarious you are if you never open your mouth? Be witty, be brave, be yourself!

Becka also writes for her own blog, Becka Tells All.

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  • Katherine C. @ at 11:28 am, January 5th, 2011

    Wonderful post- thank you! I admit that I sometimes struggle to keep my sense of humor as a feminist. And some jokes are just wrong- i.e., rape jokes. *shudders* And I’m definitely getting better at laughing at myself!

  • Megan @ at 11:46 am, January 5th, 2011

    You should definitely check out Regina Barreca, a hilarious feminist writer. I’m currently reading They Used to Call Me Snow White But Then I Drifted, but I’m sure more of her stuff is just as good or better. She does a great job (if a bit essentializing and second-wave) of deconstructing the differences between male and female humor and why people seem to think feminists can’t be funny.

  • Anna @ at 12:11 pm, January 5th, 2011

    Very good piece! But I think it’s also perfectly possible to NOT distance yourself from your convictions and the issues you’re passionate about and still be funny as hell.

    I wish you success!

  • A @ at 8:59 pm, January 5th, 2011

    I did a biographical profile on Tina Fey last year for school and got to learn a ton about women, comedy, and how feminism ties (or doesn’t tie) in. It’s a male dominated sphere, but it’s perfectly possible for a woman to survive and be extremely successful there. :)

  • Christina @ at 9:41 pm, January 5th, 2011

    What about Tosh.o? I find his humor funny but than he just ruins it with straight up not funny sexist jokes like with the Piss Pushups “Women do the girl pushups. Because they are weak and complain about not being paid as much as a man. Well if you actually do work like a man, thank you’ll be paid. Til then, shut it”
    or like the I hate segment of his show, “I hate when shows do an episode all about the female character”. I cringed.

  • Natalia @ at 1:15 am, January 6th, 2011

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqXi8WmQ_WM

    Watch this video! I hate sexist jokes but this is the only one that has won me over. The guy is just such a dork :p

    great post by the way, but please watch this video! it’s hilarious

  • Kelpie @ at 12:59 pm, January 6th, 2011

    I love Tina Fey for being funny and feminist. She makes fun of herself, she raises awareness of certain issues, and she manages to make it into pop culture because of it.

    Also, I think subtlety is important. If all your jokes are feminist, I think it gets overwhelming and having them be overtly feminist is sometimes annoying. Sometimes you need to try to avoid being offended, and banter will help you point out erroneous assumptions as you point out.

    I think ladies can be just as funny as the guys, and not just about periods or vaginas and boobs, and I think that’s the realm a lot of ladies are confined to, imo. Lady jokes. Women should be allowed to take up any kind of humor they like, crude included, without being condemned.

    And now you can tell I have a migraine because this is all just a very poorly written rant. Shit.

  • Lola @ at 2:12 pm, January 8th, 2011

    MARGARET CHO! Funny and passionate. Most of her stuff is on youtube.

  • The Troll @ at 4:59 pm, January 15th, 2011

    As a 16 year old male amateur stand up comedian and avid reader of this blog, I have to say I’m thrilled whenever I hear about other young stand ups. Even in this day and age though, I’m rather surprised and taken aback by how few women there are in comedy in general, be it in the audience, or as performers. A few weeks ago, I had a gig, twenty audience members, all male, five comedians, also all male. “Where’s all the funny women,” I wondered. I know so many in regular life, yet they just don’t have as great a presence on stage, which is unfortunate, because that’s allot of untapped talent.

  • david @ at 8:53 am, January 22nd, 2011

    Wow, an article abut the need for more funny feminist; -now that’s funny.

  • lizzie @ at 3:52 pm, February 20th, 2012

    Love this! I’m also a fan of women reclaiming “guy humor.” Being crass and unafraid of making a penis joke (because, let’s be real: a woman making a dick joke compounds the hilarity) is, to me, a funny and educative way to mock male-dominated humor.

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