Pop-Culture | Posted by LodB on 03/28/2012

Sexist Memes: Funny or Not?

the meme in question

While I understand that there is humour in provocation, this meme (the picture to the left) that’s been making the rounds on websites like 9gag and We Know Memes made me throw up in my mouth a little. Although I love these websites to death, and I think the political potential of memes is huge, these websites (9gag in particular) feature so much overt sexism that I often get mixed feelings. I think 9gag may be conditioning women to think that sexism is funny and perfectly acceptable.

Honestly, sexist jokes — such as the “woman-in-kitchen” variety — never used to offend me that much. I didn’t think that they really had much to do with women, just like yo-mama jokes have nothing to do with mothers. I figured they were just convenient frames used by comedians to prove their linguistic creativity. To avoid conflict I usually gave them a laugh.

But then I realized that there are so many of these jokes being told, in so many shapes and sizes (Good girl Gina, friendzoning, women logic etc.) and all of them to some degree are sexist, that writing them all off as harmless is a bit of a stretch, and probably detrimental.

Despite my weakness for such jokes, nothing makes me as angry as jokes about hormones (or anything involving female biology in a negative way). They are just too specific, and also inherently sexist. You can’t turn them around. There seems to be the misconception that boys or men are not at all influenced by hormones, as if testosterone is not in fact a hormone, but some kind of magical substance that, granted you have a sufficient amount, allows you to join an privileged and exclusive club. Estrogen, on the other hand, is a bitch and makes you act like a complete imbecile several days a month (according to these jokes).

Now I enjoy a good discussion, and I can get quite heated, but this does not mean that I have suddenly lost my accountability. So why is it that boys always seem to feel it’s ok to confuse passion and conviction in women for hormonal irrationality? Why do they feel it’s ok to tell me ‘chill out, are you on your period or something?’ This makes me livid. It is such a low comment. Let me clear this once and for all: just because a woman is frustrated doesn’t make her emotionally unstable.

This is the crux. A comment like this is an attempt to discredit you. It has been done before, to countless women. Just one example: in the eighteenth century women were often diagnosed with hysteria (derived from the Greek Hystera, meaning uterus). These so-called feeble minded, delicate creatures had to be cared for because god forbid they show any sign of discontent. Shut them up, lock them away because opinionated women are scary.

In an effort to end this rant on a rather more positive note, there is something women can do to fight casual sexism like this. Namely, come right back with an even better joke. Mind you not a joke that’s sexist towards men, but one that makes it known you’re not going to tolerate sexism. Use comedy as the way to smoothly pave our way to equality rather than fighting. Because the goal is not to get rid of comedy, and the point is not that we must be humorless in our attempts to achieve equality. The point is that equality is a necessary condition for great comedy.

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  • claudia @ at 1:15 pm, March 28th, 2012

    It´s been days that I wanted to do a post about 9gag here. The amount of sexist jokes is increasing so much that now I feel uncomfortable to visit the page. It´s ridiculous, but I hate reading the ignorant and sexist comments without being able to change anything.

  • Gigi @ at 1:59 pm, March 28th, 2012

    Thanks for writing this.I got so sick of sexist memes being posted by facebook groups that I ended up unliking a lot of them. Recently the steampunk community on facebook posted a photo of a 50’s era woman holding some sort of gun, and written was “Kitchen?I don’t think so”. Obviously this was supposed to fight back against this outdated stereotype of women’s roles, but the ammount of ‘women and the kitchen jokes’ that were posted in the comments was ridiculous. I think the internet is terrible for this kind of thing, it’s a breeding ground for idiots posting these ‘jokes’, trying to excuse the blantant sexism because some how they think it’s funny. And sexism is fine if it’s funny. *rolls eyes.*

  • Eliana @ at 6:14 pm, March 28th, 2012

    This is so true. I always try to find funny things, but it’s so hard to find any source where there aren’t sexist jokes mixed in with other content, no matter how funny that content might be. Sexist jokes are never ok, but the kitchen and sandwich memes always make me think, ok, the 5 millionth version of this joke isn’t original or funny, it’s just offensive and stupid.

  • Gigi @ at 2:49 pm, March 29th, 2012

    @ Eliana, honestly I think at this point those ‘jokes’ are just out there simply so men can smirk at the fact that they’re actually daring to laugh/comment upon these jokes. They probably don’t even think it’s that funny – cause I mean, it’s not!- they’re just trying to offend people and then be ready to stick up for their sexism should anyone dare to react badly to it.

  • Vee @ at 1:08 pm, March 31st, 2012

    I agree wholly with this. In fact, I’m going to make a meme or rage comic about sexism!

  • Renee @ at 6:52 am, April 1st, 2012

    I thought it was funny.

  • Renee @ at 7:00 am, April 1st, 2012

    Also hysteria might be an an antiquidated term But it described something real and that was probably the best way they grasp the idea or concept. I personally would sly away from using antique diagnosis to support my argument and that is b/c in the course of medical history we have done many a thing wrong.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 12:13 am, April 2nd, 2012

    Great post. I’m very into procrastinating and I love everything done by Spartz Media and anything done by Jared Wunsch and Hans Johnson, and I have noticed a sexist tinge on these sites. There are some feminist-friendly stuff, but it’s definitely outnumbered by the sexist stuff.

  • Qistina @ at 10:59 am, April 2nd, 2012

    This is exactly why I find it so hard to enjoy 9gag. And these people who make sexist jokes are using their Facebook accounts and real names. Have they no shame in showing off how much they enjoy back-to-the-kitchen jokes?

    @ Gigi: I know what you mean. I used to follow a page called “Trust Me, I’m An Engineer” for engineering students. From posting engineering jokes they went to posting sexist meme jokes, mostly taken from 9gag.

  • fed up with irrationality @ at 4:23 am, June 17th, 2012

    Looking at it from a rational pount of view these jokes arent just jokes at all. I see a lot of them on my facebook newsfeed posted by some douchebags from school. I challenged their use of these jokes by asking, ” if you joke about segregation or slavery in front of African Americans would they think it ‘s funny?” he said no they wouldn’t. So i adked him why is it fine to joke about sexism and he said ,” because it’s different”. Thats proof enough that he thought sexism is not serious prejudice and this itself is sexist. Laughing at a sexist statement does not make it “just a joke”

  • Brianna @ at 6:36 am, June 24th, 2012

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said about 9gag! I’ve been totally ranting to my brother’s friends (and mine) about how those meme websites are just so overtly sexist, and how girls go along with it and just laugh as if it’s not hurting them at all. I think that one of the problems that girls have with these websites is that they’re so highly populated by boys that at a certain point, they start to believe in those stereotypes of the “overly attached girlfriend” etc and eventually begin to categorize every girl they meet as being crazy without any prior knowledge. Ugh, it erks me to no end when these shitty memes end up on my facebook feed. All I want to do is literally punch the person that posts them, mostly because they get about 4000+ likes on them, and it suddenly becomes an acceptable thing for everyone to laugh at, though most of the time it’s not. Sometimes, when I’m feeling extra fun, I’ll comment on it and say something like, “wow, that’s really funny. you know, making fun of women and all. you must be so popular with the ladies.” or “do you know what you call people who say kitchen and sandwhich jokes to women? single.” Usually then, they just tend to shut up. If that doesn’t work, I’ll just rant until I fill up their entire page, hehehe. Thanks so much for the article! ?

  • Evan @ at 12:29 am, November 23rd, 2012

    It takes a Hell of a powerful regime to regulate the internet, it doesn’t take much to ‘unlike’ a page on Facebook.. Just think about it.

  • Luke @ at 7:54 am, December 20th, 2012

    @Evan: yeah, because unliking a page will actually solve the root problem. Because we can ignore something into nonexistence. Nice one.

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