Feminism | Posted by Tanvi S on 01/24/2014

Sexist Jokes: Still Not Funny

Not funny.

One of my male teachers has repeatedly made a joke about girls belonging in the kitchen. Usually, he’d make that comment, some girls in my class would jokingly yell “hey!” and he’d laugh, say he’s joking, then move on. He did this a few times and then moved on to making more sexist jokes regarding his wife. I expect this from dumb teenage boys but not from a teacher, so I finally got annoyed enough that after the third time this happened I went to his desk after class and asked him to stop telling sexist jokes.

It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal since I knew he was joking (even if his “jokes” were sexist and not funny). Well he was extremely caught off guard and seemed to feel really bad about it. He told me he was sorry if he offended me and REPEATEDLY told me that he thought very highly of his wife, that he was just joking and didn’t mean anything by it.

But that’s the point: Why are sexist jokes so normalized? It’s so frustrating how sexism is so accepted as a part of everyday conversation to the point that it basically goes so unnoticed. I know he would never make racist jokes or comments like that, and if he did, people would speak up and tell him not to joke about those things because it’s offensive and wrong. The same usually goes for “gay” jokes or calling something “gay” — students (at my school at least) usually speak up and say that those comments are offensive. But it’s still just considered a funny joke when you say demeaning things about women, or it’s completely acceptable to call a guy a “sissy”, as if being like a girl is acceptably insulting.

Now I just get so incredibly fed up when I hear things like this. I can’t tell you how many decent, intelligent guys I have heard make “go make me a sandwich” jokes even though I think we can all agree that they’re really not clever or are actually funny. People don’t seem to realize that telling sexist jokes are one of many little things that contribute to subconsciously putting us in the mindset that women are inferior and belong at home. If you don’t speak out against a sexist joke, you are being passively sexist. If you TELL a sexist joke, you are being actively sexist.

Of course, we need to stop telling any and all types of offensive jokes, but I feel like sexist jokes are the ones taken the most lightly and the ones that go unnoticed most often. Don’t let them: the next time you hear a sexist joke, speak out against it and make the person telling it actually think about what they’re saying.

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  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 1:31 am, January 26th, 2014

    Good for you for speaking up to your teacher! I’m glad he was receptive to your feedback. You’re so right, though, people are so often desensitized to sexist jokes nobody thinks twice about them. It’s unfortunate.

  • Caitlin @ at 2:14 pm, January 30th, 2014

    I totally agree with you about sexist jokes. I recently read an article that talked about how sexist jokes really affects how people behave. Men who think those jokes are funny and tell rape jokes and such really are more likely to think that disrespectful behavior towards women is acceptable. We act based on what we think and that in itself is a reason to stop telling sexist jokes!!

  • Christina @ at 8:27 pm, March 2nd, 2014

    I agree completely with your ideas on sexist jokes, Tanvi. I once had a teacher do the same to our class, though I think he was being a bit more serious with the “jokes”. I never did reiterate my feelings to him about his offensive jokes on women, and now, reading your post, I wish I had.

    It’s interesting and aggravating that when someone tells a sexist joke, and another deems it offensive or doesn’t laugh, we are told that we’re too sensitive. The issue is we have a RIGHT to be sensitive. Sexist jokes aren’t funny, they’re hostile. I think these sort of jokes really bring about the deep-rooted issues of women’s “place” in society. For these prejudices to go away, sexist jokes need to go away, too. Most of those who tell these jokes are also totally blind to this facet. And in this, they have become normalized.

  • Wakita @ at 11:30 pm, March 16th, 2014

    I loved this article! Sexist jokes are a GIGANTIC pet peeve of mine and when a guy makes them, I deem him as unworthy of withholding a conversation with. Telling me to “lighten up” or “develop a sense of humor” does not help either. Sexist jokes aren’t funny at all. So many men (and even some women) are stuck in their black and white way of thinking that they don’t realize so many women are taking their jobs.

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