Normally when I blog or generally talk about feminist things, the above is a sarcastic phrase used to indicate my dismay and precedes a description explaining, as gently as I can, why the joke was racist/sexist/homophobic/able-ist/etc.
But, this is not one of those cases. I want to talk about what is funny. That’s not true either, I want to talk about why I’m funny.
Shocking to believe, I am not a humorless feminist. In fact, I was the class clown, and now I’m the clown anywhere but class. (in a PhD program it is not recommended to crack jokes the whole time, but I digress)
I will retell stories in my head until I think they are funny enough to share, I make wise cracks when other people are speaking (so much so, I almost made the vita-mix sales man lose it with laughter when I was watching the demo and was standing near the front), and puns. Oh, how I love the puns. Other people don’t always agree, but trust me, they’re wrong, my puns are hilarious.
But people don’t notice. And by people, I mean what the patriarchy defines as people: men. Its not that they don’t get my jokes, they just forget I ever made them.
I can think of two reasons.
1. Men get told off by me when their shit is sexist, racist, etc. so they are associate me with killing THEIR fun at the expense of others.
2. “girls” aren’t funny.
This may be slowly changing, but in general womyn are seen as up tight, as adorable, as sperm receptacles. To make jokes, means you have agency, you are the one who is receiving attention for something other than what a nice looking object you are. AND worst of all, you have to be clever! You can be a little funny, but not as funny as a guy.
Well, Duh, I hear you cry.
What brought this up in my mind? It is related to how I met my first boyfriend. Why that came to mind, I have no idea. I was walking from the coffee cart to my office on campus, and I was thinking about those days gone by when I was in an improv comedy class. I was in high school, and I met my first boyfriend there. He was too old for me, and I was too young for him. When you are a high school student, age differences are bigger.
I thought he was so good looking, and he was younger than the last crush I had. Therefore, (I rationalized) it would be just fine. However, I did have to think about it. We were flirting for a while, and one night he drove me home and asked if we could date/be in a relationship/something. So I said I would call him the next day or so. (Should have been a warning when) he said, but you were flirting with me! As if that means I HAD to be in a relationship. Then he cited an example.
We were doing an exercise in class where we were speaking in unison and making sentences (groups of about 5 people). Sort of an oral Ouija Board. The teacher thought this man was leading the sentences, and we assured her he was not. She said, it must be that rich baritone voice.
Now if you’re a young woman in a patriarchal society, you want to marry well. Even then I didn’t want that, but I knew that it was true.
So of course I responded with near Mae West intonation: “I could use a rich baritone.” (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more)
Not that this could not possibly be just a joke. It HAD to be for the benefit of a man (a real man not just an imaginary referent). It had to be flirting, or leading on, or something. It could have no reference to anything but how I felt about the man’s hot sexy sexiness.
It couldn’t, I don’t know, be a JOKE? Given how much people hurt others by saying “it’s just a joke” you’d think this would be given a pass. But, no, it was flirting, and If I didn’t go out with this man, I would be a dirty cock tease. right? Silly me, “girls” don’t make jokes. But my virginal lady bits were a flutter over his sexy goatee, and therefore did not notice the poisonous sentiment.
I can’t believe that it took me nearly ten years to notice that.