Women’s Day & The Deluge Of Sexist Jokes

Every Women’s Day while the world is celebrating Strong, Ambitious, Passionate and Successful women and their unique stories, another huge set of people is busy tittering and propagating a different narrative. Albeit not a progressive or a welcoming twist in the narrative. But rather steeped in sexism and misogyny, deriding women, and mocking the very day celebrating their accomplishments.

Sample these:-

Aaj antarastriya purish maun diwas hei. Chup rahe, khush rahe!
Bharatiya Nari, sab pe Bhari!

8 March Mahila Diwas par purushon ko Hardik badhai (message accompanied by a woman exercising with dumbbells and flexing her muscles)

Women’s Day par ek emotional message:
Mein ek Beti hu,
Mein ek Behen hu,
Mein ek Biwi hu,
Mein ek Ma bhi hu……
Par khabardar jo kisi ne Aunty bola toh!

Did you know?
Initially Women’s Day was planned on March 6
But women took two days to get ready. That’s how it got postponed to 8th March!

Starting from Whatapp messages, forwards and social media posts to memes, caricatures, cartoons and reels, the jokes ridicule and make fun of girls and women for usurping a day exclusively for them, when in fact they don’t deserve anything better. For women are nags, controlling, dumb, bitchy, sexy, gossipy, aggressive, bad drivers, take an eternity to get ready, have a fetish for cleanliness.

So you see cartoons depicting heavily built women sporting either a belan (rolling pin) or a jhadu (broom) shouting at their emaciated and cowering husband for watching a cricket match with a beer mug in their hands. Or you find a caricature of a group of skimpily clad young girls over speeding in a car and breaking all traffic rules and shouting, “sorry, today is our day!” So, on one hand, you have women who are shown to be authoritative and tyrannical and on the other, women who are represented as careless, blockheads or dumb.

This kind of blatant disparagement is done all in the name of jokes, humour and wit. Most of these jokes are shared by men, of course with some women joining the laugh. I somewhat understand, (though certainly not condone) when this brand of ‘humour’ is propagated by men who are openly chauvinists and who have and never been asked to shut up.

However, what’s worse and enraging is when so-called liberal and progressive males who speak on gender discrimination in public fora share such jokes unabashedly. I cringe when I see some of my own family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances participating actively in propagating such jokes.

Although there’s a deluge of such jokes on occasions like Women’s Day, other days are not too different. The Internet, social media including family, school, college and WhatsApp groups are replete with such jokes with members responding with ROFL, LoL emoticons.

It is ironical that women are portrayed as powerful and dominant and men as weak and submissive only in such sexist jokes while it’s the mostly the reverse in real life. And the poor men are shown as exhausted creatures caught in the drudgery of domestic chores of peeling vegetables or washing utensils while the women are shown relaxing and watching TV. Which again is the opposite of reality. Moreover, in an age when we are espousing for gender equality, men are ridiculed for during domestic work and women for making them do it

Even business tycoon Harsh Goenka was criticised recently for his ‘sexist’ and body shaming joke when he recently tweeted, “I was having a candlelight dinner, a rare occasion, with my wife. She told me softly ‘Pass the wine, my divine’. I thought to myself ‘how clever, how poetic’… so I wanted the bread and reciprocated without thinking “pass the roti, my m _ _ _! Writing from the hospital!”

The dissemination of such jokes not just reinforces all norms and demands of a patriarchal society but also encourages sexist humour and shows that sexualisation, objectification and infantilisation of women is acceptable and normal in our families, workplaces, social gatherings and in our communication.

All these jokes hint at the same stereotypes. If the wife is not working, she is enjoying and relaxing at home being ‘just a housewife’ while the husband slogs in his office and fulfils all her demands. It’s the female office secretary who is the sexual predator. Marriage and relationships and the role of woman as the controlling partner and marriage as some kind of slavery are often the subject of such jokes.

That’s how deep sexism runs in the guise of uncouth humour when women are bracketed typically into ‘drama queen,’ ‘hysterical,’ ‘attention seeker,’ ‘home breaker,’ ‘hen-peck’ – all in the name of jokes.

Similar jokes also found their way during the ‘MeToo Campaign’ where men were portrayed as innocent and friendly creatures being unfairly castigated by their female friends and acquaintances for their friendly overtures. Jokes were rampant about how men should be careful of all their women friends lest they press charge of sexual misconduct or workplace harassment.

Most men think it’s perfect to crack jokes or recount stories of sexual nature at the workplace in the presence of female colleagues. Little realising that even cracking such sexist jokes in the presence of women amounts to sexual harassment. Sadly, it’s because of such sexist humour that when women speak of being harassed they are more often than not, hardly believed.

Most men guffaw and backslap each other cracking these jokes. Many times, it is difficult for the women to express their displeasure and discomfort and they too either join in the laughter or just get embarrassed. It’s worse when the authority and power gap between the men and the women is huge. Some people roll their eyes but few protest. And when women and other gender-sensitive people object, they are called ‘over sensitive,’ ‘spoilsports.’

However, such jokes are never funny and will never be. A kind of disparagement humour, it communicates two conflicting aspects – prejudiced message delivered as a joke so that the prejudice is hidden. People with conscious and unconscious prejudices conceal their true beliefs as they fear criticism or disapproval from others. They express it when they feel it is acceptable to do so, easily disguised in the cloak of a joke.

So, although we find such jokes common, they are often gendered and rooted in stereotypes and sometimes it’s an act of covert aggression or ridiculing. Studies have shown that men with pre-existing sexist attitudes, hearing sexist jokes increased their self-reported inclination to violate a woman, as compared to when they heard non-sexist jokes. Also, sexist humour tends to propagate a culture of acceptance for hostile sexism.

Sharing of such jokes in a domestic setting makes it easier for husbands to taunt or dismiss their wives in real life. Sexist spouse jokes, instead of improving relationships between couples allow people to express contempt. Even children learn to pick up such jokes and don’t think twice before mouthing them.

It’s time we take these so called ‘harmless’ jokes seriously. Every time we laugh at these jokes and share them further, consciously or unconsciously, we become part of this sexist chain that bind women and undermine their dignity. It’s certainly no laughing matter.

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