Fighting sexism with humor?

Valerie Aurora just tweeted:

30 minutes till I run #foocamp session “Defeating Sexism through Humor.” Suggestions?

I suggested a few things to her including:

Got any others? Or any experiences with using humor for feminist ends?

9 thoughts on “Fighting sexism with humor?

  1. Mary

    One time I did so was actually immortalised in Valerie’s HOWTO Encourage Women In Linux (What problem? Sexism is dead!), specifically this post to a LUG mailing list. It’s satirical portrayal of sexism.

    It’s very nearly 10 years old now and I don’t know that I’d do it precisely the same now: in particular I don’t know that having a swipe at the men reading regarding their presumed lack of sexual attractiveness was a good thing.

    Actually I wonder to what extent I’ve lost access to the ability to do this at all: being a Known Feminist might remove the honourary guy status that allows one to poke at people humorously as an insider. Everyone knows I’m a critic now.

    1. Restructure!

      Wow, I remember reading that a long time ago, when I didn’t know who you were. I’m not sure if it was effective, since satire is not going to be read as satire for people who think people x are really like that (e.g., Gnuthad).

      I am amused that you were actually a Geek Feminist incognito. (I also didn’t know that “Val Henson” = Valerie Aurora. So it all converges at the GF blog.)

      1. Mary

        Yes, geek feminists in open source do tend to circle back and intersect again and again! There aren’t that many of us :/

        I was definitely identifying as a feminist at the time, and within that community my disapproval wouldn’t have come as a shock, but now I’m very nearly a professional Geek Feminist, it’s a different level of exposure by a long way!

  2. Kaonashi

    The only thing I can contribute is a little humorous wrench that can be thrown into the grinding machinery of prejduice. I.e. it works best if you follow up an actual sexist/homophobic/racist/otherwise prejudiced joke with it.

    What do you call a woman flying a plane?
    A pilot, you sexist fuck.

    Short and easily adapted to every imaginable situation.

  3. Dorothea

    Another way to fight sexism with humor is to feature women prominently and positively in humorous comics. I’ll adduce 2d Goggles and Hark! A Vagrant as excellent examples, with the added fillip that both comics introduce historical-though-fictionalized female scientists and scholars to a public that may not be aware of them.

    1. makomk

      Gloria Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate” always struck me as interesting, because it seems to be very much written for a female audience. In particular, the health-related jokes don’t work too well – she’s totally missed the culture of men being expected to ignore pain at the expense of their own health.

      The heart attack joke just plain isn’t funny at all these days, mostly because they’re already treated as a second-class ailment. Over here, the NHS seems to not even bother properly diagnosing people in their 60s and 70s who suffer heart attacks, let alone offering effective treatment and no-one cares. (One of my male relatives has already died this way.) Meanwhile the media complain about similarly-aged women not being offered aggressive breast cancer treatment which we didn’t even know was safe or clinically advisable at the time.

      The rest’s quite funny and effective, mind, and it might been more relevant when it was originally published two decades ago (though even then the effect of gender on men’s health wasn’t entirely positive and male culture around pain was really weird).

  4. Bruce Byfield

    I’m not sure everybody reacts the same way, but I’ve always reacted to bingo cards (like Skud’s porny presentation one at http://infotrope.net/2009/06/16/the-porny-presentation-bingo-card/) by laughing (or at least smiling) in appreciation, The more accurately a bingo card anticipates comments and reactions, the more likely I am to laugh in recognition. I react in much the same way as I do to an accurate, pointed political cartoon.

    The subtext of an accurate bingo card is also unbeatable.In effect, it says that you know the topic so much better than the opposition that they can’t possibly give an argument that you haven’t heard many times before, and probably learned to counter.

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