On jokes and misogyny latent in them

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On jokes and misogyny latent in them


COLUMNS / This Still Happens in India   /   Mar 31, 2015
Kulbir Manhas
Kulbir Manhas
Kulbir writes about politics, social issues and technology. He has worked in an NGO for several years.

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Abish Mathew was booed by a small group of students at the National Law University as they did not find his sexist jokes funny. He had also been part of the All India Backchod ‘roast’ of Bollywood stars that had also sparked controversies.

During his comic act, Abish cracked numerous sexist jokes like ‘Punjabi women become fat after marriage’, ‘women using Facebook at work’ and ‘done to death jokes on women drivers’ etc.

Looking at the kind of jokes that have become part of most of the shows, does it show that we as a society have become bankrupt when it comes to the imagination and creating something new.  Jokes offer an amazing medium for putting your view across as it puts the listener in a receptive state. The pathway to our sub-conscious is cleared of all resistances when we hear a joke. In such a state, misogynist or racist content couched in jokes reach the source of our personality.

Possibly, this is the reason why jokes are so often stereotypical, misogynist and racist. People accept any idea or attitude dropped in their heads couched in a joke. No wonder, stereotypical templates are mostly propagated through jokes.  Used creatively and imaginatively, jokes can also be used as a satire against such demented humor and dropping in new ideas and attitudes, which promote respectfulness and tolerance towards women, LGBT, minorities etc.

But cracking jokes of the sort the stand-up comedian made at the  National Law  College in Delhi were mindlessly sexist and smacked of latent misogyny in the society. Does it not mean we as a society have stopped being creative and so we keep entertaining ourselves with the same old misogynistic and racist jokes?

What is worse, nobody seems to take umbrage at such trash being paraded as jokes. For instance, there are so many jokes on Sikhs, most of them being highly insensitive and stereotypical. The same is true about jokes on women.  We might just as well ask why women are always at the receiving end of jokes! We often tell jokes to make ourselves comfortable. Is it that woman’s different anatomy and femininity   makes men uncomfortable? And, they get over it by cracking  anti-women jokes.

Does it also not indicate that we as a society are sex-obsessed? Or else, how could one explain countenancing jokes on women which are overtly sexual. No denying, all this suggest we primarily see women as sexual objects; otherwise, we would have seen voices against the wrong depiction of women in our jokes and other cultural mediums.  

Such misogynistic jokes reveal sexual repression that lies at the center of our society. Stereotyping of women has long been in existence, but it was never contested as very few women  went out or participated in public life. Now, it is different as the entrenched sexism has begun to be contested by women. Perhaps, even male fear of females demanding their space, making known their desires etc.  is also one of the causes of such demeaning humor about women. 
 
Until now, nobody ever paid attention to how women are represented and perceived culturally but now that they have started to speak, we are seeing an increase in demented humour which you can see in Honey Singh’s songs or AIB’s latest roast. Such sick humor seems to be nothing but a way to hit back at women and nurse the hurt misogynistic attitude.

However, such stereotypical representation of women could not have continued so far if women would not have agreed to be a part of this degradation. There are many women who primarily see themselves as sexual objects and laugh at the sick jokes about their gender and anatomy. However, as more and more women would start speaking out, the cultural space will have to yield way to accommodate their dignity.

Still, women have to go a long way as is evident from the National Law College where only five girls out of an audience of 200 had the guts to speak out against the entrenched misogyny that is so often taken for granted. Now, this happened in a premier law college, which presents a sad commentary on the mentality of our future lawyers. Either the law students were not able to see the sexism latent in Abish’s jokes or they just saw them as a norm. When the sexism is so easily taken for granted, was not it hypocritical of our society to get all worked up over the statements of December 16 rape convict, Mukesh Singh and his lawyer, AP Singh.

(Image source: Mumbai Mirror)


 

The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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