Feminism and Humour

So I've been thinking again...This is a dangerous thing, you know. It disturbs people. Then again, they don't have to read my thoughts, so they can go away in peace, I can rant in peace and thus conflict is avoided. And as you can quite obviously see, I've been thinking about feminism and humour - to be more precise, the stereotype of the humourless feminist. Other people have written about it before, and better and more eloquently than I could ever manage, being as I am just a young woman with little knowledge of feminist history or theory, but I intend to offer my own perspective on it.

I don't think feminists are inherently humourless - in fact, I know they're not. Fuck, I don't move in many feminist circles and the feminists I know are (for the most part) snarky, funny people who know how to laugh. Some are graver than others. That's fine by me - it's not a crime to be a serious person, especially when it comes to standing up against a kyriarchy that warps and breaks our society in the most horrific ways.

But I think one of the reasons people consider us feminists humourless is because the jokes they tell about us and about women in general simply aren't funny. And we don't laugh at them, for the most part.

I'll tell you something about me now: I like to laugh. I like good comedy. I like snark. I like dark humour. Fuck it, depending on my mood I like slapstick, innuendo and absurdity. I don't shy away from vulgarity. I know how to laugh at myself, sometimes just poking fun at myself and sometimes going far too far (I have very low self-esteem and little regard for myself, combined with other things I'd rather not talk about, so think of self-deprecation taken to ludicrous and perhaps slightly disturbing levels). So I'd like to think that I'm not a prudish person.

What I can't abide, though, are jokes that aren't actually jokes, but instead focus on oppressing people and pretending it's funny - racist jokes, sexist jokes, you know the kind. Maybe you laugh at them. I don't. I'll laugh at a lot of things, but not at cruel power structures being perpetuated - which is what an oppressive joke does. Some comedians say they're being "edgy" and "pushing boundaries", but looked at from this angle, their "humour" (if you can call it that) isn't progressive, it's regressive; it casts us back to a less enlightened age.

But I digress. As a feminist, and more to the point, as a person who hates oppression in all its forms, I can't find those jokes funny. I just can't. I don't see the humour in them, I see the oppression. I see the privileged rolling around in their privilege and trying to push down the marginalised and the oppressed with the excuse that "it's only a joke". And when I can relate to that marginalisation and oppression (being a woman), then, well...forget me laughing. I don't laugh at being told to get in the kitchen. I don't laugh at my being considered to be wrong just because I'm a woman. I don't laugh at being considered too weak to do anything without a man. I don't laugh at being considered crazy, or at being considered a shit partner who's more of a chore to be dealt with than a person people would actually choose to hang around with. I don't laugh at having what I can and can't do be dictated to me simply because, you guessed it, I'm a woman. And I don't laugh at it because that's my life. My life as a woman, even a white, abled, cis, middle-class woman who passes for straight and lives in the West, is one where I have to pretty much constantly show that I can equal or outstrip men and constantly argue that I deserve autonomy and equal rights. I have to be constantly on my guard against anything from sexist comments to attempts on my life.

And this is the life of a privileged person.

You see now, with all the oppression masquerading as humour, with all the things that women have to go through, why some feminists aren't always in the mood to crack a joke? And it's not an excuse to discredit us either - at least not in my book. Us feminists have senses of humour. It's simply that our work isn't necessarily humourous.