Impact of sexist jokes on society

By Medha Sharma

From time immemorial women have been subjected to eve teasing, sexual violence, physical abuse and discrimination. The impact of this can be seen in our behaviour, which normalises sexist jokes. This makes the work environment rather uncomfortable for women. Vrinda Kapoor a first-year student at IIT Delhi shares “I knew that the gender ratio in engineering colleges is unfavourable, but I never thought it would impact my personality in such a huge way. I could honestly feel the gaze of my classmates as I would walk past the corridor, I felt uneasy in my own college. It is hard to concentrate in class when I know someone is staring at my chest.”

Impact of Sexist Jokes
A trivial joke, can have a permanent impact on not only on the person who is mocked at but also on society. The popularity of sexist humour is seen in mass media, workplaces, and informal social interactions, it has the capability to form stereotypes and objectify a person based on their gender. A research by Bill & Nau’s found out that “Sexist humour communicates denigration of women while simultaneously trivializing sex discrimination under the veil of benign amusement”. The psychological impact of the joke is hard to measure however biases are made through such jokes.

Marikana a first-year law student in National Law School Bangalore said “Throughout my life I have had really short hair and people have made jokes about it, linking it with my sexuality and assuming that I am a tom-boy. I felt like a misfit I school. It was difficult to confront people who passed sexist remarks. Although I would not respond it did affect my mood and my self esteem in a huge way especially in school”

Humour is Harassment
While some research suggests that women consider sexist jokes in workplace more inappropriate than men others even suggest that sexual jokes and teasing is considered sexual harassment by nearly 74 percent women. Sonia Sharma an employee at Japan Embassy said “Well if you expect me to laugh on a joke about maternal holidays, gender pay gap or the #me too movement then I guess the joke is on you.”While arguments are often made that people are entitled to their own opinions, if opinions shape a toxic work environment, they should evolve. There is however a constant paradox in which what is funny to one person is ―the height of bad taste to feminist or sometimes even humiliating.

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