Sexist jokes! Recently, I came across an Instagram reel in which a crying bride was being forced into the bidaai custom with the song “Gadi wala aaya ghar se kachda nikal” song playing in the background. The reel was meant to be a joke on women who cry during Bidaai.
But I, as a woman completely disagree because a joke is for laughing and not for mocking or passing sexist comments. But this is how our society works. Men pass on sexist comments freely, demean women and then label them as a joke to safeguard their masquerade of “I am all for equality”.
Before starting, let us understand what a joke really means. The joke is about a foolish thing that really happened or has been imagined. It is something that makes people laugh and chill. While a sexist comment passed on as a joke is a mockery of women’s submissive position in society and is far from bringing loud laughter from women who hear them.
Recently, my brother was “joking” about how he will keep his wife in control. He said, “I won’t let her ingle with you, a feminist sister, and get her mind corrupted.” The “joke” did everything apart from making me laugh out loud. It affected my feminist thoughts which were clearly blotched as a manipulative and corrupt idea. The joke put my future sister-in-law at the risk of being married into a patriarchal family. And it undermined the agency of the entire womanhood to speak, ask or bring a change. So who gets affected and who gets to laugh at sexist jokes itself shows the power relation based on gender at play. While my brother was laughing out loud, I couldn’t speak a word out of rage and disappointment.
Furthermore, a friend of mine shared how her sister, the topper in mathematics among a class full of boys, was sent out so that boys could pass sexist jokes.
What is worse is that women are expected to be quiet when these sexist jokes are passed. If they react, they are blamed for making a mountain out of a molehill.
They are expected to listen to the joke from one ear and let it out through another. Passing on sexist jokes and sewing women’s lips who listen to them is just another patriarchal way of subverting women under male dominance.
When we are talking about sexist jokes, it is imperative to talk about sexist songs too. Often when women react to sexist songs, their voice goes unheard amidst the cacophony that it is just a song. The volume is raised, the song is played over and over again without even realising how it is normalising sexist comments and mindsets against women. Similarly, by listening to sexist jokes continuously and unquestionably, we normalise them in our daily lives and undo all the efforts made to eliminate sexism from society
The problem with sexist jokes or sexist songs is that they normalise sexism in our daily language. Undeniably jokes and songs are part of each person’s life. But if these jokes and songs become a medium of infiltrating minds with sexist ideas, sexism will also become a part of our life.
Not questioning, not introspecting a sexist joke only encourages the culture of passing on patriarchy without any resistance or objection. In fact, to avoid women marching on the streets protesting against patriarchal mindset, sexism is practised under the garb of a joke. This means that sexist jokes not only protect patriarchy from being criticised but also act as if it is modern, feminist and believer in equality.
Stop doing it before we women make it a concern to march about on the streets. Then you will be stripped off of your “joke” robe and your sexist mind will be naked and glared at by feminists. It is time for men too to understand what sexism is, what is wrong with it and how it needs to be ended.
Views expressed are the author’s own.