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LOL: Humour and Feminism

March 1st, 2013     by deb singh     Comments

My acupuncturist said I needed to laugh a lot this past week, and I made a funny face at her—not funny-haha, but funny-“What the??” I made this face because I work at a rape crisis centre and it certainly has proved a challenge to laugh a lot there. Further, as an activist, most people have deemed me as too serious, over-political and of course, “can’t take a joke.” I love jokes. And I, myself, am a riot! But yes, I believe there is humour out there that doesn’t require putting certain folks down to be funny.

Even though my “funny” face was enough of an inspiration, I was also inspired to write a post this month about feminist humour because of a local comedy night called the Humourless Feminist Comedy Night. They put this night on for a few reasons, including:

Because humour can exist without rape jokes and some of Toronto’s best comedic talent is going to prove it! We know many people involved in feminism and fighting oppression are told that we take things ‘too seriously’, and often have our perspectives minimized with stereotypes, like that of the ‘Humourless Feminist’. We also know the value of creating alternative, safer spaces where communities can connect by challenging labels and gathering together.

The folks at the Humourless Feminist Comedy Night went on to say that it would be like any other night at a comedy club except “with no rape jokes, or other cheap-shot oppressive humour.”

As a funny activist, I truly applaud the effort to connect two ideas here: first, that we politicos can take a joke - we will LOL if it doesn’t put women, people of colour, queers and folks with disabilities at the butt of it; and, second, that jokes and humour can be funny without starting off with “A Black man, and Irish man and a priest walk into a bar…” or “what does a blonde eat for dinner?”

Tthere are TONS of people of colour out there hitting their funny bone with comedy routines, women who are working as comics and actors and just regular folks who are making me laugh every day without the misogynist bravado.

Moreover, I think it is hard to come by a laugh or 12 when we do the work of being feminists and activists. It is a challenge to get with the mainstream sitcoms on TV or enjoy Hollywood romcoms (romantic comedies) because they are often premised by the roles people are supposed to play: women are weak or only a certain kind of tough (and if they are tough, they play a “bitch” type of character); Black men play the stereotype of what Black men are suppose to be: hip-hop loving, gangster; etc. It’s hard not to watch this stuff with our critical eye and even disengage from it. At the same time, sometimes we need a good laugh.

I have been loving Modern Family lately. One the one hand, it’s a guilty pleasure because it is kinda unrealistic. The three families featured are in partnerships where one spouse stays home (modern money!) and often they play out many stereotypes of gay people and Latin American people with the characters who identify this way. Sometimes, though, it’s hilarious. Certainly, there are not a lot of shows on TV that have gay couples, interracial marriage and intergenerational relationships happening all at once.

To conclude, my acupuncturist certainly gave me my homework. She set me on a path so clear that I blogged about humour and feminism! But her aim was that I laugh. So here are a few links that actually made me do so:

Chris Rock on Wealth

Hari Kondabolu, South Asian Comic - multiple videos

Modern Family Trailer

Tags: arts, in my opinion..., laugh track, media savvy

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