6: Gender Reveal

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Chapter 6 explores the link between humour and gender-based discrimination. There’s a long-standing myth that men are funnier than women, which is another way of saying that women ought not to be funny – and in fact should just keep their mouths shut. For this reason, radical feminist theorists like Cixous and Irigaray view uproarious laughter as a way to undermine gender norms and contest androcentrism. But laughter works just as effectively in the opposite direction, as a tool of male domination. This is especially true when misogynists reproduce the stereotype of ‘humourless feminists’, a sexist trope that singles out women who are said to take life too seriously and who can’t even take a joke (especially a smutty one). Underlying the myth of the humourless feminist is a fear that women will deprive men of their pleasure, a pleasure that – as Freud reminds us – is often aggressive in nature and sexual in content. As the chapter shows, obscene jokes make visible what normally remains opaque in all types of offensive jokes: humour is violation, and your consent is optional.

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