Humor, satire, sexism, and women

This week Prodigal posted an article – it was intended to be humorous  – by a christian comedian John Crist. It was directed toward women (‘girls’ and ‘ladies’ actually) and although it was titled ‘my dating manifesto’ the gist of it was ‘why you don’t have a boyfriend’. (a manifesto is generally a personal/group declaration of policy and aims. Something for yourself and your group, not prescriptive for a different group.)

If it hadn’t come across as so sexist and condescending, if he had written it differently, it could have been an interesting piece on dating in the digital age. The first part was in fact poked fun at a digital relationship he’d been in, and it made me laugh.
When we got to his list about ‘girls’ (I think the word he is looking for is woman; i believe he’s too old to date a minor), well, that’s when it went south.
After reactions, Prodigal removed the article from their site, but you can view a cached version of the page here
People started tweeting both support and accusations of sexism at Jon Crist. He defended his article by saying people are mad he was writing the truth, and that it was satire – implying both it is wrong to be mad at humor, and that he is being persecuted.
I think the biggest problem was that the target of his humor was a part if our culture he doesn’t understand very well. If he had been talking to men, the potential for humor would have been greater. Not to mention it could have been an actual manifesto. He does briefly address men, but mostly he talks about why women’s – er, girls – online presences do frequently make them look undatable – as though twitter or Instagram – and life in general – should be more about prospective suitors than communicating with friends. The article included the line ‘Ladies, you’re never going to make it to a true life relationship if you keep screwing up false life.’
By ‘screwing up’ he apparently means things like duck-faced pictures, pictures of manicures, and lots of abbreviations – basically general ‘girl stuff’.

It wasn’t really funny, to me. He seemed serious about what the ladies are doing wrong to get his attention. Although if he were trying to write satirically, he could have pushed this a little further and had a good satire piece about how people mock innocuous stuff and ridiculing culture pressure on women to walk a fine line between sexy/fun and modest/holy. There’s no indication that’s what he was going for, though. Instead, he used satire to mock women.

Rachel Held Evans wrote an excellent piece about satire, and I think it partly explains why John Crist’s piece came across as so offensive to many readers (men and women, actually):

Satire only works when its most stinging indictments are directed toward the powerful. This is why attempts at satire fall on their face when they make the weak their target.  For example, the writers at The Onion are usually great at satire, but they blew it with the Quvenzhané Wallis tweet, because it just doesn’t work when the subject of a c-word joke is a nine-year-old girl. Same goes for Daniel Tosh, who is a funny guy and all, but who probably should avoid making jokes about rape.

The rule of thumb: Pick on someone your own size, or bigger…never on someone smaller. And don’t take cheap shots. 

And we should be eager to share the good news that, in the Kingdom that lasts, the guy on the donkey is Lord. 

For him to pick on women – who aren’t even allowed to speak in front of mixed groups in most churches – is for him to direct his ‘wit’ at people who have less of a voice than he does. Furthermore, he is imposing his arbitrary values about what women should be like in order to be respected on to women – men are the norm and women are the ‘other’ that should conform. although i am rather unskilled as a feminist apologist, it’s easy for me to see that this is sexist. And anyone who got mad about this on twitter was called a ‘man basher’.

I don’t think this kind of satire does anything to help anyone. It does nothing but put more expectations on women and assert men’s view over women.

This isn’t a subject where a man should poke fun at a woman, it’s a place where a man should listen.
It’s hard being a woman in christianity ya’ll. When I dress, I have to worry, will I look too ‘frumpy/too modest’, or will I look like a ‘slut/inviting men to lust’? I used to throw away clothes that flattered my figured because i had read and heard enough to know that if i got raped, it would be blamed on me. I thought if I looked plain enough, I would be safe from rape and from drawing attention (and therefore maybe accidentally ‘inviting’ rape) by looking too homeschoolery. Men, in general, cannot know first hand what that is like, and unless they listen carefully when women try to tell them, they will never has a clue.
Unfortunately men seem to view that kind of thing disdainfully, as feminist propaganda.

As a woman, people expect I will be emotional and therefore irrational (false dichotomy between rational and emotional, btw) because of my femaleness. Therefore, in a conversation with men, I have to be more even-toned, more logical, and more factually informed than them. Any tone indicating I am upset, and i am an ‘irrational female’. My brothers would pick on me, get in my face, and call me a retard, and when i got mad they would ask ‘are you on your period?’ – that’s irrelevant, I was mad because they were being assholes! but because I am an ‘irrational girl’, they can disregard their own part in riling me up. “Lana just cries a lot” my dad warned my husband. Because girls cry. He was the sensible one, my brothers were the standard for normal behavior, and i was the girl – the ‘Other’.

Men can get mad without it being attributed to their gender.  If women call men sexist, the men frequently say ‘No i’m not, i’m telling the truth, and you’re a man-basher’.   (I DID see some men defending women on twitter, and I saw another man who started out agreeing with John Crist, but who took the time to understand WHY women were upset and then I think he understood. I appreciated that. Not all men are like the men I am describing.)

These are some of the things (straight, white, cisgendered) men do not even have to think about, because culture accepts the straight white male as the norm, the objective and rational.
I’m sure ya’ll dudes have your problems too, and I am willing to listen to them. In fact, I hear a lot of them already just as the normal ‘problems with life’. but i can listen more. But, please, listen to women, listen to the people you consider ‘other’. We have experiences you do not understand, and by not taking the time or having the compassion to listen and try to understand, you can perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and hurt a lot of women, and never even know you are doing it. And when someone says, ‘that’s sexist’ (or racist, or homophobic, or whatever – this goes for all the ‘Others’), please consider that there are things you don’t understand, and cannot understand until you put aside your ideas that you are more right than everyone, and just listen to the people that christian society has marginalized.

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4 thoughts on “Humor, satire, sexism, and women

  1. jesuswithoutbaggage

    I love your statement: “Satire only works when its most stinging indictments are directed toward the powerful. This is why attempts at satire fall on their face when they make the weak their target…The rule of thumb: Pick on someone your own size, or bigger…never on someone smaller. And don’t take cheap shots.”

    Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Christian girls on instagram don’t deserve this | Defeating the Dragons

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