"I hate a dirty joke, I do,
unless it's told by someone who...
knows how to tell it."
- Groucho Marx, Animal Crackers (1930)
It seems that this captioned photo has been making its rounds again on Facebook: a woman is holding a sign that says "this is what a feminist looks like", and somebody later captioned it "that's pretty much what I expected". I could have sworn that I've already written about this here, but I guess I didn't. Here's the link to an article that she wrote in response, and my own thoughts on all of this below that.
Now everybody who's seen this photo seems to have one of two reactions: 1) "LOL", or 2) "That's so mean/offensive to women/feminists/fat people!" Well, here's my third-side opinion: I wasn't offended, but I didn't find it funny either.
Do I think women are feminists are off-limits to ridicule? Hell no. I've seen some great feminist-bashing comedy before. I sincerely believe that no group or topic is inherently off-limits to make jokes about. That includes comedy that bashes my own ethnicity, gender, profession (Dilbert, anyone?), and so on. The catch however is that it actually has to be a good joke: well-constructed, witty, well-executed, etc. This wasn't one of them.
Yes, I understand why the joke is SUPPOSED to be funny: a woman who's trying to stand up and say "I'm a feminist", is seen as redundant because she already looks like a stereotypical feminist. That's what the joke here is supposed to be. I get that.
The problem however is that she simply does NOT look like a stereotypical feminist. The stereotype is that a feminist is butch, unisex-clothed, has no hips, and is angry. This woman has nail polish, a woman's sweater, women's eyeglasses, full-figured curves, and is smiling. So where does the "expected" part come in?
Really, where is the joke? Is it merely because she's fat? Well, I know that many men have an aversion to both fat women and feminists, but to think that one trait implies the other is really stretching it. Now if it was k.d. lang holding the sign, OR if it was the same fat woman holding a sign that read "This is what a Krispy-Kremes customer looks like", THEN I think the joke would work. Alas, it doesn't work as is.
So here's today's comedy lesson, folks: if you're going to do an offensive joke based on stereotypes, then have your target actually FIT the stereotype of the group you're using!