It’s just a joke, lighten up…

The bystander interventions we teach at the Men’s Anti-Violence Council deal with confronting attitudes, lanaguage and behaviors that are inappropriate, offensive or potentially violent. Some of the most resistance we experience occurs when we discuss confronting jokes and sexist language. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard “It’s just a joke. I wasn’t serious” “Lighten up” “What’s the big deal, there aren’t any women around.” My personal rationale for intervening is that if you have the right to say something offensive, then at the very least I have the right to comment on how it affected me. However, recent research has shown that sexist humor results in concrete negative behaviors by male participants.

Two research studies conducted by Western Carolina University in 2008 tested the effects of sexist humor on male participants. After viewing or reading sexist humor, male participants donated significantly less money to a national women’s orgranization and were significantly more likely to cut the budget of the women’s center in a hypothetical scenario over other student groups. Visit Science Daily to get more information or read the original article.

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A volunteer group of men who create discussions and teach skills about how bystanders can get involved in making our community safer for eve View all posts by mensantiviolencecouncil

2 responses to “It’s just a joke, lighten up…

  • Daren

    Do you have a link to advice on how to deal with this when it comes up in social settings? I have wrestled with this problem and have not come up with what I think is a satisfactory way to address casual sexism. Typically, I just stop associating with people who use a lot of sexist language/humor. It seems unlikely that my umbrage with a “joke” would do much to assuage to beliefs of the putative jokester.

  • mensantiviolencecouncil

    We do have resources related to this topic. It’s exactly the type of thing we work on and struggle with as a group. All we can do is send a message. We may never get that person to stop telling the jokes since we cannot control their behavior. The intervention completely depends on the situation, your personality and your expected outcome. I’ll post a list of intervention skills and examples applied to a scenario this afternoon. We even have a fancy flow chart! Let me know which ones seem realistic for you or if we should add some. My main motivation for intervening with jokes and language is that I will not let their voice be the only one heard or the one that speaks for me.

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