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Friday, September 13, 2013

My Least Favorite Piece of Misogyny This Week: Sluts and Slytherins Edition

Posted by Barbara Holm on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Yesterday a comedian joked about abusing his girlfriend. It was awful. (How did he get a girlfriend?) It's surprising how many comedians believe that the way to seem edgy is to portray women as sluts, objects, naggy, Slytherins, some other stereotype. Before you strap on your pitchforks and light your torches for the witchhunt, please note I am NOT attacking ANYONE. I am NOT saying one cannot do material that demeans women; obviously you can do whatever you want, I'm not the boss of you. (If I were, wouldn't you be watching Buffy right now?) I am, however, saying that negative portrayals of women and the LGBT community in all art—not just stand up—may cause pain to some audience members. My biggest problem is that it's cheap. My least favorite piece of misogyny this week is the reductive portrayal of women in entertainment.

The other night, a comedian began a joke with, "it's hard to get a woman," like we were giant stuffed penguins to be won at a carnival that's totes obviously haunted. He described trying to interact with women on a dance floor (hunting us in our natural habitat, the most dangerous game of all). The women in the story were too busy drinking, dancing, and blathering valley girl slang to notice the goddess' gift to women in front of them. He did act outs in a effeminate lisping voice. It was painful to watch as an audience member because it was reductive, and for someone with super low self esteem (I was bitten by a radioactive apology) it felt like he was telling me that women were "less than," which I constantly struggle to tell myself I'm not.

The rhetoric of entertainment and art has a subconscious influence on the psyche of our culture. Because we imbibe entertainment for pleasure, we are less aware that we are subtly being taught how to view human beings, how to react socially, and for me usually: hair style options. Portraying a human as one dimensional desensitizes us to violence. Art has a persuasion effect on its audience because it sells its point with emotions more than facts.

However, this sexism in art is improving radically (and radically, dude). There are misogynist rappers, but there are feminist rappers too, like Invincible. Plus her name makes her sound like she'd kidnap Lois Lane and send a witty ransom note, so extra gold stars! There's sexism in comic books. But now there's a new X-Men comic with an all female team!

There's rape jokes, jokes about domestic abuse, and jokes where women are one dimensional stereotypes, but there are SO many feminist comedians exploring and embodying the importance of gender equality. Emily Heller, Maria Bamford, Jackie Kashian, Aparna Nancherla, Eliza Skinner and Janine Brito and so many more all use language that empowers women. On a local level, comedians Stephanie Purtle, Jen Tam, Bri Pruett, Lucia Fasano, Amy Miller and more use humor to empower women through art. There are also many local male comics including Alex Falcone, Zach Cole, Zak Toscani, and Jon Washington who use specific language to delineate the multi-layered, complex facets of women in their jokes. It's getting better! That's been my least favorite piece of misogyny this week, tune in next week to find out what I did with the gum in your hair.

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