Monday, 18 November 2013

Gender Stereotypes: Why I don't get the "joke."

I have a sense of humour.  I spent a great many years with live stand up comedy as my number one hobby; I'd travel all over the place going to gigs, just to be entertained by a man or a woman with a microphone.  I still love live comedy with a passion, even though I don't get to indulge that love as often these days.  But today I stumbled upon a "joke" about the differences between men and women and I've got to say...  I'm not laughing.

That's a joke that's both funny AND cute.  See!  THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE.

The hilarious joke in question was essentially a collection of pictures with captions, showing how hilariously different men and women are.

Before I go any further, let me clarify:  We are different.  And some of those differences are hilarious.  When pointed out properly.  By someone genuinely witty.

This, however, was just a list of meaningless gender stereotypes, some of which bordered on being outright offensive.  One of the first images was of two groups of friends out to lunch.  One group was female, the other male.  The caption for the female picture said: "Female friendships last 2-3 years."  The male one read: "Male friendships last forever."

Here I am with my best friend, Lydia.  We've been friends for 6-7 years so far.

My fabulous friend Kirstie and me.  We must have known one another a decade, or at least almost that long.

And here I am with my fellow Whovian, Rachel.  We've been friends  for 15 years.

See where I'm going with this?!  It would appear that the "joke" is that women are flighty; we don't have long-lasting friendships, possibly due to all that bitching we do, or how easily bored we get... Ooh, is that something pink and shiny??!!  It's simply not true.  Until two years ago, I was still friends with someone I'd known since I was 11.  The idea that girls just fall in and out of friendships like fashion fads is just as dumb as the suggestion that all male friendships last forever.  Of course they don't!  Life can change and alter us as people and that in turn affects our friendships.  What I'm saying is:  Men and women may be different in a lot of ways, but we're equally capable of fostering a friendship that lasts longer than one of Katie Price's marriages.  Oooh, there's that bitching.  We are awful.

The next "joke" on the list was that women take group photos where we are always touching one another in a faux-sexual manner and pulling duck-faced pouts, whereas men just smile cheerily for the camera, like the bloody decent fellows they are.

Oh bugger.  We missed the memo.  We're doing femininity WRONG.

Again, this "joke" targets the stupid idea that all women play on their sexuality at all times.  That charming scent that's wafting through your nostrils right now?  It's bullshit.  Sure, we can vamp it up if we want.  But do we do it constantly?  Is it our instant go-to state when a camera is produced?  Hell no.  A lot of the women I'm closest to have to be persuaded to uncover their faces when I whip my camera out, such is their hatred of having pictures taken.  The only time I've ever pulled a duck-face is when taking the piss out of people who do duck-faces in photos...  Maybe they're only pulling them to take the piss out of people who make duck-faces and we're all trapped in some sort of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, duck-face vortex?!  SEND FOR THE DOCTOR.

Any excuse...

Another "joke" was that men consider themselves to be successful if they make more money than they can spend.  And that women consider themselves a success if they find that kind of man and marry him.  Hey guys; my time machine works!  It's 1929!  

Except it's 2013 and I don't know a single woman (or a married one, for that matter) who would consider that to be the pinnacle of success.  Making her own way in her chosen career and enjoying a shed-load of cash that she earned?  Maybe.  But this outdated idea that women are simply seeking a wealthy guy to leech off for the rest of her days is not only a bit of a slap in the face to us, but to men as well.  Do we want decent guys to genuinely panic that we're after their wallet?  Hell no.  And for what it's worth, as far as I'm concerned, the size of a man's vocabulary is worth much more than the size of his bank balance.  Which is why if I met anyone from TOWIE, however loaded they may be, I'd run, screaming for the hills, throwing copies of the Oxford English Dictionary over my shoulder.

Then there was the part where the "joke" pointed out that men go to bed and wake up looking the same, whereas women reach the end of the day with make up on and hair still nice, then wake up looking - shock, horror - LESS THAN PERFECT.  Here's the thing:  You might think I'm having a sense of humour failure on this one, but we live in a society where women are expected to look a certain way.  Celebrity magazines highlight the slightest trace of cellulite on a woman's thigh.  Models are airbrushed so that they achieve an unrealistic level of perfection.  So it's not exactly funny to have our looks bashed in this manner.  We should be embracing our faces and bodies and encouraging young women to be comfortable in themselves.  This "joke" just makes it harder to do that.  I said it when I was going to loads of live comedy and I'll say it now:  If you have to resort to picking faults in the looks of a stranger, you're not a comedian.  You're just a bully.

Look.  I'm not boring.  I'm not a prude or a man-hater.  There are differences between the sexes and when they're pointed out in a funny manner, they can be hilarious and thought-provoking.  But if you're using "humour" as a cover for what is essentially misogynistic, gender-stereotyping, then you really need to haul your backside out of last century.  And if you're making a joke, try giving it a punchline.

Also, for what it's worth, these "jokes" are offensive not only to women, but to men as well.  So many of them paint men as being loutish or adulterous that it's as though we're supposed to assume that that is their default setting.  I know plenty of good men who are faithful, well-mannered and friendly who take these jokes, which lump all blokes in together, as an insult to their sex.  And well they should.  For all men aren't cheating, piss-taking, sexist idiots, anymore than all women are obsessed with pink, wear too much make up and have no ambition beyond marrying a rich man.  These gender-stereotypes do no good for either sex and it's really time we put them to bed.

Now excuse me.  I need a wee.  I'm going to have to call all of my friends and see if they'll come over to the house so I don't have to go alone.

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