In a Nov. 2 press release, Western Carolina University and psychology professor Thomas E. Ford reported the findings of Ford’s recent research project on sexist humor.
According to Dr. Ford, “sexist humor is not simply benign amusement.” He explained that sexist humor about women, for example, “can affect men’s perceptions of their immediate social surroundings and allow them to feel comfortable with behavioral expressions of sexism without the fear of disapproval of their peers. Specifically, we propose that sexist humor acts as a ‘releaser’ of prejudice.”
According to an online article, “Racist and Sexist Humor,” written by C.G. Prado, sexist jokes are really just “nasty little expressions of prejudice,” even when passed off as self-deprecating humor.
In their research project, Ford and three graduate students at Western Michigan University conducted two experiments. In one experiment, male participants were asked to imagine that they were members of a work group within an organization. They were asked to read either sexist jokes, similar non-humorous sexist statements or non-sexist jokes. Then the men were asked how much money they would be willing to donate to a women’s organization. Ford and his colleagues found that participants were less likely to donate to the women’s organization after reading sexist jokes, which differed from their response to reading sexist statements or neutral jokes.
In the second experiment, the researchers showed a group of male participants a selection of video clips of sexist or non-sexist comedy skits. In the sexist humor skit, four of the clips contained humor depicting women in stereotypical or demeaning roles. The fifth clip was neutral. The men were then asked to participate in a project that would determined how funding cuts should be allocated among certain student organizations. The researchers found that those participants who were exposed to sexist humor were more likely to discriminate against women when it came to funding cuts. In other words, the men made larger funding cuts to women’s organizations than to other organizations.
Ford said that they “also found that, in the presence of sexist humor, participants believed the other participants would approve of the funding cuts to women’s organizations. We believe this shows that humorous disparagement creates the perception of a shared standard of tolerance of discrimination that may guide behavior when people believe others feel the same way.”
According to Ford, their research suggests that people should be aware of the prevalence of disparaging humor in today’s culture and that what may seem like benign amusement or “it’s just a joke” gives the humor or joke the potential “to be a powerful and widespread force that can legitimize prejudice.”
C.G. Prado says that “racist and sexist jokes are put-downs, period, and they’re ethically wrong regardless of who tells them.” Prado also opines that “more sexist and racist jokes are told now than say a decade ago.”
Press release, Sexist Humor No Laughing Matter, Researcher Says; http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/535074/#imagetop