A few weeks ago, I was out having lunch with some friends of mine when out of the blue, one of them asked me what I thought of the sandwich joke, you know, the one that tells the woman to go back to the kitchen, presuming that women are incapable of doing anything else. Of course I told her it was an overplayed, unfunny joke that has lost any humor attached to it, if there was any to begin with. Plus, didn’t the joke perpetuate that very notion? So I found it odd when she disagreed with me.
Of course my friend isn’t the spokesperson for all women, nor is she trying to be, but in essence she told me that by joking about something, aren’t we acknowledging how wrong that very thing is? Can’t jokes illuminate the fallacies hidden within stereotyping? She told me that a joke isn’t a political statement or a belief, and since when have jokes held more weight than a grain of salt? Aren’t jokes a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with discomfort? Can’t it be that a joke can reveal the flaws of society?
I responded that there are all sorts of jokes, ironic to sarcastic, and at times if you’re joking about something, you probably know it’s wrong. I mean, just look at “#firstworldproblems” on Twitter. Does that promulgate any stereotypes of our culture? Do they do more harm than good? Does it validate the idea that it’s okay to acknowledge the petty problems in day-to-day life? I’m not sure I can answer that. All jokes are different after all, as are the people they are impacting.
Jokes are a two-way street–they must be taken well and delivered without malicious intent. Self-deprecation is one thing; at times we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, but we need to have the inherent self-respect to be able to shrug the jokes off that can truly harm us. But honestly, what is the point of a joke at the cost of another person? If that is what’s needed for a joke to be funny, then it is a cheap laugh not worth having; if a joke offends you, if this seemingly endless wave has any hope of ever ending, then put a stop to it by making a point of it.
What I know is this: if stereotypes have any chance of going away, they will as the jokes go with them, and that can only occur as time moves on, as we realizes how wrong it really is when it comes to attempting to categorize people. When people stop laughing, they’ll stop passing them along, but that can only occur without a nervous chuckle keep a noted “offense taken.”
After all, jokes are stupid. Hell – maybe the sandwich joke is the dumbest joke of all. And part of me thinks, or wishes to think, that we live in a society smart enough to realize that. So from here on out, let’s tell others how dumb these jokes really are instead of laughing along.