It’s no secret that the internet is rampant with men making “get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” jokes, and many women are fed up with it. One blogger, The Apple Cider Mage, regaled her readers with her experience of joining an all-male guild in “World of Warcraft” and being greeted with repetitive, sexist jokes. “If you tell me to get back in the kitchen again,” she ranted, “next time I’m bringing back a meat tenderizer.”
Another woman, who contributes to New Wave Feminism wrote about some of her male friend’s responses after she posted a political status on Facebook. One of them wrote, “I really dont like opinionated women and feel they should go back to there rightful place (back in the kitchen) and make me a sandwich.” One of his male friends chimed in “get me a beer.” She tolerated these jokes, but linked them to a video discussing retro-sexism after they made jokes involving domestic violence. They told her it would have been better if the speaker had been topless.
“I’m going to clarify this for anyone who thinks that these jokes are funny, and not insulting, and that women who don’t appreciate them are humorless bitches,” she wrote. “I have a wicked sense of humor. I like edgy jokes, I like controversial topics…Un-f***ing-fortunately, when you make these jokes, you are STILL just spewing out stupid, sexist, outdated, patronizing 1950’s gender roles.”
A study conducted by Thomas E. Ford, from the psychology department at Western Carolina University, said that such jokes actually allow some men to feel more comfortable engaging in sexist behavior without fear of disapproval from peers. “Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men – especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women – to express those attitudes in their behavior,” said Ford.
Ford and his colleagues asked the men who participated in the study to imagine they were in a work group. They were then asked to read either sexist jokes, comparable non-humorous sexist statements, or non-sexist jokes. Then each man was asked how much money he would donate to a women’s group. They found men reading the sexist jokes were less likely to donate than men reading the other material.
Participants were then shown sets of sexist or non-sexist comedy skits before being asked to distribute funds for student organizations. Once again, the men exposed to the sexist humor were more likely to allocate large funding cuts for a women’s organization.
“We also found that, in the presence of sexist humor, participants believed the other participants would approve of the funding cuts to women’s organizations,” said Ford. “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.”