Role of humor

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Role of Humor

Using humour to combat Misogyny

Top issues (conversations we keep having):

  • Feminist views are equated with political views and specific behavior
  • Accusations of hating men
  • Remedy to abusive speech is more speech → not always appropriate
  • Openness and freedom also has downsides

Internet is the perfect conduit for satire.

  • Examples from FORCE (Internet as wishful thinking) → pushes the corporation/company to come out and clarify the truth.
    • Victoria’s Secret panties → Victoria’s Secret had to come out and state in public that the company supports consent.
    • Play Boy Magazine listing schools on the basis of the healthy sexual environment/culture
  • Campaigns now need to be entertaining in order to get more media attention
    • Ex: Shaming tactic → pretended to be Google and presented Google products like Google trust (monitors your credit score → and , Google hug (monitors your emotional well being through your social media attention and identifies other people with similar emotional state).

More examples

  • “All Male Panel” → threat of ridicule/shaming will stop many of these companies from making certain claims/decisions. Playing the role of the watchdog.
  • Instagram → screenshots of men and women on dating websites; it’s a woman turning down advances and the man turning around and insulting the woman.
  • Problem with these types of campaigns is that at times it seems you are catering to the “In crowd” and not to the general public. How do you reach the common person?
  • Confused cats against feminism → making fun of women who were speaking out against feminism (#againstfeminism). Got tons of public attention because people love looking at pictures of cats.
  • Targeted a right-wing men’s group that beat up a group of girls, even recorded beatings → facebook group campaign encouraged women to send them pink panties grew to a couple hundred followers within a week → end result: men were arrested for a short time until after Valentine’s day.
  • “Let me Google that for you” → Just a link to an empty Google box
  • Check out my rates --? The Womansplainer

Does humor make everyone feel better or just us?

  • Not punitive or legal
  • Still a way to express frustration/anger
    • Is there anything wrong with using humor to make ourselves feel better?
      • Yes, as long as we know what our goals are. Ex: self-help websites for sexists → may not have a huge reach, but is helpful for the committee that is targeted. Empowerment.
      • Encourage people to participate
    • Is humor a double edged sword?
      • Anti-feminist campaigns have used humor as well to discredit feminists.
      • Not really gaining as much mainstream attention.
      • Yes, can be double edged sword for example, accusation that feminists do not have a sense of humor.
    • Quick mobilization is key and how do you keep people from feeling scared? Too many bad stories and people fear being trolled and harassed online.
  • Humor is a strategy for education example: John Oliver
    • Oliver show is the best example of how to make people care about things they don’t normally care about. Ex: interview with Snowden
    • Still manages not to undermine the seriousness of the issue, but gets people to watch through humor.
    • He appeals to self-interest, knows what people will care about.
  • Humor also disarms the attacker
    • Owning up to being a feminist, loose woman, etc., making fun of yourself, it takes away agency from the attacker and makes the target feel more empowered.


  • What is a winnable goal? Who can make that change/ who are the stakeholders? What are the steps to accomplish the goal?
  • Important to evaluate after any type of action: What was our goal going in? Did we meet our goal? Did we meet other goals that we were not expecting?
  • Difficult to get people to feel empathy; humor is an easier way to draw people in.
  • Humor can be used to draw people in/build community or to use as a shaming tactic.

Changing behavior/social norms:

  • Need images of happy feminists. Because socially, feminists are told they will end up ugly and alone. Society creates a choice between being love and having rights. Example: Superman’s cure for feminists.
  • People like humor → use it in talks, way to get people to listen. Ex: Will and Grace in Kenya → way to gradually change social norms, in this case acceptance of homosexuality.