Jokes on minorities are funny, right? Well, you may not think so after reading this article.
While humour is an essential aspect of everyday life that helps us get past awkward or difficult situations, helps people share information, or is excellent as a social tool, there’s no objection to how negative it can be.
Take for instance LGBT jokes you hear on TV shows at the expense of the LGBT community. While other people may think they are funny, the truth is that such LGBT jokes may be destructive, and even discriminatory. In reality, for generations, the LGBTQ community has been oppressed by discriminatory social norms. While this is only one example of the negative effect of minority jokes, the struggle is much larger than it seems.
To create a better world and recognize that all of our identities and struggles are intricately connected; we must all work together. This concept is called collective liberation. It is the understanding and belief that all people should get the respect and dignity that they deserve and that when the system is oppressive, then suffering for all is inevitable.
So, with this in mind, brings the essential question of what is wrong with this idea? And, more importantly, why is it “normal” for there to be jokes directed at minorities and in context, the LGBT community?
Let’s talk about disparagement humour for a moment. This can be viewed as a bid or an endeavour to regale or entertain a person or a group by belittling representatives or the whole of a social group. This could be in the form of racist, sexist or this context, LGBT jokes. Disparagement humour is any humour that turns any marginalized group into the butt of their punchline.
Disparagement humour is like a catch-22 in that, it will send two parallel messages. The first is that it is prejudiced and hostile; the second, is it sends a false statement that it isn’t prejudiced or hostile. People from the LGBT community hear this quite a lot: “It’s just a joke”. In real sense, it isn’t.
Disparagement humour appears relatively trivial and harmless because it’s falsely cloaked as frivolous and fun. However, the opposite is true. Disparagement humour is hurtful, harmful, and can encourage discrimination in minority or targeted groups.
Disparagement humour can give birth to societal sexism, gender inequality, gender harassment, and objectification.
If you fear criticism from other people as a prejudiced person, you’re more likely to conceal your real attitudes and beliefs. You will only be able to show your prejudice when there’s express approval to show it. The environment you’re in will have to give you a signal that it’s now safe to give shape to your prejudice.
Disparagement humour provides this signal by distorting people’s views of social norms. This is essentially known as the prejudiced norm theory.
While you may think that you’re in on the joke where disparagement humour is concerned while trying to expose certain prejudices and stereotypes, the use of humour can potentially cause harm by undermining the bias that you seek to highlight.
If humour is to be used to subvert certain prejudices, your audience must fully understand the intention. In most cases, they don’t.