How to be a woman who loves ‘male humor’ even though we call it ‘male humor’ and you are clearly not welcome in it
Let me tell you about my friend that we’ll call Chris.
Chris is well-liked. One of those guys that people are drawn to because he’s tall, traditionally attractive, and has piercing blue-green eyes and a commanding presence. Plus, he’s just so nice.
To paint the picture, the man looks like he should be the star of a Disney Channel original movie about a popular, beloved high school football player learning that he’s actually a real-life Disney Prince.
He also aggressively identifies as a cisgendered white male, which makes him a great case study for feminist theory as applied to real life. Let me be clear, Chris is supportive of women and feminism, but we all have a lot to learn.
Now, let’s step back from Chris for a moment to go on a quick side journey...
I’ve always loved crude humor. Poop jokes, sex jokes (that don’t perpetuate rape culture of course), weirdo obscene comedy. Anything that someone might casually call ‘male’ or ‘guy humor’ without realizing how isolating that is.
Despite being a fan, when guys would joke like this in school I didn’t feel like I was meant to be apart of it. It felt like it wasn’t for me or like it wasn’t something that I was supposed to find funny. Rather, it made me feel like I should excuse myself to some designated girls’ section in another room, rolling my eyes at these ‘boyish’ jokes.
Us girls were meant to squeal, “Ew gross!” so that the guys felt justified when they didn’t invite us to be apart of their squad. The roles of girlfriend, my friend’s girlfriend, or weird girl who sits next to me in Chem class were the only available positions.
These guys weren’t used to seeing the object of their desire being nasty in the same ways they can be, and there wasn’t a huge number of female role models to show us how to change that. And this is how culture happens.
This genre of humor made me feel very conflicted. I wanted to be apart of it, but I also hated that it was basically designed to exclude me. Plus, it was difficult to ignore the parts of it that border lined on straight up misogynistic bullshit (or crossed right on over).
This was one of the things that I subconsciously detested about our culture but didn’t really define for myself until I met Chris in university.
How ‘male humor’ isolates women
Because of Chris’ magnetic personality, he was extremely likeable and commanding of attention. Many girls would instantly fall for him with one look, and he kind of moves through the world as if that’s the case (but he isn’t overly cocky - remember he’s still got those golden boy quarterback vibes that annoyingly made him even more likeable). But this attitude did make it feel difficult to prove that you weren’t always trying to get with him.
He was also a big fan of this - for lack of a nuanced term that more appropriately defines our changing comedy landscape - ‘guy humor.’
But Chris would do that horrible thing that a lot of males do: he would assume that, as a woman, you didn’t like that kind of humor. So he would hold you at arm’s length, protecting you from it - which really just meant protecting him and his guy friends from having to change it for you.
I was used to this. It’s not a new feeling for my presence to change the behavior of a group of men. I often tell the story about when I was in Atlantic City (heyoo), and I sat down at a blackjack table of males. They were making jokes and having fun, but the second I sat down it was silence (followed by every single man at the table asking me if I knew how to play before we could possibly continue).
Why did this happen? There are only 2 relevant explanations: 1. Their jokes were misogynistic, and it took me entering that space for that to reflect back to them or 2. Maybe the jokes weren’t misogynistic, but they just didn’t think that I would find it funny.
Though Chris is nice, he was very good at isolating me like this. Not only that but I always felt like I had to convince him that just because I laughed at his jokes didn’t mean I wanted to bang him.
But we had to spend a lot of time together because of school, so as time passed, he started to understand my sense of humor. He could see me “keeping up” (ugh) and holding my own in this place where he didn’t think I belonged. Maybe he started to see me - not as a girl vying for his penis - but as a silly, funny person.
I still remember the day I was finally accepted into his ‘boys’ humor club.’ It was Halloween, and I’d dressed up at Jean Ralphio from Parks and Recreation. (And yes it was epic.)
That night, I was being so stupid. The kind of stupid that we now get to see from a lot of female comedians (they’ve been doing it for forever but not a lot of people cared). And from that day on, I felt a shift in the way he saw me, as if he could now let me be apart of this thing without fear that I would break it.
Thanks for letting me into your club now can we reform the entry requirements?
As cool as it was to be welcomed by Chris, I hated how much I had to prove myself. It was too many hoops.
Hoop one: Prove you’re not in love with Chris.
Hoop two: Stop being so ‘female’ in his eyes, so that he can view you more like a neutral being.
Hoop three: Be super funny. But like crazy funny. Being just nice is not enough. Unless you’re a nice guy. Nice guys are welcome. But only extremely funny, basically non- women can join us.
Hoop four: Enter the group but also don’t threaten the existence of the group by getting too angry about some of our more female negative jokes.
And this is just a small representation of how our larger culture works. Shows with male-dominated teams like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia or Rick and Morty, in my eyes, are hilarious - but I hate the way they isolate women.
Rick and Morty in particular has had a huge problem with this. When they finally welcomed women into their writers’ room back in 2017, these writers were accused of ruining the show.
So if women being in the room ruins your show, you have to ask why. Is it because your show is misogynistic or because you don’t think that kind of humor is for women?
Either way, letting a woman into the space will show you that you’re wrong.
It still amazes me that across history women have been pushed out of spaces and told that they shouldn’t want to be there anyway. And we had no other choice but to accept that.
But we can confidently say that a lot of women are doing a killer job at paving a way for more women to be crassly hilarious (the ladies of Broad City are our saviors). And now every time I see a woman on screen being stupid funny, I feel like I can be too - without jumping through the hoops.
One last thing: if the humor on a television show, in a movie, or just in your little group of guy friends is changed by a woman’s presence, and it’s not just because you’re isolating her from joining in, then you may need to think about your jokes.
Because probably they aren’t great for women!