Posts Tagged ‘stereotypes’

It was a Joke!

August 17, 2011

Jokes about racism or sexism or homophobia are funny. Racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes are not.

The distinction is pretty simple. Humorous messages use social axioms and shared knowledge as tools to tell stories, violate expectations, and make people laugh. They convey attitudes, both through the assumptions they make about this shared knowledge and through the information they make explicit in the telling. It is possible – although not always easy – to parse some of the attitudes included in a package of jokes, and therefore it is possible to point out when those attitudes are bigoted. Some jokes reinforce stereotypes, some parody them. Some jokes endorse discrimination, some make fun of it. Some jokes use prejudice as a foundational axiom, some point out the absurdity of prejudice itself. The simple fact that a message is supposed to be funny does not change the need to criticize it if it endorses harmful attitudes, so it makes sense to be attentive to the difference between reinforcing, endorsing, or utilizing group bias on the one hand, and parodying, making fun of, or exposing group bias on the other. (more…)

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The Self and Society in Becoming a Visible Man

October 30, 2009

September 26th, 2007

Personal experience informs everyone’s ideas about gender so powerfully that it can seem nearly impossible to develop a posture approaching holism. An important route to progressive awareness is exposure to a diverse array of views and life experiences, so narratives in which gender is addressed rationally and emotionally are valuable on face—even ignoring any other purposes they might serve. Jamison Green’s Becoming a Visible Man is one such narrative: it provides meaningful descriptions of Green’s personal experiences of gender and of transition. But it also goes a step farther, incorporating descriptive views of gender which form a persuasive sociopolitical argument. There are a few instances where this argument becomes inconsistent, but they should not be allowed to completely devalue the work as a whole. Its overarching philosophy of tolerance and self-determination is valuable. Still, readers might wish to address the particular inconsistencies, which generally seem to arise from Green’s predictable instinct to define groups based on his individual experience—an instinct against which Green himself cautions. (more…)