Like most college students, I love sitting down to read a great book. However, (like most college students) I have almost no time to sit down and read a great book. Therefore when faced with an upcoming book review my thoughts ranged from any level of “Awesome! I love reading!” to “Ahhhhhhhhh, well shit how am I gonna do this”. Luckily I was able to find time to do the assignment and I truly cannot express how happy I am to have stumbled upon such a fantastic read.
“They Used to Call Me Snow White…But I Drifted” written by Regina Barreca explores the depths of how women strategically use humor in their daily lives. It seems obvious, but stay with me. The novel, broken up into several chapters, drives in four major points to explain why understanding female humor is necessary to promote feminism: Gender differences in how men and women perceive humor, the sexist background that fostered such differences, how humor is essentially power in the workplace, relationships, etc, and the importance of defining and using our own humor.
Why do men and women joke differently?
Barreca argues that, when you get down to it, the split between male and female humor can be attributed to an age old idea that in life the man provides and the woman receives. While it’s pretty clear to all of us that this is #Sonottrue, this polarizing viewpoint has translated into how women and men are expected to act in humorous situations: the man provides the joke, the woman receives the joke. Not only does this viewpoint limit the use of humor in casual situations but it also creates a HUGE gap between how both genders utilize and understand each other’s humor styles.
Differences in Humor Style
This “HUGE” gap comes from the fact that men and women, simply put, don’t always find the same things to be funny. For instance, men are more likely to laugh at the genuine misfortune of others. Think: the three stooges, America’s Funniest Home Videos, or anything produced by JackAss. Whereas women, thought to be generally more comforting and empathetic do not laugh at the pain of others. Instead they use what’s called “the Humane Humor rule” in which they do not laugh at what people cannot change, like social handicaps but at personal choices. Women captivate on an individual’s hypocrisies, affectations, or mindless followings of social expectations.
However, another stipend of female humor is that of self-deprecation. Self-deprecating humor is pretty much considered traditional to female humor because women also use this to diffuse pain or to relate to others. Making a joke about something trivial about themselves also allows women to have the first laugh, by hitting the punch-line before anyone else can.
Humor as Power
This section of the book is by far the most empowering rhetoric that I have read. Humor is power: by joking about something we inherently assert our dominance over that situation, proving to those around us that yeah, we can handle this. Laughing, joking, having fun with others is not only a primal way to form social relationships but also relationships in the work place. Did someone just shout “BREAK THE GLASS CEILING!” Just me? Oh…
The Importance of Defining and Using our own humor
While previous sections in the book focus on defining humor differences between men and women, this section provides solutions as to how to actually overcome them! The first, and perhaps most important solution is to laugh only at what you find funny. Seems simple, but I can certainly attest to the fact that oftentimes I limit my laughter to go along with the crowd. However, if this book has taught me anything it’s that I DO have a defined sense of humor, and if I find something funny IMMA LAUGH! So I encourage you, laugh only at what you truly find “laugh-able” and don’t be afraid to show your sense of humor to the world.
While I’m certain that just like myself, reading isn’t always on top of your priority lists (unless of course it’s a shoutout! post) I highly encourage you to read this book. Laughter, smiling, humor is essential to the human experience. And by understanding how each of us use it, we can truly begin to appreciate one another.