Things have changed for women in my lifetime. You just have to look at the humor.
When I was growing up, blonde jokes were everywhere. Let’s be clear – *DUMB* blonde jokes. Of course, these were never dumb blonde *men*. They were ethnopaulisms, except about women instead of a race. It’s only with the perspective I have now that I can see that this was a reaction to the growing strength of feminism in the world around me.
But I haven’t heard a blonde joke in years. I’m sure they’re told – but they’re not nearly as ubiquitous as they used to be.
I think it’s because a tipping point has been reached. Remember, humor and laughter can commonly be an in-group vs. out-group marker. Sometimes the relationship there is complicated – and the people getting out-grouped aren’t the same people it appears to be. Spamalot’s song about needing Jewish people to have a successful Broadway show appears to be such a thing – it’s self-referential nature is obviously satire at the people who would take the words at face value.
Blonde jokes don’t have that level of sophistication, though. Perhaps a few that “turned the tables” – in fact, I believe those might be the last few of the genre I’ve seen – fit that category. But by and large, they’re obviously sexist and simply No Longer Acceptable (and therefore No Longer Funny).
And I really noticed it at the RenFair.
We went to the Renaissance Festival last weekend for our 5th anniversary. The opening ceremony/opening act involved the mayor, his wife, and a local dim-witted lord. The “mayor”, after learning the lord had given his money to pirates to invest, shouted out, “Why, you’re almost as stupid as SHE is!”
The crowd, which had been laughing throughout, was silent. The joke bombed. Completely.
Yes, there’s a long way to go. Shakespeare’s Sister has excellent sexism watches and racism watches. The sheer amount of sexist vitriol both Sen. Clinton and Gov. Palin have had to endure – not because of policy, but because of *gender* – demonstrate we’re not done with this struggle.
But the bombing of a sexist joke at a Renfair is a volley of teaspoons towards winning this fight.