Commonplace suggestive jokes such as 'that's what she said' normalise and dismiss the horror of sexual misconduct experiences, experts have suggested in a new study. The recent wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations against prominent actors, politicians, media figures, and others highlights the need to condemn inappropriate and misogynistic behaviour, and to provide support and encouragement to victims.
Communication scholars Matthew R Meier of the West Chester University of Pennsylvania and Christopher A Medjesky of the University of Findlay argued that off-hand, common remarks such as the "that's what she said" joke is deeply entrenched in modern society, and contribute to humorising and legitimising sexual misconduct. The first notable "that's what she said" joke occurred during a scene in the 1992 film 'Wayne's World.' However, it became a running joke in the hit television show 'The Office,' leading to "dozens of internet memes, video compilations, and even fansites dedicated to cataloguing occurrences and creating new versions of the joke."
After analysing multiple examples of the joke used in the show, the authors argued that the "that's what she said" joke serves as an analogue to the rhetoric of rape culture. By discrediting and even silencing victims, this type of humour conditions audiences to ignore -- and worse, to laugh at -- inappropriate sexual behaviour. Furthermore, the authors suggested that these types of comments contribute to dangerous societal and cultural norms by ultimately reinforce the oppressive ideologies they represent, despite the intentions or naivete of the people making the jokes.
The authors argued "that's what she said" joke cycle is part of a larger discourse that not only becomes culturally commonplace but also reinforces dangerous ideologies that are so entrenched in contemporary life that we end up laughing at something that isn't funny at all. (ANI)
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