Funny Feminism… Is This The Fourth Wave?
As feminism gets seriously inclusive, public media acknowledgement that women can be funny is a big step. Ixnay on the banana skin.
There’s a new trend ever so slowly emerging, taking over our social networking, literature, TV shows and opinion pieces. This trend is what I like to call funny feminism.
Strong women talking about women’s ‘stuff’ whilst being funny is not necessarily anything new. Smack the Pony was one of the funniest and most sneakily subversive TV sketch shows to come out of the nineties. Sandra Bernhard is a serious piece of work, and when it comes to (comedic) timing she’s a human bomb. Feminist comedians Margaret Cho and Wanda Sykes are firmly established on the comedy circuit. Coming back to feminism on British TV, Victoria Wood, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French have been outspoken about women’s issues in a sitcom-friendly format for years, but women being acknowledged by the mainstream for being funny whilst publicly identifying with feminism is pretty new.
Humour is, of course, subjective to each individual person, as is modern feminism (arguably), but the fact that these women are getting air time as funny individuals whilst calling themselves feminists is just… brilliant.
Smack the Pony. Mookychick has such a massive girl-crush on Doon Mackichan, who recently appeared in feminist play Jumpy.
Caitlin Moran is probably one of the most prominent British examples of funny feminism. Whatever your views are about her views, the fact that How to Be a Woman was an international best-seller is a strong indication that funny feminism is doing something right.
How to Be a Woman found the right balance between what we can take the piss out of, and what we should take seriously. She said herself, within the book, that there is no greater way to bring down the patriarchy than to laugh at it, whilst recognising that not everything can be turned into a joke.
Funny feminism doesn’t mean that being an angry woman is a bad thing; we should still be angry and passionate and tell people where to go when we are offended by their gender prejudice. But we can laugh in their faces at the same time, and we can laugh at ourselves.
Zooey Deschanel and Lena Dunham are funny. They identify with feminism without ever making their shows overtly about feminism. On a purely entertainment level, their TV shows can just be watched as the experiences of women at a certain age trying to make their way through life.
Lena’s character Hannah is a totally ordinary woman who wears whatever she wants, sleeps with who she wants and says what she wants to say. Zooey’s character Jess is much the same, just thinner. This is absolutely nothing new it’s just that portraying this on TV is new for women.
This has been going on for men for years and years because men are ‘supposed’ to be inherently funny, whereas women are ‘supposed’ to be inherently beautiful, and TV and film have reflected this. But finally there are shows saying that’s bullshit.
The age-old stereotype that “women just aren’t funny” is finally being challenged on TV, and women are no longer consigned to playing a ‘stereotypical’ woman for comic effect. If people laugh at us it’s because we made a joke, an on-purpose sneaky or cathartic or provocative or startling or whimsical or cosy joke. We were laughing at women before, but now we’re laughing with them, and it’s a big difference.
If the ‘fourth wave’ of feminism is encroaching, humour has a big part to play. Humour is a universal experience and as feminism has never aimed to be as inclusive as it is attempting today, humour is the way in which we can all bond.
And now that these funny, fabulous women are playing to international audiences and talking about their feminism in public, rather than hiding it as some shameful secret, maybe in certain circles feminism will be made redundant in time. Maybe the word can be replaced with ‘egalitarianism’, or ‘ege’ because that’s got fewer syllables in it. ‘Are you ege?’ ‘Yeah, I’m ege.’ OMG THAT’S BRILLIANT WE ARE FINALLY ALL EGE.
Maybe equality will just become the norm. Because that’s the aim, right? So let’s laugh at the patriarchy, and ourselves, and each other, and embrace it all in the name of equal rights. That’s what the men are doing, and now, finally, publicaly, in a way that’s being acknowledged by the people who comission the programmes and hold the purse strings, women are too.
Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath