By jessie kornberg • October 13, 2007•Other Issues
Editor's Note: As part of Ms. JD's 5th Birthday celebration, we'll be looking back at our favorite posts over the years.
Why is it that every time I tell a man about Ms. JD the response is always something along the lines of: "Oh yea I've been thinking about starting a support group for mysoginists" or "Are you planning an upgrade to Mrs. JD"? Seriously, after a year with the organization I can count on one hand the number of times I've gotten a sincere, rather than dismissive, reaction. It's not just that the individual jokes themselves are not particularly clever that gets me. It's the consistency with which I get this response that perplexes me.
Two years ago I worked for a feminist organization, and when I would tell men that the response was similar: "Oh then I guess you'd be offended if I slapped my wife's ass?" This last gem is striking because it's a good example of another pattern: all the responses are not just lame attempts at humor, they're designed to get a rise out of me. This brings up the other reaction I've encountered: the reverse discrimination cautionary tale. When I don't get the lame one-liner, I often hear about the women who've been promoted undeservedly thanks to affirmative action or who couldn't be fired for fear of a law suit.
Now I know what you're thinking: I need to find new friends. But regardless of my own social issues, I think these patterns are interesting. I don't think discomfort with feeling like the culprit of discrimination is a plausible excuse. If someone told your average white person that they were working for the Black Law Students Association the response would not be, "Oh what a coincidence, I'm starting a white supremicists organization."
I think the pattern is more indicative of a larger barrier to progress: gender inequity is not seen as a serious problem by many men, and so is difficult to change. These guys don't harbor a principled disagreement with what I'm doing -in fact if pressed I suspect most would be generally supportive of the concept of professional equality- they just don't think it's that important. Maybe I'm over-reacting, but there's got to be some explanation besides men being incapable of telling a good joke.