Men Need to Stop Telling Women to 'Take a Joke'

At best, it's irritating. At worst, it ends up as psychological abuse.

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I take jokes very seriously. That's because I love jokes. I've always loved jokes. If I could, I would replace just about every statue of a Confederate General with one of Mel Brooks. Or, Gilda Radner. Or Moms Mabley. I don't know, there are a lot of great funny comedians, none of whom, to my knowledge, committed treason (maybe Sacha Baron Cohen did at some point? But probably as a bit).

I don't love jokes just because I just like to laugh. A good joke's first job is to make people feel a little better, and that's great in itself, but they're more important than that. Jokes are the sword otherwise powerless people can use to puncture pomposity. That's why it's so important that comedians try to punch upwards. Punching at the less powerful is just cruelty. (Which is to say, it's generally funny when a janitor makes fun of a CEO, and generally gross when a CEO makes fun of a janitor.)

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At their very best, jokes are the opposite of gas-lighting. When someone says exactly what you're thinking, it's a validation that you are not crazy.

Which is why when people tell an offensive joke, and then gaslight anyone annoyed by exclaiming, "Hey, it was just a joke! Take a joke!" it is infuriating.

"Exclaiming 'it was a joke!' in no way excuses terrible behavior."

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Because look, when it comes to jokes, the onus is never on the listener to be amused. People don't have to find anything that comes out of your mouth funny just because you thought it would be. If you tell a joke to someone and they did not find it amusing, that's not their fault. It just means that you probably told a bad joke and you should make better ones in the future.

There are certainly some people that will not care for your humor. There are always some of those. But if the vast majority does not care for it or understand it, or if you are only speaking to one person and they do not care for it, then that's your fault.

Women overwhelmingly seem to understand this. In general, when women tell a joke and their listener does not laugh, they are embarrassed. When men tell a joke and the listener does not laugh, they will repeat it in a louder voice. And then, if you still do not laugh, they will say, "that was a joke" as if you, the laughter machine, are malfunctioning.

At best, this is irritating. At worst, it ends up as psychological abuse. According to Psychology Today, "the abuser may say something very upsetting to the victim of the abuse and, after seeing her reaction add, 'It was just a joke!' Abuse is not OK in any form; jokes that hurt are abusive."

If you upset people, it's okay to say you're sorry. You may not have meant to, but you still did. Because again, the onus was not on the listener to be amused. No one is making you tell jokes.

And this is behaviour that we see all the time lately. It's one of the most irritating things about Donald Trump, that whenever he says something stupid or offensive his aides then try to explain that he was joking, as though that makes a difference. This is true when he endorsed police brutality ("I believe he was making a joke at the time," Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared) or thanking Putin for the expulsion of diplomats and then claiming he was being sarcastic.

"When women tell a joke and their listener does not laugh, they are embarrassed. When men tell a joke and the listener does not laugh, they will repeat it in a louder voice."

If no one can tell you're making a joke, it's failed. If it's brightened no one's day, it failed. If it has, indeed, made a lot of people very concerned, it has failed. That's on you. Good jokes don't make people intensely worried. This is especially true if you're the President—someone people are accustomed to taking at his word.

While it is totally fine that jokes fail sometimes, you can't berate people for not realising you were joking. You can't tell them they're in error for not realising your hilarity. That makes people feel like they are insane.

If you keep having to explain that you were joking over and over, or rather, in Trump's case, have aides explain you were joking, perhaps rather than declaring it later, lay off the so-called jokes. Clearly at the very least, they aren't reading that one in today's climate. And scolding people for not understanding them afterwards doesn't make you seem clever. It just reminds people of their shittiest ex-boyfriend.

Which is to say, it will make people think that you are a joke.

From: AR Revista
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