Jokes About Anthony Weiner Are A Cheap & Sexist Way To Talk About The Election
It's difficult to say which is worse: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's childish joke about "a Weiner" being the undoing of Hillary Clinton or the fact that at least three media outlets felt it worthy of reporting on. While I realize it may be difficult for some of us to contain ourselves when Anthony Weiner's name dominates news headlines, sexist jokes have no place in election discussions.
I know what you're thinking: I should just learn to take a joke. I've written about the deep-rooted sexism of this election before — about the misogyny in attacks on Clinton's voice, age, appearance, smile, and ability to feel normal human emotions like exhaustion — so I'm well versed in the arguments of naysayers.
While laughter may be the best medicine when it comes to relieving stress, research has shown sexist jokes actually assist in normalizing sexist behavior. It's hardly surprising to learn that humor based on degrading women is not as "harmless" as jokesters often claim, but rather it contributes to an acceptance of sexism. Women have been arguing similar theories long before scientific researchers took on the question. A trio of studies recently done by U.K. scientists echoed the findings of a 2007 study by a Western Carolina University psychology professor: sexist humor "can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women."
Despite their poor taste — let alone what prejudices they reveal about a woman's place in society — sexist jokes remain deeply ingrained in the mainstream. In fact, this election alone has been ripe with sexist remarks and jokes. There have been suggestions a female debate moderator was on her period, jokes about sex tapes, calls to turn off a female anchor's microphone, and campaign propaganda that calls for the Republican nominee to "Trump that bitch," in reference to the first woman selected to be a major political party's presidential nominee.
Although most of the sexist jokes produced by this election have been aimed at Clinton, we have seen the pendulum swing the other way. During the primary, Republican nominee Donald Trump's small hands became the punchline of jokes aimed at questioning the size of his genitals. (Yes, it is 2016 and we are all, theoretically, adults.)
While Trump has been the victim of a sexist joke himself, it cannot be denied that he's a significant contributor to the sexist humor and diatribes seen in this election cycle. As Time magazine noted in June, Trump's rhetoric toward women in general (but often specifically at Clinton) has given blatant sexist language, which was once largely condemned by society, a newfound "safe space" in this election. There's nothing wrong with disliking a candidate, it's a natural part of any election. However, discussions on why prefer one candidate over another should focus not on gender or sexist humor, but on policy and experience. Yet the entire 2016 election has been an opportunity for men to make sexists jabs and gendered criticism about women.