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Ridicule, gender hegemony, and the disciplinary function of mainstream gender humour

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ridicule, gender humour

Abstract (summary)

This paper foregrounds the disciplinary power of ridicule, as a form or aspect of humour, vis-à-vis gender norms. While much theoretical and empirical research in gender studies recognizes the punitive function of gendered humour and/or ridicule, this function is given no theoretical significance. To resolve this tension, I integrate social psychologist Michael Billig's theory of ridicule as a universal reinforcer of the social order, along with the notion of gender order (as a particular type of social order) as outlined in masculinities theorist Raewyn Connell's gender hierarchy model. I contend that as a form of mainstream gender humour, ridicule serves as a tool for policing the gender order and creating self-regulating gendered subjects. The argument enables a rereading of mainstream gender humour, especially when it deploys ridicule to target non-hegemonic gendered subjectivities, practices, and performances. Such apparently banal humour, as I illustrate with examples of contemporary Anglo-American mainstream gender humour, speaks to and protects the fundamental elements of the gender order of the society and culture in which the humour circulates. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of the main argument for pro-gender democracy research and activism.

Publication Information

Mostafa, Abedinifard. "Ridicule, Gender Hegemony, and the Disciplinary Function of Mainstream Gender Humour." Social Semiotics, vol. 26, no. 3, 2016, pp. 234-249. Social Science & Humanities, doi: 10.1080/10350330.2015.1134817.


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