July 10, 2009

life in general: sexist jokes encourage male violence against women

As a man, privy to private male conversations between male friends/colleagues, I know how petty and vulgar jokes are passed against females.

This recent research (and a previous one that follows below after the first) shows how it even courages male violence against women:

Recent research:

01/07/2009 - Sexist jokes favour the mental mechanisms that justify violence against women, according to a study

Those are the conclusions of a research work carried out at the University of Granada (Spain) in a sample of 109 university male students aged between 18 and 26 years old The results of this work will be released tomorrow Thursday 2nd of July in the framework of the 'International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter’, held in Granada

UGR News Sexist jokes (and all the variants of this kind of humour) favour the mental mechanisms which urge to violence and battering against women in individuals with macho attitudes. Those are the conclusions of a study carried out at the University of Granada, that will be released tomorrow Thursday 2nd of July in the framework of the world most renowned international symposium about humour and its scientific applications ('International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter: Theory, Research and Applications') that will be held in Granada.

In order to carry out this research work, the scientists applied several questionnaires to a group of 109 university male students aged between 18 and 26 years old. They showed them two series of jokes, one of them with sexist jokes where women were denigrated and another one
with common jokes, without any kind of sexist content. Next, the researchers proposed them several scenes with different cases of battering against women, from minor to serious attacks, to ask them how they would react in this kind of situation.

They are more tolerant with violence The work proved that those who had listened to sexist jokes were much more tolerant with male battering than those who had not, this is, that this kind of humour favours the mental mechanisms tolerant with violent behaviour towards women. However, the researchers warn those individuals affected by sexist humour showed a previous tendency to tolerate violence against women, as we can gather from a survey which weighed up sexist attitudes against women.

Some of the items of the scale used by the scientist to measure men’s sexist attitudes were: "Deep down, feminist women intend women to be more powerful than men", "Most of the women do not fully appreciate what men do for them" or "There are many women who make sexual insinuations to men and later they reject their advances just to make fun of them".

This work has been carried out by professors Mónica Romero-Sánchez, Mercedes Durán, Hugo Carretero Dios, Jesús L. Megías and Miguel Moya, of the departments of Social and Experimental Psychology of the University of Granada, and will be officially presented tomorrow Thursday 2nd of July at 5 PM in the Carmen de la Victoria of Granada, within the 'International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter’.

The results of this research work have been accepted to be published in the renowned US ‘Journal of Interpersonal Violence’.
Reference: Mónica Romero Sánchez. Department of Social Psychology of the University of Granada. Mobile: 699 876 200 E-mail: monicaromero@ugr.es

Previous one:

Nov '07
Jon Hanson recently examined the overlooked effects of sexualized stereotypes in televised advertisements about women, including ads characterized as quasi-public service announcements.

We now bring news of a new study by Thomas E. Ford of Western Carolina University which finds that jokes about blonde’s intelligence and women drivers lead to hostile feelings and discrimination against women. The study will be published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Below is an excerpt from a Newswise summary of the study.

A research project led by a Western Carolina University psychology professor indicates that jokes about blondes and women drivers are not just harmless fun and games; instead, exposure to sexist humor can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women.

“Sexist humor is not simply benign amusement. It can affect men’s perceptions of their immediate social surroundings and allow them to feel comfortable with behavioral expressions of sexism without the fear of disapproval of their peers,” said Thomas E. Ford, a new faculty member in the psychology department at WCU. “Specifically, we propose that sexist humor acts as a ‘releaser’ of prejudice.”

Ford, who conducted research into sexist humor with three graduate students at his previous institution of Western Michigan University, presents their findings in an article accepted for publication in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, one of the nation’s top social psychology journals. The article, “More Than Just a Joke: The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor,” is scheduled for publication in February.

In the article, Ford and the graduate student co-authors describe two research projects designed to test the theory that “disparagement humor” has negative social consequences and plays an important role in shaping social interaction.

“Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men – especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women – to express those attitudes in their behavior,” he said. “The acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability.”

n one experiment, Ford and his student colleagues asked male participants to imagine that they were members of a work group in an organization. In that context, they either read sexist jokes, comparable non-humorous sexist statements, or neutral (non-sexist) jokes. They were then asked to report how much money they would be willing to donate to help a women’s organization. “We found that men with a high level of sexism were less likely to donate to the women’s organization after reading sexist jokes, but not after reading either sexist statements or neutral jokes,” Ford said.

In the second experiment, researchers showed a selection of video clips of sexist or non-sexist comedy skits to a group of male participants. In the sexist humor setting, four of the clips contained humor depicting women in stereotypical or demeaning roles, while the fifth clip was neutral. The men were then asked to participate in a project designed to determine how funding cuts should be allocated among select student organizations.

“We found that, upon exposure to sexist humor, men higher in sexism discriminated against women by allocating larger funding cuts to a women’s organization than they did to other organizations,” Ford said. “We also found that, in the presence of sexist humor, participants believed the other participants would approve of the funding cuts to women’s organizations. We believe this shows that humorous disparagement creates the perception of a shared standard of tolerance of discrimination that may guide behavior when people believe others feel the same way.”

The research indicates that people should be aware of the prevalence of disparaging humor in popular culture, and that the guise of benign amusement or “it’s just a joke” gives it the potential to be a powerful and widespread force that can legitimize prejudice in our society, he said.

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