Why Are Women Expected To Laugh At Jokes Made At Their Expense?

The 81st Golden Globes, marking the onset of the award season, unfolded with a blend of triumphs and controversies. While the awards show saw some of the most diverse winners we’ve seen yet, host Jo Koy faced criticism for his commentary, which was deemed sexist and inappropriate towards women attendees.
Oppenheimer is based on a 721-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Manhattan Project, and Barbie is on a plastic doll with big boobies,” Koy said during his opening monologue. “The key moment in Barbie is when she goes from perfect beauty to bad breath, cellulite and flat feet. Or what casting directors call ‘character actor’!”
As if the cameraperson was in on the joke, it immediately panned to the faces of the Barbie cast and crew, including co-writer and director Greta Gerwig, who looked unamused. When the camera panned to the Ken of the movie, Ryan Gosling, he too, looked unimpressed.
Koy also decided to come for pop icon Taylor Swift (which was his first mistake), joking: “The big difference between the Golden Globes and the NFL? At the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift.” She sat deadpan, taking a sip of her wine instead of offering any hint of a chuckle.
But while plenty has been said about how Koy completely missed the mark and single-handedly reaffirmed the core message of Barbie and how it’s impossible to be a woman in today’s society, I think we should be a bit more concerned about some of the audience’s reactions.
Already in my daily social media scroll, I’ve seen far too much commentary about how Pedro Pascal has the ability to take a joke (referring to Kieran Culkin sledging him on stage) and that women like Greta Gerwig and Taylor Swift should take a leaf from his book. “This is how you react to a joke btw,” one comment on TikTok read. “Send this to Taylor Swift,” another person wrote. “It was funny and spot on,” one person said of the segment.
While many have swiftly come to the women’s defence (don’t mess with a cohort of people who played with Barbies as children and know every song from Taylor Swift’s discography), what’s interesting is that there haven’t been any comments directed at Ryan Gosling. His reaction was exactly the same as the women’s (and 100% warranted), and yet no one has questioned his reaction.
We’ve certainly made progress as a society, but it’s disheartening to see the persistence of age-old stereotypes dictating how women are expected to respond to jokes at their own expense. A man can slap another at an awards show, but if a woman doesn’t laugh, she can’t take a joke. We’re expected to laugh. Smile through it. Be polite. After all, it’s not that serious! Why can’t we take a joke?! In Taylor Swift’s own words in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, “A man is allowed to react. A woman can only overreact.”
In the same year that celebrated bows, girlhood and women, the Golden Globes thought it would be funny to platform someone who proceeded to make sexist and misogynistic jokes — yet it’s somehow women’s fault for not indulging men’s misogyny. If it’s just a joke, then why aren’t we laughing?

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