Think Feminism Isn't Funny? 5 Parodies That Blur the Lines Between Laughter and Politics
Feminism is often thought about as a dangerously misguided movement—one that takes itself too seriously. As Pat Robertson famously said at the 1992 Republican Convention, "Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians."
Whatever you think of those outcomes, statements like Robertson's portray feminists as uptight and psychologically unstable.
In reality, feminists are fighting for real equality between men and women—in practice as well as in theory. And for the most part, their methods for achieving that vision are far from the militancy of bra-burning (which never actually took place). More lighthearted approaches to feminist issues do exist—and they are reaching a lot of people.
"Humor," says Rebecca Hains, professor of Media Studies at Salem State University, is powerful because it "wins people over, makes them laugh, and then makes them think."
Here are five popular parodies that are making people laugh, and then—hopefully—making them think about gender inequalities:
1. It's Your Fault
(Trigger Warning: This video contains explicit content referencing sexual assault.)
In the one year since the brutal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi, the city has seen a 125 percent jump in rape cases. But as The Hindustan Times points out—the news might not be all bad. It could mean that more women are feeling empowered enough to report incidents to the police. The amount of media attention and protests that arose from the 2012 incident has put pressure on India's patriarchal culture, and forced us to take a look at our own.
Although we may be making little progress in creating a safer world for women, we still need to examine gender attitudes. "It's Your Fault," a video by the sketch comedy group All India Bakchod, highlights the absurdity of victim blaming and the tactics that women are expected to deploy in order to avoid rape.
Despite the fact that the video has some intense material, its style in addressing a topic that millions of Indian women deal with made it go viral. Some of what the sketch describes is specific to India—but it still touches on the prevailing global attitude towards rape and rape survivors.
2. Defined Lines
Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" became one of this summer's anthems. But the portrayal of women in the video and lyrics of the song were incredibly patronizing to women, and, some argued, perpetuated rape culture. It has even been banned by more than 20 universities in the United Kingdom.
"Defined Lines," a music video parody created by law students at the University of Auckland, flipped the gender roles to objectify men instead of women and rewrote the lyrics to expose just how patronizing and ridiculous these portrayals of women were. As they sang, "We are scholastic, smart and sarcastic—not fucking plastic."
Youtube briefly removed the students' video, citing sexually explicit content, but left Thicke's original on their site. That decision brought attention to the pervasive acceptance of women's exploitation in the media—and, eventually, brought "Defined Lines" even more views.
3. Advice for Young Girls from a Cartoon Princess
"My best feature is my voice, so I sold it for plastic surgery," begins Danielle Uhlark, sporting a red wig and blue sequined gown in the video, "Advice for Young Girls from the Little Mermaid."
"If you don't like the way you look—snip snip," she adds. The video is part of the comedy theater group Second City's web series called "Advice for Young Girls from a Cartoon Princess," which strip the Disney stories of their fairytale façades and expose the messages they're actually sending young girls.
"People love Disney and have such a hard time regarding it from a critical feminist perspective," Hains told YES! But the growing number of Disney parodies points to a shift in the way people are viewing these films.
4. "Birth control on the bottom" yogurt
Chances are, you've seen a commercial targeted towards women on TV. There are the telltale signs—the busy, often ethnically ambiguous, career woman; the unattainable bikini or dress that's just a little too tight; and the cursory reference to shoes, weddings, or chocolate (you know, stuff women like).
Marketing geared toward women has been criticized as overly simplistic, and downright laughable. Several types of commercials are guilty of portraying women in a stereotypical way. This particular video pokes fun at two of the biggest culprits—ads for yogurt and birth control.
5. Funny women are everywhere
In the past few years, the widely held belief that women are not as funny as men was put to the test. This year, it was pretty much squashed. Women like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Kristen Schaal have seen a huge increase in popularity.
Fey and Poehler's Golden Globes performance blew away Ricky Gervais' hosting skills in the three years prior; Kaling's sitcom, "The Mindy Project," was the first U.S. show ever to feature a South Asian woman as the title character; and Kristen Schaal's bit on sexy Halloween costumes for "The Daily Show" went viral.
Many of these women are using the power of their humor to talk about important issues. Above is a clip from Tina Fey's speech at the inaugural gala of the Center for Reproductive Rights—where she takes down Todd Akins theory of legitimate rape.
6. (Honorable Mention) A Needed Response
This video was created as a response to the young woman that was raped in Steubenville earlier this year. Though it may not fall squarely into the realm of parody, it's an important one to watch.
Just what are you supposed to do if a drunk girl passes out on your couch? Well, watch to find out.
Nur Lalji wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media project that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Nur is an online reporting intern at YES! Follow her on twitter at @nuralizal.
- Less than 2 Percent of Carpenters Are Women—Meet the Master Builder Working to Change That
- Dear Internet: Thanks for the Advice on Sex and Drinking. It's Way Better than What We Get from Slate
That means, we rely on support from our readers.
Independent. Nonprofit. Subscriber-supported.