The Butt of the Marriage Joke

2398270560_f4ffa84885_z[1]

Why do some married women find it acceptable to poke fun at their husbands in public?

I noticed that several married women I know on Facebook posted this joke on their timelines in recent days:

 Woman’s Ass Size Study

There is a new study about women and how they feel about their asses. The results are very interesting.

10% of women think their ass is too skinny

30% of women think their ass is too fat

60% say they don’t care. They love him. He is a good man and they wouldn’t trade him for the world.

At the time I started working on this post, about 6:30 PM CDT on April 9th, the joke had been shared 13,610 times and liked 6,053 times, by both men and women. I didn’t count the ratio, but in my timeline, the posts came exclusively from women.

Only a few hours later, another joke popped up, again from a married woman, this time in the form of one of these “your-e-cards”

Men are like fine wine. They begin as grapes and it’s up to the women to stomp the shit of them (sic) until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.

I started browsing through the Facebook pages to look for things I might have missed. I kept finding jokes. Here’s another one, again in one of these “your-e-cards”:

Dear Children: I only take credit for the first nine months. After that you were exposed to your father.

I suppose if I searched all night, I might find more. But I’m done searching. I’m suddenly provoked.

♦◊♦

My wife would never post anything like this. She understands I’d feel irritated even if I did get the joke. And my irritation matters to her. Part of the reason I love her is because she wouldn’t expect me “to get it”, and she doesn’t find this kind of humor tasteful. I know women who’d critique my response to the joke, make fun of me for whining, for being a wimp and suggest I grow thicker skin. I’m not married to them.

I became mindful, however, of my response to the jokes. As soon as I had seen the first one, and it happened automatically, a quiet little voice in the center of my consciousness whispered, “Don’t be offended. Be a man. It’s just a joke.” But then I sensed that I was actually offended, if mildly. My next response really bothered me. I wondered, “Do I have the right to feel offense? What would these women say if I told them I don’t like this stuff?” Of course, this is probably a rhetorical question. Isn’t the action of posting this stuff already a dismissal of male emotions?

I don’t personally know all of the husbands of the women who posted these jokes on Facebook. Perhaps they sincerely do not mind this humor; maybe some of them even celebrate it. I can’t pretend to know exactly what kind of partners they are, but these men are educated professionals who live healthy lifestyles. They play a role as fathers and homemakers, at least on some level, and they contribute positively to their communities through their work and just by being decent neighbors. Their hobbies include things like cooking, gardening and various outdoor activities: fishing, boating, etc. I know one of them has a rather serious video game addiction. However, there are certainly worse asses in the world.

Why should someone’s spouse have to accept being called a name in order to give a partner a little chuckle during the work day?

One thing all (and I mean every single one) of the married men I know on Facebook have in common is this: none has ever posted anything even vaguely similar to these joke as commentary on married life or courtship, at least not a bit that ended up in my News Feed. If anything, when they joke, they poke fun at their own incompetence. If I were to play a game to think of an analogous joke about a survey of men—something I have no interest in doing—perhaps, if it were clever enough, I would tell it in the lunchroom or some bar. Even if some of the men laughed at the joke, I can’t imagine any of them ever posting it in public. I haven’t interviewed them, but I should believe that, similarly with my wife, they wouldn’t expect their wives to have to get it. Why should someone’s spouse have to accept being called a name in order to give a partner a little chuckle during the work day?

Am I dismissing all the tasteless humor pointed at women over the centuries? Hardly. I’m not about to list blonde jokes just for the sake of a balancing act. But can I imagine one of my male friends, many of whom are married to natural (I know a lot of Lithuanian women) blondes (these include a psychiatrist, a sports journalist, a molecular biologist, a load of classical musicians…you get the point) posting blonde jokes on Facebook? I can certainly imagine their wives’ responses if they did. I actually doubt any of my friends would laugh very hard at any blonde joke. These are, after all, the husbands of very well educated women.

The vast majority of these women wouldn’t post this sort of humor. Yet some don’t seem to think twice. And married friends of theirs, also educated, chime in to laugh out loud. Perusing their pages, you find a pattern of it, and 13,619 shares seems a bit much.

I’m on record here at The Good Men Project and on my personal blog, Liquid Ink, asking men to lose their reluctance and share stories about their married lives. One of the responses I get is that men would rather not because they feel their emotions will be dismissed. Of course, it begs a question: where did they get the idea? For some men, it starts on the wedding day when their role is reduced, as I’ve written before, to that of a supporting actor. And now I wonder if it  progresses through the years when they find themselves the butt of so many jokes.

Photo by Jon Grant.

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Super Villain or Not, Parenting Paranoia Ensues
The Garbage Man Explains Happiness
How To Not Suck At Dating

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Gint Aras

Gint Aras has two decades of experience teaching, over ten of them in a Chicago-area community college. He writes a weekly column, True Community, about young men and education. His writing has appeared in St. Petersburg Review (forthcoming, 2014), Antique Children, Criminal Class Review, Curbside Splendor, Dialogo, Šiaurės Atėnai and other publications. He's a photographer and the author of the cult novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar. Check out his website, Liquid Ink. Follow Gint on Twitter @Gint_Aras and "like" him on Facebook.

Comments

  1. Gint Aras says:

    Here’s Noah Brand on a related topic: hegemonic heterosexuality. http://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/hegemonic-heterosexuality/

  2. Okokok, so I find the first joke kinda funny. The next two are funny if your idea of a good time is going to a mall. If I get nailed for that one, well, it speaks to the point. Interesting connection you make, though, to husbands’ unwillingness to share. Of course it depends on the marriage, and I’m sure there are some husbands that get a kick out of this, as there are wives who’d get a kick out of the complement. As a former bartender, I heard plenty of wife-deriding jokes, probably because the wives weren’t there. I could think of several that would cause viral outrage. Not worth it. The balance between giving and taking seems to be off i.e. men are expected to take it, but giving it is a very slippery slope, fraught with consequences. A husband can tell a joke, but I doubt he could ever get away with following it up with, “Relax, it was just a joke.”

  3. I have to confess… I busted out laughing at the first one when I saw it on FB ( plus I may be guilty of sharing it on FB)….Before you all start yelling at me (Gint, your essay is excellent BTW)…. I think in my particular case, I follow the pose of the serene silent Asian flower when faced with male company and to a fault…. I have suffered terrible insults and slights from my husband’s drunk English friend and tolerated too much “We’re just drinking buddies” behavior over several years (some of it I excused because my husband was stressed out about his frail and dying mother)…..I was ignored repeatedly, dismissed, gaslighted, and “man-splained” when I tried to deal with it directly with either my husband or his friend…. A silent smiling face can only take so much …. Venting on FB is my guilty pleasure…!

    Okay, men, go ahead and start yelling at me…

  4. For decades and centuries before that women were put down. Feminism has transformed all that but now it’s gone too far in certain ways…the ideal is EQUALITY, not for either sex to put down the other. Women get away with male bashing because they are still considered the ones who are second class citizens to some extent so they can take pot shots with impunity at those who hold the power. But many women have power these days and they have to exercise the same restraint and discretion as men. There used to be lots of dumb blonde jokes and other jokes making fun of women. Men don’t do that anymore, at least, not the ones I know. Likewise, women have to refrain from jokes the put down men, even if they are funny.

    • JoAnne Dietrich says:

      Robert, I am sure you are an honorable man. I also agree that neither spouse should put the other one down. There are men in my daily life who constantly put women down. For some reason, it is acceptable.

    • Alastair says:

      I suspect that Chesterton had a point when he observed that something closer to the truth of the situation in the past is revealed in its jokes and humour, in which the man, far from being the unrivalled master of the house, was frequently a henpecked figure. He may have been the head of the household in theory, but the reality was really that – far from owning his wife as mere chattel – he was only a figure-head. When you actually study the dynamics of many so-called ‘patriarchal’ societies more closely, you can often see that, while the genders are clearly and sharply differentiated in the roles that they can perform, women exercise a considerable counterbalancing power and those who think that they can read actual power relations from the official relations miss many of the important dynamics. As with many things about claims of patriarchy, there is a lot of problematic but wide-believed myth mixed in with the facts.

  5. NR Tomasheski says:

    I am not a fan of derisive humor, ever. In the particular case of spousal insults (in either direction) they are not only mean and not funny, but perpetuate stereotypes like the controlling wife and stupid husband.

  6. JoAnne Dietrich says:

    Men say insulting things about their wives all the time. It is acceptable. Women are called a bitch or too sensitive for saying anything. Men don’t have it so bad.

    • wellokaythen says:

      “Men don’t have it so bad.”

      Uh oh, you uttered the magic words. I’m ducking under the table right now, and I suggest you do, too, because here it comes….

  7. Julie Peck says:

    I don’t think this sort of insult is owned by men or women. There are people who are willing to take an easy jab at a soft spot, others who are more compassionate.

  8. wellokaythen says:

    If I dialed down my sense of humor and dialed up my sensitivity, I’d say these jokes are pretty clearly a form of hate speech. Quite demeaning hate speech that makes light of domestic violence.

    These are excellent candidates for the goose/gander flip test. Substitute “women” for “men” and talk about stomping the shit out of women to make them acceptable, and you’ll get some idea about how these things might come across to men.

  9. wellokaythen says:

    Oh, and by the way the ass joke was terribly close-minded and at the very least heteronormative. So, all women have a man and only one man in their lives? It talks about women as if all women have boyfriends or husbands. Lame.

  10. JoAnne Dietrich says:

    It is wrong to refer to men as asses. We should not stomp the shit out of men. I would never say anything that hateful. Women and men should treat each other with respect.

  11. I don’t see this issue as gendered at all. Both genders do it to each other…as far as I can tell in equal measure. I see it as something humans do.

    • wellokaythen says:

      And, now that I think about it more, I can see some room for some context in some cases. If two partners have a good-natured, trash talking, playful banter between them as something they both like and both accept, then I can’t say that one is abusing the other. Couples have all sorts of individual love languages they use with each other. Maybe sometimes these jokes are funny because they’re so far from the truth that they’re laughable. My wife calls me “motherfucker” and I laugh, and I give her orders like she’s an underling and she laughs. If you read a transcript of that exchange it would sound pretty questionable, but if you were present you would see that we say it with love in our hearts….

      • I agree.

      • Most people I know shitstir each other n crack jokes. Must sound pretty bad to outsiders though haha. Hell many of my friends call each other C word, and every other word under the sun in a friendly manner! Australian rural talk is one weird ass language I tell ya because the exact same words said by others in a different tone would probably start a fight!

  12. Anonymous says:

    My first response was, at least this was on FB only!!! My former partner would probably say the same thing. I am a 32 year old woman, separated, and I used to bash my partner verbally, in his presence and with an audience. I thought I was being funny and witty but I was just being a vicious cow.
    We didn’t communicate well in private and I used the audience to attack him at most chances I got. He tried to talk to me about it, and my sisters pointed it out to me as well but I could not give a hoot!!
    I was angry, frustrated, extremely immature…I could go on. As a teenager I used that as a defense mechanism and unfortunately I brought it into marriage. I didn’t need to defend myself anymore but I treated him like the enemy and he became one. That and several other factors brought our relationship to an end and I am sorry, for having been so mean in the past to him and everyone else who has had to endure me.
    Too much harm is done under the guise of “humour” …..

  13. I don’t find these cartoonish type jokes very off putting, regardless of gender.

    They have a slap stick type feel to them, where part of the joke is the joke itself.

    And when I have heard them and known the person to some degree, usually its told in an endearing sort of way, exposing the love that is usually present.

  14. These type of “clever” (disrespectful) jokes offend me when targeted at women. They offend me equally when directed at men.

    I cannot imagine speaking this way about someone I love. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think this is about thick skin or feminism or anything except disrespect.

    Clever? I suppose so.

    Funny? Not so much.

  15. I think it’s somewhat cultural. Some groups use insults affectionately. I’m a WASP, we don’t do that, but my aunt married an Irish-Italian fellow and I remember his father and mother using “ya little shit” as an affectionate pet name for children.

    I do tease my husband, but only about the things I love best about him. I tease him a little bit for rambling like doctor who (which I adore) for always being right (which he inevitably is) and things like that.

    Like I said I don’t get the put downs thing, but it does seem to be an affectionate thing in some cultures.

    Occasionally I joke about what a “douchey alpha male” he must be to have gotten a girl like me (ex-stripper, current fetish model, etc etc) He’s btw definitely not douchey or particularly alpha (he’s more of a ‘pecking order can go die’ type)

  16. FlyingKal says:

    Q: Why do married men live longer than unmarried men?
    A: They don’t. It just feels that way.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Saw a bumper sticker the other day:

      “Before marriage, a man is incomplete. After marriage he’s finished.”

  17. Mean is mean. And jokes like these come from a combative relationship, where either one or the other partner feels some sort of power imbalance.
    For the record, I still hear blonde jokes in the staff room. I just refuse to laugh at most jokes, as 75% of them are mean-spirited, perpetuate negative stereotypes, or are just simply stupid. Does it make for some awkward moments? Absolutely. But I’d rather be called a humorless bitch than laugh at anything that puts someone down.
    And I hate marriage jokes. If marriage is such a trial, don’t effing get married. Or maybe you made a shitty choice. Then leave. Don’t whine about it your whole life.

  18. My boyfriend and I both enjoy self-deprecating, wry and cynical humor, and I can see him making jokes like this about himself. I will occasionally join in, more to the tune of “I have to live with this!” among friends. We think the world of each other and have healthy self-esteem. I’d say if anything a little gentle ribbing brings us closer.

    That said, the flip test is thought-provoking.

  19. If at any point in time a man has expressed frustration or insult at your words and your response has entailed anything along the lines of “Be a man”, “Suck it up”, “Toughen up”, “Don’t be so serious”, “Stop whining” … then you have participated in gender shaming. Period.

  20. I agree tha both sexes do this, but if it’s more socially acceptable to deride men this way, and I think it is, then these jokes shine a light on a sick little part of our culture and at the same time contribute to that sickness. It doesn’t help anyone to perpetuate the idea that men are, after a woman’s refining touch, reasonably wrell trained apes. It’s a bit off putting to a lot of men and it might encourage men who are so inclined to be no more than a reasonably well trained ape.

    I’m not offended by this type of humor so much as promted to ask WTF? when someone indulges in it, wichever sex is the butt of the joke.

  21. I think the intent of the joke teller determines whether the joke is ment to be humorous or vindictive. There is a lot of raw humor that both men and women once upon a time would keep amongst ‘the girls’ or ‘just between the guys’. Now are lives,both at work and socially are mOre integrated gender wise, more of this humor finds its way intO mixed company. Actually, almost every ‘Dumb Blonde joke I ever heard was told to me by a Woman! Mostly my wife or my daughters!

    • PastorofMuppets says:

      @Bobbt
      I think you’re right.
      Those jokes aren’t particularly funny. Well, I don’t find them funny, anyhow. But context and intent matter.

      To borrow from Senfield …. These jokes don’t offense me as a husband. They offend me as a comedian.

  22. Entering into Marriage is an agreement, you have each others back, and care for one another.
    I love good sarcasm, dry humour, Why should my husband be the butt of my jokes ? or me his? Not appropriate . The person I put above all others ? I respect him , in too many ways to do this, partake or enjoy,as my husband and a human.Smack talk is just not cool between husbands and wives.. its about
    RESPECT

    • FlyingKal says:

      Thank you, JB!
      Really, it isn’t more difficult than that.

    • Excellent JB!! Well said and please spread that message to every woman you know. Teach women how to treat their husbands well. Spoil them with respect, it comes back to us too.

  23. Thank you for this. It is something that has been bugging me for a while now and it’s good to give it a voice. I had said nothing, assuming this sort of thing was the price us guys had to pay for decades, centuries maybe of anti female sexism, but I never thought that anti-male sentiment would become so acceptable. Can I mention man-flu for a minute? What would the counter joke be? Woman-flu, Girly-pains, Woman-aches? Were I to use these in a joke or with friends I would be a hate figure and my circle of friends would be zero, would it not? So why is it OK?

  24. Women need to speak up about these jokes, too. If we women want men to be more emotionally open, then engage in telling demeaning jokes, doesn’t that contradict what we’re saying we want? As with the old-school “blonde jokes,” you do get what you expect in a way. Would a smart blonde hang out with a guy who told dumb blonde jokes? And would an emotionally intelligent man want to hang out with a woman who told jokes about insensitive men? Thank you for this post. You guys always have the best articles.

  25. So you have an aspect of “the” gender war. I could launch into a diatribe about participants on all sides, but such a diatribe would in itself be meaningless, those who could appreciate it (as you describe your spouse) already practice it and take it for granted in their existence. Those that don’t … won’t. You may be quite lucky (or maybe just young enough that your perceptions have not yet soured), but as long as gender is relevant in the equations, the math is bad.
    I knew an immensely crazy and wonderful woman who phrased it as “fuck feminism, fuck paternalistic societies, What is between my legs is only an aspect of me, and if you cannot see around that, fuck you as well.” I would accept her as enlightened. In today’s “society”, it is sadly amusing that the “immensely crazy” so often have such a more honest taste of reality, than the most of us struggling to fit in and find “traditional happiness”.
    I appreciate your lament of the inverse inequality of these “jokes” … yes, juvenile, asinine women are truly just as despicable as juvenile, asinine men. I am skeptical that anyone grows up enough to be cognizant of how much it all is an “everybody loses game” , until they accept that defeat personally …
    Good luck, I hope the path you find is brighter than the one I have walked.

  26. My friends post this stuff but they also post the same about women, it’s usually just a lighthearted jest.

  27. First – what you allow will continue. Second – sauce for the goose. This is disrespect, pure and simple, and not something that should be tolerated or rewarded.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Gint Aras’ The Butt of the Marriage Joke, about wives who make fun of husbands online, got me thinking and remembering. Posting [...]

Speak Your Mind

*