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Afraid to offend?

April 26, 2012


Did anyone else see the David Walliam’s TV show on Roald Dahl? (ITV, Sunday 22/4/12) I enjoy the work of both, loving the in-your-face, boundary crossing humour that is very refreshing. I am often struck, however by the dearth of female writers in hard-hitting, not-afraid-to-offend, provocative humour. I’ve noticed, also, the small number of successful female stand-up comedians in comparison to the number of successful males. Why is this?

My own take on it is the socialisation process. Girls are taught to ‘be a good girl’, ‘nice girls don’t say things like that’, etc. I think this leads many females to seek approval. How can we be fiercely funny, unafraid to offend, when our basic, socially conditioned drive is to protect the feelings of others?!

Little boys. ‘He is so cheeky,’ parents say lovingly – where they may reprimand their daughter for doing the same thing. ‘Go on, get out there, tell them what you really think’.

Is it possible to break down years of social conditioning, not be afraid to offend, and chance that desire for approval to get the laughs?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2012 7:56 pm

    Interesting post, Nikki. I also think that humour can be used to deflect aggression – I’ve known boys who learnt to use it in the school playground for that reason. My feeling is that most comedians learn how to raise a laugh when young, perhaps as a way of controlling other children’s possibly hostile behaviour.

    Traditionally, girls try to control their environment differently – by being cute and winsome. Give me comedy every time!

    • nikki permalink
      April 27, 2012 4:26 pm

      Survival mechanisms … Good point – ‘humour as deflection of aggression’. I wonder how this worked in the Tim and Jeremy Vine household ??

  2. April 27, 2012 3:25 pm

    Boys like risk and competition – has it got anything to do with boys willingness to risk failure?

    • nikki permalink
      April 27, 2012 4:20 pm

      do boys risk failure more than girls ?… umm, no, not in my world. I’d say in-yer-face humour was an ability to disregard for feelings of another. There’s the crunch for me personally – the line between funny and funnier at the expense of another. Finding a healthy disregard versus caretaking for someone else’s (perceived) feelings, and not feeling responsible for the fall out, because it’s usually the girls who are taught to clear up the mess, emotional or otherwise.

      • April 27, 2012 7:24 pm

        Maybe not caring about the mess means being more reckless and taking more risks.

  3. nikki permalink
    April 30, 2012 9:29 am

    fair comment, but as courage is only present when there is fear to overcome, risk is only present when there is something to lose, ie something to care about…

  4. May 5, 2012 5:46 pm

    I think our N4 Sketch Pad correspondent has a point. Young men are far more likely to injure themselves in traffic accidents, for example. Maybe they are programmed by nature to take risks – though I’m not doubting that nurture plays a part, too Boys are traditionally expected to enjoy the rough and tumble more than girls. However, I think the risk-averse programming of girls is changing. An interesting debate.

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