Dear Comedians: Women Don't Always Need to be a Punchline for a Joke

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Hello again. It is I, your local stand-up comedy connoisseur back at it, this time with some frustrations. This all started about two weeks ago. I was going through it and by that, I mean I reverted back to my high school self for a hot minute. 

My high school self was an awkward, shy girl who did not think she was worthy of anyone’s time nor romantic attention, mostly because of body image issues. This isn’t supposed to be a sob story for the girl I once was because those issues have been, for the most part, resolved and I would like to think that who I am now is someone that my 16-year-old self would have looked up to and aspired to be. The other day I reverted back to this self-doubt for the briefest of moments so I thought, “Oh, I’ll listen to some stand-up comedy to make myself feel better,” and this is where everything went wrong.

I was listening to my favorite Pandora radio station “Morning Comedy” and laughing to some of my favorites and then disaster struck- a Daniel Tosh bit came on the station. When I was younger, I really loved the TV series Tosh.O because it was like America’s Funniest Home Videos, but way more crass. Listening to his comedy bit was not what I had remembered from the TV show in the slightest. I’m going to break this bit down and explain in what ways my chain had been jerked. Now, I don’t know if this is from personal experience or if he made it up for the comedy show, but it is still problematic.  

He starts the specific bit with how he walks up to women, pretends he’s judging a dog show and ranks them as 3rd, 2nd or 1st. He explains that women love to be winners and secretly are competing with one another all the time. Though it is true that women tend to compete with each other much of the time, and that our energy would be better spent encouraging one another, that is (surprisingly) not what upset me. It made me much more angry to have Tosh speak to how he perpetuates this competition by rating the women out loud.

After this, Tosh says if he’s really feeling the ranking, he’ll grab a woman by the neck and crotch and lift her up, much like in dog competitions, to prove that she is the winner. This already off-color joke becomes way less funny because of the recent “Time’s Up” and “Me Too” movements that have worked so hard to draw attention to this type of language. It is an illustration of how women are not seen as people, but objects in which they are only around for a man’s pleasure as well as arm and eye candy, an age-old perspective we’ve been trying to work past for a long time now. 

The following sentence is, and I paraphrase here, “...ope, this one’s a bit heavy, should have gone with the toy category. Now I’m not saying big isn’t beautiful, it is, just not to me.” This is where Tosh’s bit strays closer towards to other misogynistic bits where he’ll make a joke that insults women but then tries to make up for it by saying it’s not always the case. Surprisingly this part didn’t get to me as much as I thought, (I mean I was still very salty don’t get me wrong) it was what came afterward.

After this, he proceeds to start talking about how the modeling industry is not wrong, but the parents who criticize it are wrong. His reasoning for this was because parents just won’t tell their daughters when they are ugly and will never be models. His final little sting from this “comedy” bit is and I paraphrase again, “it is unfortunate to be an ugly woman because then you have to work just as hard as a man [to be loved.]” 

Needless to say, you can see why this did not make me feel any better about my self-doubt. Tosh’s bit was like that small voice in your head that you know you shouldn’t listen to but you do it anyway. Just knowing that there were some men out there who thought it was funny and laughed along with it made it much worse. 

Now, I know I must sound like the sad feminist girl that “can’t take a joke,” but that is far from the case here. Much of stand-up comedy can be very misogynistic, but there is always somewhat of a comeback (albeit not always great) which can redeem the joke or make it seem less judgemental. Tosh’s bit never does that, it goes straight past redeemable and just piles on insults toward women who don’t fit “society’s norms for beauty.” 

Now it may seem pointless to talk about a piece from years ago, but I think it is quite important, not to express my frustrations, but because it’s important to point out that this way of thinking is not acceptable, and never should be. We cannot accept this as quality humor nor as a norm for how society perceives women and I can only hope Tosh has changed his joking style since then.