Thursday, April 10, 2008

So Very Funny

I came across an interesting study in the Times of India:

According to the study's lead author Thomas E Ford of Western Carolina University, "Sexist humour is not simply benign amusement. It acts as a 'releaser' of prejudice.

"Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humour can create conditions that allow men — especially those who have antagonistic attitudes towards women — to express those attitudes in their behaviour."

The researchers came to the conclusion after analysing two experiments. In the first one, they asked a group of male participants to imagine that they were members of a work group in an organisation. In that context, they either read sexist jokes, comparable non-humorous sexist statements, or neutral jokes.

They were then asked to report how much money they would be willing to donate to help a women's organisation.
"We found that men with a high level of sexism were less likely to donate to the women's organisation after reading sexist jokes, but not after reading either sexist statements or neutral jokes," Ford said.

In the second experiment, the researchers showed a selection of video clips of sexist or non-sexist comedy skits to another group of male participants. In the sexist humour setting, four of the clips contained humour depicting women in stereotypical or demeaning roles, while the fifth was neutral.

The men were then asked to participate in a project designed to determine how funding cuts should be allocated among select student organisations. Ford said: "We found that, upon exposure to sexist humour, men higher in sexism discriminated against women by allocating larger funding cuts to a women's organisation than they did to other organisations."

I haven't read the original study so I can't comment on the research itself. But when I Googled for it using the hints this article gave me I noticed something very funny: The study has been out for a few months already, in the sense that it had been accepted for publication in December of 2007 and the press information had been sent. Yet none of the major U.S. or U.K. newspapers had anything on it, as far as I could tell.

This is not how they act in all cases concerning studies about women and men. For instance, when one Richard Lynn, well known for really wacky theories about intelligence, told that he had a piece accepted for publication about women being less intelligent than men I heard that on the BBC. On the BBC! And this at a time when it was not possible to read the piece yet to argue back against the message!

It's all very funny, in a sad-clown way.