Feminism’s Last Frontier in the Quest for Social Theory: American Stand-up in the Age of Political Correctness

Author: Youcef Bennaa

Keywords: feminism, humor, intersectionality, political correctness, social theory, stand-up

DOI: DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awejtls/vol4no3.3

The socio-cultural status of stand-up comedians allowed them to comment with impunity on sensitive social issues, giving them the ability to normalize and abnormalize certain societal behaviors and beliefs. This Foucaultian social tool attracted the use of many historically disenfranchised groups on the merits of sexuality and race. Feminists noted a gender discrepancy in pay and appearance in the hierarchy of this industry and attributed it to systemic flaws, not just with the industry but with humor’s theoretical and conceptual structures. The aim of this research work is to assess the impact of their ideological quest for a new theory of humor on the integrity of American stand-up comedy. The application of Peterson’s “Political Correctness Game” framework suggests that there are possible ulterior motives behind calls to change the foundational structure of American stand-up. The problem that this paper attempts to address is whether calls for inclusivity in the framework of intersectionality theory in humor can be characterized as a legitimate call to limit, what the feminist labeled, as acts of hubris and humiliation against victimized minorities. Or are these calls permeating into dangerous social and even legal territories, where comedians’ rhetoric is regulated and their artistic freedom is infringed upon. This paper contended that feminist calls for a new theory of humor derived from an intersectionality lens would only create “echo chambers” of already like-minded individuals, rather than exerting social change through the subaltern social power that can be generated from stand-up humor.