Comedy “for Her”: the Uses of Feminist Comedy

Kathleen Rowe describes how women often use comedy as a source of rebellion against the patriarchal structures that were implemented to limit their ability to express themselves socially and politically. Anger is a primary source for comedy to Rowe.

She goes on to describe how, due to this fact, women cannot allow their comedy to peaceable or calm. Their comedy must be offensive and extreme in order to challenge the patriarchy. This is the only war, according to Rowe, that women can create comedy that draws attention to women’s issues.

This is simply not true. There are many sketches that promote feminist ideas without offending anyone.

While I cannot speak to whether one being offensive is a more effective route to social challenge, I can say that it is possible to create inoffensive comedy that draws attention to women’s issues.

This sketch from Saturday Night Live depicts exactly the kind of thing that Rowe was describing. The women in this sketch are essentially not allowed to engage with the joke in the sketch. Kyle and Beck are denying the women the right to air their grievances about the issues that the men are talking about.

While the sketch itself when described may not sound overtly comedic, it is this lack of participation by Scarlett Johannsson and Aidy Bryant that the skit mocks and uses to create comedy as well as draw attention to feminist issues.

This skit demonstrates that socially and politically conscious comedy can be created about certain societal structures that does not openly attack them in an offensive but draws attention to and ridicules the social norms and situations that they perpetuate.


  1. I agree completely with you that it is possible to create comedy with a feminist critique which is not ‘offensive’. I suspect Rowe would argue that such comedy, like this sketch, does not go far enough; however, I don’t think that creating comedy so extreme as to be avant-garde, and thus easy for the vast majority of people to ignore, will actually affect mainstream culture.

  2. I agree with you that there are many sketches that draw attention to the feminist comedic perspective, but can it not be said that because these sketches are still being made the “war” does need to exist. A sketch for women highlights the lack of them in comparison to those of men. That being said, both of you are correct, in terms of how far the sketch should go in terms of offense. Without extremes the moderate can look extreme. Sometime it takes an extreme to get the moderate idea across.

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