Some years ago, I witnessed an all too common scene at a friend’s home. Her husband made her a video call which soon turned into a family call as her brothers joined in the conversation. She had been visiting her father and was to return to her husband a couple of days later. Her brother said to her husband,
“بھائی جتنی عیاشی کرنی ہے کر لیں۔ یہ سکون زیادہ دن کا نہیں ہے۔ “
Enjoy all you can, this peace is short-lived. As I saw my friend’s face fall, I thought to myself, “Why must marital relationships be made fun of? More importantly, why must a wife be portrayed as a blight on her husband’s peace?”
It’s no secret that marriage is hard. Media, cheesy romance novels, and current wedding photography may portray it as a pleasant dream but the reality is far from it. It’s challenging. It requires constant effort. It needs to be safeguarded from all sorts of blows from all kinds of social and financial pressures. But if it was as pointless as it is made out to be in jokes, no one would be getting married.
But I digress. The subject isn’t marriage. The subject is humor related to marriage. According to Laura Tropp, in adults, joking often seems to be a way to target someone powerless. Instead of opening the lines of communication, it shuts them down. This is something that can, oftentimes, prove to be counterproductive for a marital bond. Let’s see how.
If we look at the majority of the jokes spun around wives we see three predominant themes. One being that wives are maniacal tyrants who are always nagging. The second is that wives are always hungry for money, and the last is that it is always someone else’s wife that looks appealing. These are examples of what is referred to as “disparaging humor” as they are belittling and denigrating wives. Moreover, such jokes perpetuate negative stereotypes. In simple words, repetition of humiliating jokes for any gender or group of people encourages negative thinking and behavior for that group. In the case of women, any number of comments under such jokes or discussions on Facebook testify to the fact that women indeed ARE perceived as all these things by men. Instead of breaching the communication gap between the two genders, such jokes are further widening them. What is more is that when this is pointed out, the reaction is, “Oh grow up! Can’t you take a joke as a joke?”
Joking often seems to be a way to target someone powerless. Instead of opening the lines of communication, it shuts them down.
It needs to be understood that such jokes aren’t “just a joke”. They have far reaching impact on the psychological well-being of people.
Since such attitudes are in the guise of “innocent humor”, they are not accepted as negative behaviors and end up being repeated over and over again. Suggesting people grow thick skin may seem like a simple solution but it is an unrealistic one. This suggestion, along with the constant repetition of such jokes is in fact a kind of bullying. This notion of developing a tolerance for a negative behavior does nothing for the person who feels belittled. Instead, it provides positive reinforcement to those who exhibit it.
In order to foster healthy relationships, we need to learn to have healthy communication. Any communication that puts any race, gender, or group “in the spot” isn’t healthy and shouldn’t be seen as such.