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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 28, Issue 2


It’s just a (sexist) joke: comparing reactions to sexist versus racist communications

Julie A. Woodzicka / Robyn K. Mallett / Shelbi Hendricks / Astrid V. Pruitt
Published Online: 2015-04-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0025


Two experiments test whether using humor moderates the effect of the type of prejudice (racist or sexist) on evaluations of discriminatory communications. Experiment 1 examined a) the offensiveness of sexist and racist humor and b) whether jokes were judged as confrontation-worthy compared to statements expressing the same prejudicial sentiment. Racist jokes and statements were rated as more offensive and confrontation-worthy than sexist statements and jokes, respectively. Additionally, sexist jokes were rated as less offensive than sexist statements. Experiment 2 examined a) the perceived appropriateness of three responses (ignoring, saying “that’s not funny,” or labeling as discrimination) to sexist or racist jokes and b) the likeability of the confronter. Saying “that’s not funny” was the most acceptable response to jokes, but labeling a racist joke as racism was perceived as more appropriate than labeling a sexist joke as sexism. Finally, confronters of racism were liked more than those who confronted sexism.

Keywords: confronting; disparagement humor; sexism; racism


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About the article

Julie A. Woodzicka

Julie A. Woodzicka is a Professor of Psychology at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, United States. She received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and her Ph.D. from Boston College. Her research examines social and interpersonal consequences of disparagement humor.

Robyn K. Mallett

Robyn K. Mallett is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Loyola University Chicago. She completed her B.A. at the University of Alaska Anchorage, her Ph.D. in Social Psychology at the Pennsylvania State University, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia. Her research investigates pathways to positive intergroup relations by examining the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components of intergroup contact.

Shelbi Hendricks

Shelbi Hendricks is a Psychology and Business Administration student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, United States. She is expected to graduate in May 2016.

Astrid V. Pruitt

Astrid V. Pruitt received her BA in Psychology and East Asian Languages and Literature from Washington and Lee University in 2014. She is currently studying design and business in the Kaospilot Program, Aarhus, Denmark.

Published Online: 2015-04-25

Published in Print: 2015-05-01

Funding: This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant BCS-1014562 awarded to Julie A. Woodzicka.

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 28, Issue 2, Pages 289–309, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0025.

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