Sex Roles

, Volume 27, Issue 11, pp 645-664

First online:

The role of humor in the interpretation of sexist incidents

  • Brigitte BillAffiliated withthe University of St. Jerome’s College
  • , Peter NausAffiliated withthe University of St. Jerome’s College

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This study investigated the role of humor, gender, and sexist attitudes toward women in the interpretation of sexist incidents. Thirty female and thirty male university students rated the humorousness of and the reactions to recent sexist incidents on Canadian university campuses. As predicted, perceiving sexist incidents as humorous was associated with the tendency to see them as less sexist, to understand the actions and attitudes displayed as more acceptable, and to believe one would have shown approval of the latter. Path analysis indicated that gender did not affect the interpretations of and reactions to these incidents, and that the influence of sexist attitudes toward women was mainly indirect—that is, via their impact on the perception of humorousness.