Deborah Knuth Klenck
Second Advisor (if necessary)
Suzanne B. Spring
Satire is a well-known comedy form, and currently the most popular in mass-media. On first glance, satire and feminism are not a natural pairing. As a form of comedy, satire is usually associated with insignificant jokes, concerned more with humor than social issues. Feminism, on the other hand—in my own definition—is the practice of becoming more aware and critical of what forgets marginalized voices and people. The two subjects come from very different worlds.
Where I believe they join is the skills that they require from their audience. Satire is the most complicated form of comedy; it requires an audience to understand the satire and to know enough context to appreciate the message. A satirical joke taken at face value will not convey the same message as its simple comedic effect. This is because within the joke here are different layers of meaning. In order to understand a satirical joke, a listener must go through two processes. The first, which I will deem decoding, is a term I am using from Carla Canestrari in her work analyzing verbal humor and adapting to my own analysis (Canestrari 327). In this thesis, decoding will be defined as breaking down the information presented at any level of interpreting a joke. The second I am calling excavation. When understanding a satirical joke, context is needed. This context can come from the background knowledge of an audience, but can also build on knowledge derived from a previous attempt at decoding a joke. Interpreting a satirical joke, I will argue goes through a process of decoding at a level, then using that knowledge to excavate to the next level, and the process repeats itself. This analysis of multiple layers of meaning is how satire calls upon critical thought.
I have called feminism: the practice of becoming more aware and critical of what forgets marginalized voices and people. An engaged feminist must constantly be engaging critical thought when looking at the world. Feminist awareness comes from looking at experiences—both ones own and other people’s—and analyzing the voices and structures that reinforce oppression.
Critical thought is where feminism and satire can meet. These two don’t resemble each other much in content or history, but rather in the skills that they call upon.
Ward, Emily, "Feminism and Political Satire: Excavation through Humor" (2016). Senior Honors Theses. 10.