We had a little break room conversation today. We are colleagues that have worked together for around five years, and hangout a lot and know each others families. Two of us were male and two were female (states to which none of us have any contribution to). We have joked at several occasions about a vast variety of things: from silly jokes, language puns, accents, funny situations, funny remarks in odd contexts, raunchy stuff and occasional harmless banter based on communities. We have always laughed together and to this day we have never taken umbrage to non-PC jokes.
Privately, I find amusement in a lot of things. A lot of events when viewed askance in the right angle are giggle-worthy. That, I believe is the beauty of humour. Most jokes that make people laugh out loud are at somebody's expense. The popularity of legendary stand up comedians, specially contemporary ones is a testament to that. The propriety of a joke is of course a function of context and audience. Jokes that adversely affect an individual's or group's social and professional opportunities, I believe are wrong. In the presence of impressionable minds, no such jokes are appropriate. I believe a joke is a joke until it affects one's own attitude leading to prejudice.
The break room chatter today turned out to be different from previous occasions. The boss (who happens to be male) has been under a lot of stress lately and his moods swing from one day to the next. After some chitchat someone asked why he is upset today. I offered "That's coz he is 'Man'struating'." E v e r y o n e laughed out loud. At some point in the next few minutes the we shifted to talking about people behaving strangely on a cyclical basis. The subject of on specific individual came up. One of the ladies said she was been acting crazy. The talk about "time of the month" came up. I said "Women be crazy!!" with an attempt at an African American accent (too many episodes of "The Wire" will do that to you). The other lady LOST it. She complained for good while about how such jokes stem from sexism and chauvinism. Jokes like this have far reaching affects on women being discriminated against for employment and them not getting positions as judges in Egypt. She explained that women are thought not be capable of rational thoughts when menstruating and so can't be appointed judges. And some facts about women not being able to drive in Saudi or vote in Kuwait were mentioned.
That outburst was unexpected. I never thought that this joke to this small group of well acquainted people who have known me so long, would ever have implications on Gulf countries. From my point of view, the same group, us, has joked about far worse things on several occasions. Mood swings and irritability are medically established behaviors associated with that physiological state, and often joked about. This joke would never prevent me, or anyone else there, from taking female human beings seriously, in any context, ever! I would never crack this joke outside the small circle of my long acquainted friends, not even with my brother.
If we are going to be this PC, lets just forget about jokes all together. There are seldom jokes anyone laughs out loud to that aren't at someone's expense. I for one, have decided that conversations with colleagues necessarily need to be insipid, bland and "professional". There goes any hope of having a happy workplace out the window!
You might wonder if I'm overthinking this. It is just that I'm tired of men being accused of chauvinism when their own lives and behaviors have shown no trace of contempt towards women.