Just for laughs? The new meme of men and women switching roles
Recently, my newsfeed has been flooded with various videos all based on the idea of men and women trading places in routine situations. Most of these videos try to use humor and comedy to shed light on the reality of women’s lives and everyday sexism. And while a majority of these videos were funny and left me laughing, there was one in particular that really got the message across. The sexism that women face everyday isn’t that funny after all.
There’s “What Happens When Men and Women Flip Roles at the Gym” with a ha-ha-hilarious scene at 1:10 into the film where the ladeez admire the view during a male-dominated yoga class and “What Happens When Guys and Girls Switch Roles on Valentine’s Day” that sums up our expectations of the opposite sex (She: “But you said you didn’t want me to plan anything for Valentine’s Day.” He: “I know what I said, but it’s not what I meant. Ugh! You don’t even know me.”).
And who can forget the silly shenanigans that ensue when tables are turned on date night ( She: “You’re ready. Great! Let’s go.” He: “You’re not going to say anything about the way I look?” She: “You look great!” He: Sure “Now that I’ve had to ask you for a compliment.” She (totally frustrated): “Babe, you always look good….”)
These videos are all great fun because they brilliantly satirize our social norms and illuminate just how gendered so much of our interaction is. IMHO, when the sexes switch places, the videos also highlight how smarmy mainstream men’s behavior still really is.
A couple of young women glamming it up for a big night out and talking trash about how much “sausage” they’re gonna get? It just seems so rude. So gauche. So offensive and off. But media portrayals (and sadly real life ones, too) of guys elbowing each other about the babes they’re going to bag just about daily? Oh, yah. Just guys being guys!
But the trading places video that wiped the grin right off my face is the French short film “Oppressed Majority”. In it, bare-chested female recreational joggers sexually harass the average-Joe dad who’s just trying to get his kid to daycare.
In this film, an aggressive, loud-mouthed female bum verbally accosts the dad who’s just waiting for a stoplight at an intersection. And then there’s some macho (I can’t even come up with an equivalent expression that would apply to the rude, threatening, contentious, dangerous) gang of women that (SPOILER ALERT) rape the father at knifepoint. And he has to deal with female police officers who belittle the crime and interrogate him about why he was out alone in broad day light, and whether or not such a crime this could have even occurred with no witnesses around.
And then the average Joe’s wife shows up and apologizes for being late (“I was in a meeting that I couldn’t ditch. But I really think I knocked them dead, BTW!”), but can barely muster any sympathy for her husband because he dared to go out in Bermuda short and flip-flops.
With all the gags removed, “Oppressed Majority” reveals just how dangerous the world can be—and at the end, it snaps back to reality (I’m not going to give away how), making it clear that in most cultures, it’s still women who are in peril.
And there is not one single funny thing about that.
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty, a body image guide for teens.