Session VII – Panel A

SESSION VII, March 3, 9:45-11:00AM

Panel A: Something in the way s/he laughs
Moderator: Itziri Moreno
Room: University College 224A

Evelyn Deshane (Trent University) – “What’s the difference between us and them? Nothing”: Looking at Identities, Audiences, and Humour in Transgender Texts

“To be transgendered is to be perpetually offended,” writes Elliott DeLine in his debut novel, Refuse. Humour is often thought to obscure the everyday reality of a transgender person, but with his debut novel, DeLine makes humour illuminate it. The independent horror film, Ticked off Trannies with Knives, highlights the brutality of a transgender murder, but does so within a genre that becomes a parody of all that came before it. Both of these works incited immense controversy, which leaves the authors, audiences, and everyone in between wondering how to proceed. When does it become okay for the word ‘tranny’ to be the punch line, when is it hate speech, and when is it the only word appropriate?  In this paper, I will look at the ways in which a joke’s author can change its outcome and incite who is allowed to laugh. Using Roland Barthes analogy, I will posit that the author of the joke should be dead, and moreover, wants to be dead within today’s intensely politically correct climate. Using Ticked off Trannies with Knives and Refuse as examples, I will explore how they both work as highly self-referential texts that are aware of their place within a larger realm of comedy and tragedy, and manage to work their way in between. By allowing for laughter and not taking themselves too seriously, they dramatically change their viewing audience and allow for commentary on the issues they present. Both texts deliver harsh critiques at the queer and transgender communities where they originated, but they do not turn this into hateful mockery. In order to laugh at the joke, these texts insist, we must first laugh at ourselves.

Evelyn Deshane is in the second year of a two year MA thesis program at Trent University studying transgender narratives and horror film. Other interests include film, popular culture, queer studies, performance theory, and fan media.

Mostafa Abedinifard (University of Alberta) – Ridicule and Gender Hegemony: Mainstream Gender Humour and its relation to gender order

Focusing on the (contemporary) Anglo-American and Iranian popular culture humour (the verbal joke and the sitcom genres), I argue that through a certain mechanism involving ridicule, a society’s mainstream gender humour reflects and reinforces that society’s “gender order,” i.e., its “historically constructed pattern of power relations between [and among] men and women and definitions of masculinity and femininity.” This argument assumes humour as a rhetorical message, thus also underscoring the role of an identifying/empathizing audience in ensuring humour’s success. I define mainstream (vs. fringe) gender humour as that which enjoys actual or potential circulation among a society’s hegemonic gender norm circles. A significant lacuna in gender studies necessitates this argument. In these studies, despite scattered references to the role (ridiculing) humour occupies in sustaining gender norms, this role is de-emphasized and denied theoretical significance. I attempt to fill the gap especially by using Michael Billig’s view on ridicule—as a form/aspect of humour—as a universal sustainer of social orders.

Also, a survey of much critical literature on gender humour reveals the need for a more comprehensive and less ambiguous definition of gender humour, itself entailing the employment of an account of gender capable of explaining the various intricacies of gender relations as reflected in gender humour. Thus, I deploy Raewyn Connell’s gender hierarchy model, which relies on her famous concept of “hegemonic masculinity.” Not only does the model help us in defining gender humour as a broad concept embracing sexist, feminist, homosexual, and certain homosocial humour, but it also facilitates understanding such issues as multiple masculinities and femininities, and the intersection of gender with sexuality, class, race/ethnicity, religion, dis/ability, and age. My presentation is part of the theoretical chapters in my dissertation, which also involves a discussion of the rebellious aspects of fringe (gender) humour. Although I will not be focusing on this latter aspect in my presentation, I will briefly refer to it, too.

My name is Mostafa Abedinifard. I am a graduate student in the Comparative Literature Program at the University of Alberta. I am currently writing my PhD dissertation, which involves ridicule, as an aspect of humour, and its relation to gender order. For the purpose of my study, I am focusing on the (contemporary) Anglo-American and Iranian popular culture humour, as manifested in the genres of the verbal joke and the sitcom.

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