From Ms Fiona Gardner
Sir, — It is time to stop telling sexist jokes from the pulpit.
Away for the weekend, I went to parish communion at a small country church in the north of England. In his Advent sermon, the vicar suggested that we need to laugh more and worry less. To help us he told a sexist joke.
As we know from Sigmund Freud, jokes contain an underlying message, and, in the case of many jokes, as with this one, it is one of hostility.
The congregation, three-quarters of whom were women, dutifully laughed, and, of course, as victims and oppressed, we have internalised the dominant culture and might not even think that such jokes are not funny — but it was an aggressive joke with implications of domestic abuse.
Nationally, there is increasing concern about the levels of violence against girls and women, and the Church of England in its excellent policy documents on domestic abuse urges us all to follow good practice. It is now timely for those in leadership positions to follow this.
If people do not know whether a joke is sexist, they should try substituting black for woman and white for man, and see how uncomfortable that feels: that’s racism, and the other is sexism. Sexist jokes are a form of violence, and it is time to stop telling them in our churches.
Safeguarding Children Adviser
The Old Deanery
Wells, Somerset BA5 2UG