These pulpit jokes are a form of violence

02 December 2009


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

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

Church Times: about us

Latest Cartoon

The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read five articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)