The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: Humor in the Service of Social Justice
Friedman, H. H. and Friedman, L. W. (2020). Review of Contemporary Philosophy,19, 26-42.
24 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2019 Last revised: 1 Dec 2019
Date Written: May 30, 2019
Some humor, while making us laugh, contains shadows of hostility toward those who cause strife – the racists, the bigots, the unaware and uneducated. Believe it or not, humor does have the ability to educate, to counter stereotypes and, if all else fails, to get even. Although humor can perpetuate and preserve stereotypes, it can also redress a wide variety of prejudices and preconceptions. Humor may not have been a powerful enough weapon to overthrow despotic regimes such as, for example, the US during slavery, Nazi Germany, or the former Soviet Union, but it did provide hope to the oppressed. This paper examines humor used by all kinds of oppressed people including African-Americans, Asians, women, Moslems, the disabled, and Jews. The authors conclude that society is better off if people get even with bullies and persecutors using humor rather than violence. Humor can educate the educable. Humor provides victims with psychological strength, and enables them to rise above despair and hopelessness.
Keywords: Humor, Social Justice, Charged Humor, Getting Even, Humor and Stress, African-American Slaves, Bigots, Racists, Anti-Semites, Sexists
JEL Classification: J50, M12, M14, M54
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation