By Katrina Froelich
“Why can’t you take a joke?” “Calm down I didn’t mean it like that.” “Don’t take things so seriously.” “You’re such a buzzkill."
I’ve been called a buzzkill, killjoy, wet blanket more times than I can count. Most notably after someone makes some lame sexist joke recycled from the discourse of 7th grade boys while they play MarioKart. Recently a close guy friend of mine told me that the only reason Wonder Woman made any money was because she was hot. We disagreed, and our argument ended with him saying that I didn't understand how hot Gal Gadot was and how it was "weird" to talk about it in front of me. If his logic stands true, then Spiderman's successful franchise can be accounted for by the hot bodies of Tobey McGuire and Tom Holland, right?
The problem with being an outspoken feminist, or simply being the only girl in the room, is that oftentimes you feel obligated to say something. Not only because it’s wrong, but because no one else will. You feel like it’s your duty to let them know that the joke or comment wasn’t cool because frankly you don’t want it to happen again.
When I first wrote this article, I wanted to talk about how there was power in being the buzzkill, how being the only person to speak up would ultimately be rewarding. And there is truth to that. Just a few weeks ago, I found myself in a male-dominated group. Soon enough, one of them pulled out an overused kitchen comment (Who knew these were still considered funny?), and I quickly called them out for it. Afterwards, the only other girl in the room thanked me for saying something, because she was too afraid to say something herself.
That night I wore my buzzkill badge with honor, knowing that I had made my own little feminist victory that day (take them where you can get them).
But that moment doesn’t take away from the hundreds of moments where I was the girl who couldn’t take a joke, the one who takes everything too seriously, where I was labeled as too sensitive - the list goes on. One of my guy friends even told me that hanging out with me wasn’t fun because he felt like he had to walk on eggshells (Sorry it's so hard not to say something offensive, my dude).
So, while there is power in being the buzzkill, there’s no denying that it sucks. Perhaps ironically, the worst part about being a buzzkill is that you can’t always be one. There are very real power dynamics that have prevented me from speaking my mind or letting someone know that what they said was inappropriate. As empowering as it can be to speak up, it’s not always an option. As a woman, I have to consider my safety and security before speaking up. For good reason, we are taught to be silent when situations present serious harm. While your physical safety is threatened if you lash back at a creepy cat-caller on your walk home at night, your job might be at risk if you choose to take a stand against your boss. Whatever the situation, the pitfalls are very real.
And the sucking doesn’t end there. Being the buzzkill isn't usually a hit at parties either. Calling out a guy for being a dick is especially hard when your message has to travel through the loud music and his high alcohol content. However, this struggle is even apparent in the closest of friendships. I finally spoke up when my friend continuously introduced me and my job by saying “She works in fashion, but she’s actually really smart.”
My friend couldn’t believe I was “making a big deal about it.” Apparently, groups of guys hate it when you tell them that they aren’t funny and their jokes are offensive. What I see as teaching moments are what others might see as “ruining the mood” or “bringing everyone down” (of course no one focuses on the fact that maybe it was actually the sexist joke that ruined the mood).
I don’t want to have to be the girl who points out exactly why the joke wasn’t funny and actually just offensive. That isn't fun for anyone involved. An ideal world would be one where I can laugh at my friend's unoffensive witty jokes (those exist!) or not be forced to correct a sexist comment because it was never made in the first place. Yet, here I am, correcting the men around me, desperately trying to make them see what I see, understand my reality, and (at the very least) get better at making jokes.
So, my challenge to the women reading this: be a buzzkill!
Not because it's fun or its trendy or its attractive, but because it's important. The more women who speak up and call men out for making those type of comments (when they can) the less it will fall on the shoulders of one person. If everyone is a buzzkill, then no one is a buzzkill.
And my challenge to anyone who has ever called someone a buzzkill in their lives (women too because internalized sexism is very real): ask yourself, was what I said offensive? Was it really even that funny? Am I really challenging my comedic prowess by going for such low hanging fruit? I challenge you to be better, and to be funnier.
Katrina Froelich is the Fashion Editor at Tough to Tame. She’s worked in the fashion industry for over four years, gaining experience in PR and Editorial work at companies such as GUESS and Forme. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org