"Dissecting the poisoned honey" Sexist Humor in Egypt: A linguistic analysis of sexism in Colloquial Cairene Arabic jokes


  • Heba Nayef Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT)
  • Mohamed El-Nashar Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT)


This paper attempts to shed light on sexism in Egyptian Internet jokes. It examines how language, as an institution largely controlled by men, is manipulated and used to disparage women in this discursive mode of humor. Through running a qualitative and quantitative analysis of 284 sexist internet jokes, the study addressed three points; namely, the most frequently targeted category of women in sexist jokes; the most salient physical and personal attributes and finally the way sexist jokes is used to promote violence against women. The analysis has shown that the 'wife' is the category most ridiculed.  The data also revealed that in spite of the freedom in anonymity that the internet provides, personal attributes far outnumber the physical features.   The jokes conformed to the conservative nature of the society as derision of physical features was done through the use of general terms.  The analysis has shown that 'hatefulness' was the most highly criticised personal attribute, with 'stupidity' coming second.  It was also shown that under the guise of benign amusement, the effect of these jokes go beyond tolerating gender inequality to actually promoting physical violence against women. We conclude that in a patriarchal social system like that of Egypt, which already disparages women as the 'marked' and the 'different', such jokes should not be dismissed lightly as 'just jokes."


gender studies, linguistic sexism, sexist jokes, social media, Egyptian jokes


BEMILLER, M. L., SCHNEIDER, R. Z. (2010). "It's not just a joke". Sociological Spectrum. Vol. 30 (4), pp. 459-479.


Cameron, D. (1985). Feminism and Linguistic Theory. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Crawford, M. (1995). Talking difference: On gender and language. London: Sage.

Crawford, M. (2000). "Only joking: Humor and sexuality". In C. B. Travis, J. W. White (Ed.). Sexuality, society and feminism. American Psychological Association, pp. 213-236.


CRAWFORD, M. (2003). ''Gender and Humor in Social Context". Journal of Pragmatics. Vol. 35, pp.1413–1430.


ECKERT, P., MCCONNELL-GINET, S. (2003). Language and Gender. New York: Cambridge.


FORD, T. E. (2000). ''Effects of Sexist Humor on Tolerance of Sexist Events''. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Vol. 26, pp.1094–1107.


FORD, T. E.; WENTZEL, E.; and LORION, J. (2001). ''Effects of Exposure to Sexist Humor on Perceptions of Normative Tolerance of Sexism''. European Journal of Social Psychology. Vol. 31, pp. 677-691.


Ford, T. E., Boxer, C. F., Armstrong, J., Edel, J. R. (2008). "More than "Just a Joke": The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Vol. 34, pp. 159-170.


Ford, T., et al. (2013). "Sexist Humor and Beliefs that Justify Societal Sexism." Current Research Social Psychology. September 2013, pp. 64-81.

Freud, S. ([1905b] 1991) Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious. Penguin Freud Library,Vol. 6. Hammondsworth: Penguin.

Gay, W. C. (1997). ''The Reality of Linguistic Violence against Women.'' In L. L. O'Toole, J. R. Schiffman. Gender Violence. New York: New York University Press, pp. 467–473.

Gossett, J. L., Byrne, S. (2002). "Click Here: A Content Analysis of Internet Rape Sites" .Gender & Society. Vol. 16, pp. 689–709.


Houlihan, P. (2001). Wit and Humour in Ancient Egypt. The Rubicon Press.

Irigaray, L. (1985). This Sex which is Not One. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Laineste, L. (2013). "Can the 'Stripping of the Boss' be More Than a Joke?" Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science. Vol. 47, 4, pp. 482 – 491.


Messiri, S. (1978). Ibn al-balad: A concept of Egyptian identity. Leiden: Brill.

MEYER, J. C. (2000). "Humor as a double-edged sword: Four functions of humor in communication". Communication Theory. Vol. 10, pp.310-331.


Mills, S. (2008). Language and Sexism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mulkay, M. (1988). On Humor. New York: Basil Blackwell.

Schur, E. (1984). Labeling Women Deviant: Gender, Stigma, and Social Control. New York: Random House.

SEV'ER, A., UNGAR, S. (1997). "No laughing matter: Boundaries of gender-based humour in the classroom". Journal of Higher Education. Vol. 68, pp.87-105.


SHEHATA, S. (1992). "The Politics of Laughter: Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak in Egyptian Political Jokes". Folklore. Vol. 103, pp.75-91.


SHIFMAN, L., LEMISH, D. (2010). "Between feminism and fun(ny)mism: Analyzing gender in popular Internet humor". Information, Communication and Society. Vol. 13, 6, pp. 870-891.


Sunderland, J. (Ed.). (2006). Language and Gender: An Advanced Resource Book. London: Routledge.

SUNDERLAND. J. (2007). "Contradictions in gendered discourses: Feminist readings of sexist jokes," Gender & language. Vol. 1, pp. 207-228.

Sweeney, D. 1997. "Offence and Reconciliation in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Late Ramesside Letter no. 46," Göttinger Miszellen. Vol. 158, pp. 63-79.

THOMAS, C. A., ESSES, V. M. (2004). "Individual differences in reactions to sexist humor". Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. Vol. 7, pp. 89-100.


Van Dijk, T.A. (2001). 'Critical Discourse Analysis'. In D. Tannen, D. Schiffrin, H. Hamilton, (Ed.). Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Oxford, Blackwell.

Vetterling-Braggin, M. (1981). Sexist Language: A Modern Philosophical Analysis. New York: Littlefield Adams.

Viki, G. T., Thomae, M., Hamid, S. (2006). "Why did the woman cross the road? The effect of sexist humor on men's self-reported rape proclivity". Unpublished manuscript, University of Kent, Canterbury: Kent, United Kingdom.

WESELY, J. K. (2002). ''Growing Up Sexualized''. Violence against Women. Vol. 8, pp.1182–1207.


WOODZICKA, J. A., FORD, T. E. (2010). "A framework for thinking about the (not-so-funny) effects of sexist humor". Europe's Journal of Psychology. Vol. 3, pp. 174-195.


Zillmann, D., Cantor, J. R. (1996). "A disposition theory of humor and mirth" . In A. J. Chapman, H. C. Foot, (Ed.). Humor and laughter: Theory, research and applications. NewYork: Wiley, pp. 93-116.

Author Biographies

Heba Nayef, Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT)

Head of the Humanities Department, College of Language and Communication,

Mohamed El-Nashar, Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT)

Head of the Language and Translation Department, College of Language and Communication,




Download data is not yet available.