Domestic ViolenceOpinion

Why do we laugh at sexist jokes?

Recently I was in a meeting with some amazing people. During a round-circle of “what’s on your mind” one man, who does a huge amount of work for the community, talked about how he had run in the Mother’s Day Marathon which is an amazing day for raising funds for a cure for the scourge that is breast cancer. What a feat! That’s a tough marathon. Anyway, as he started he said, “This amazing day, brought together my two favourite things, running and breasts.” The entire room erupted in laughter. I had a stony look on my face. Was I supposed to laugh? How on earth is that funny? I wondered if the response would be similar if I had been speaking in the reverse: “I ran a marathon to raise money for testicular cancer, you know, it brought together my two favourite things: running and … ” I can’t imagine anyone would have laughed at that so why do we laugh at a man when he says something so clearly inappropriate and frankly gross?

So it got me thinking, reflecting even, on the way men talk to me, and talk to women in general.

I was once deep in conversation with an important (male) activist when a mutual friend/colleague walked past and shouted, “Careful mate, she’s married.” As if my only contribution to that conversation was the idea that I could offer only my physical attributes.

It goes on. If I spend too much time with one person someone will jokingly refer to me, when I’m not around, as their “girlfriend”. Forget that I’ve been with the same amazing man for 17 years. Again, my presence is reduced to a potential accessory and laughed off merely as a “joke”. Too late mate, the damage has been done. I’m calling out this behaviour and I’m gonna be busy.

I quote this time and time again: “Not all intimate partner disrespect ends in murder, all domestic violence murders start with disrespect.” – Arman Abrahimzadeh

It’s a quote that will never grow old or lose its relevance because domestic violence, family violence or intimate partner violence, no matter what label you use, is only possible due to a lack of respect for the other person.

Women dead in May: 3

Women dead in June: 1

Women dead in 2017 so far: 21



  • If you feel you need to find somewhere safe, Jan can be contacted on 02 9599 3217 or email at
  • If you or somebody you know is in immediate danger, call 000 now.
  • 1800 RESPECT is a 24-hour hotline for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence. Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit
  • Safe Steps is a 24-hour family violence response centre. Call 1800 015 188 or visit
  • Lifeline provides all Australians with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14 or visit
  • Relationships Australia provides support services for individuals, families and communities. Call 1300 364 277 or visit

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