Normalization of misogyny: sexist humour in a higher education context at Great Zimbabwe University.
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This research focuses on sexist humour and its contribution to the creation of hostile campuses for women, affecting their equal access and enjoyment of higher education. This research addresses an element that has been neglected in the field of sexism and higher education as previous studies tended to focus on overt expressions of sexual harassment. The study investigated the nature and perceptions of students at Great Zimbabwe University with regard to sexist humour. The study grounds its analysis on a logical conceptual framework using structural violence theory, sexual objectification and social identity theories to discuss the perceptions, experiences, processes and outcomes of sexist humour in higher education settings. It also uses data collected from survey questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussions and observations to bring out the voices and experiences of women with regard to sexist humour in higher education, an element which has been missing in literature. Sexual harassment is a growing epidemic in universities around the world and this has consequences especially for female students who are the targets. Latent linguistic factors such as sexually violent humour, rape jokes and sexist humour normalizes violence and rape in society. Ambiguous definitions of what constitutes violence as well as the burden of proof makes it difficult for students to decide whether they should report sexist humour or not. In addition, humour is not listed as violence in the available statutes which only cater for overt expressions of violence that are presented with glaring proof of assault. Victims are thus often silenced and dismissed as frivolous. The study established that sexist joking, which has been socialized in cultures for centuries, normalizes rape culture and hostile campuses and needs to be addressed with the same seriousness as other overt expressions of violence occurring on university campuses. The ambiguity in defining sexist humour as harassment means there is little communication and discourse on campus, thereby normalizing violence.