There are some stereotypes that exist for a reason and are funny to point out that don't really harm anybody: like all French people wear scarves.
So when Jerry Seinfeld had Gad Elmaleh on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and noticed he was wearing a scarf, he went on a whole thing about it and it was great, both him and Gad had a wonderful laugh about it.
Finding what's truly funny about a stereotype in a comedy bit, however, is one thing, especially when a lot of people perceive it to be true. But then there are stereotypes that are just not true and the only reason people refer to them or bring them up are in a cheap attempt to be funny. One such stereotype is the misconception that women are statistically worse drivers than men.
As it turns out though, that perception is categorically false. Now any subject matter could be made fun of, even this unfair stereotype, but what makes this one particularly harmful was highlighted by this airline pilot who shared her experiences of dealing with snarky remarks from passengers who all made the same joke, more or less, about the fact that she was flying the plane and not a man.
Her response to the jokes were on the money: she's qualified to fly a really, really, expensive commercial airliner, while the people cracking jokes to her are just qualified to keep their seatbelts on until the overhead light turns off.
Had such a lovely day flying with an 👌 crew.— Charlotte (@pilotcharlotte) May 20, 2018
Baffled as to why 2 male pax felt that these comments were nescesarry.
‘I wont make any jokes about female drivers then’
‘Are you the pilot? If I’d know that I wouldnt have got on’
Fact is, I can fly an £80m jet, you can’t.
Charlotte admits that the jokes never really bothered her or got her to think past the lame quip until a fellow crew member got upset.
Being used to this kind of humour, my reaction of course was to be professional, laugh and ask them if they were enjoying the flight. It wasn't unit later when a cabin crew member expressed her anger at the comment that it made me think. Why is this normal?— Charlotte (@pilotcharlotte) May 20, 2018
Charlotte believes that this nonchalant attitude people have towards women attempting careers in male-dominated fields is exactly what so few women become pilots or enroll in STEM programs.
She admitted that her own feelings aren't of anger or frustration, she's just sad that the world is still full of people who think it's OK to say that to a woman who is clearly qualified to do her job.
I didn’t get where I am today by listening to these kinds of comments. I’m not offended, I’m not disheartened. I’m saddened by the fact that this is the attitude some still have and think it is ok to make these comments to women.— Charlotte (@pilotcharlotte) May 20, 2018
Charlotte's tweets quickly went viral, and it got other people sharing their own annoying run-ins with people who felt the need to belittle the work female pilots do.
Like this one guy's wife who flew for the military but still gets belittled by passengers when she flies.
My wife’s a pilot, every time she flies she gets a ‘well done dear’ or similar from holidaymakers.— Danø 🇬🇧 🇺🇸🇨🇦🇦🇺🇳🇿 (@DanoDXB) May 20, 2018
None of the troops she flew into Bastion or Kandahar felt the need to patronise her.
Other people thought that Charlotte's response to passengers was perfect and told her not to go too hard on them.
as are you! being able to laugh it off and remain professional is exactly the reaction they needed. showing them you were unphased by their jokes is perfect. truthfully, they likely meant nothing and were trying to flirt away their feelings of inferiority, but you did perfectly.— scarlet begonia (@reheatmycoffee) May 20, 2018
they are a testament to the negative effects of toxic masculinity on the subconscious thinking and behaviors of men. pity them. all we have to worry about is advertising telling us our thighs shouldn’t touch, they have to battle existential inferiority.— scarlet begonia (@reheatmycoffee) May 20, 2018
And there were some other people who offered up some suggestions as to how Charlotte should respond next time.
"why wouldn't you have gotten on?"— Bowl of petunias (@flyingpat) May 20, 2018
"It's just a joke."
"But I don't understand"
"You know what they say about women drivers"
"No, what do they say?"
Force them to say it out loud, to confront their own prejudice.
As it turns out, Charlott's captain had some choice words for some passengers.
Well, if they don't like women pilots they're free to get off & walk.— chiller ★ (@chiller) May 20, 2018
Obviously, it's not just in the airline industry where women face prejudice when it comes to dealing with men.
In a job interview last year I was asked how as a female do I deal with men on site... I’m a structural engineer for over 10 years. This was a first. 🤦🏼♀️— Aoife Murphy (@efa_m) May 20, 2018
But since Charlotte was talking about flying planes, there were people pointing out that yes, it's not uncommon for women to be incredible pilots. Like this guy's daughter.
Hearing a female captain's voice also has a profound effect on some passengers, saying it sets an example for every woman on the flight.
As a longtime private pilot (who has had several female flight instructors), I'm always glad when I hear a woman's voice saying, "Good afternoon, this is your captain.." Keep it up, and set an example for many more!— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) May 20, 2018
So the next time you want to make a joke about stereotypically bad drivers, make sure that you're at least picking the right demographic to make fun of.