Summary: A whimsical analysis of the “That’s What She Said” Punch line.
“That’s What She Said”, the common punch line used to make almost any phrase said by someone into something tinged with sexual innuendo. It arose exactly twenty year ago (1992) when Mike Myers first uttered the phrase in the movie Wayne’s World. Over the last three years the “That What She Said” punch line has come back into prominence as shown in the linked Google line graph .“She” refers to a very promiscuous woman. It is implied by the endless sexual favors associated with “She” whoever “She” may be, “She” is a woman of low social status and poor character. Many refer to this punch line as the most universal joke available, for the seemingly endless situations for which it can be applied. For example: [Holding a friend’s book bag you ask] are you finished yet, I am getting tired of holding this? Friend replies, “That’s What She Said”. Here is a video entailing a group of students capitalizing on the endless opportunities that arose for them to abuse the punch line over the course of their study session.
The resurfacing of the “That What She Said” punch line over the last three years serves as a perfect example of how women are objectified, especially in Western society. Objectification refers to the practice of treating a person as an instrument (object) of one’s sexual gratification. Fellow blogger Christine Yau discusses other instances in which women are objectified in her article “Women are Objects” .
There is a binary classification system of women; they are regarded either as objects of sexual desire or women of purity and sexual virtue. When women try to straddle the in between area of the two extremes they are often shamed by their peers (refer to diagram below for further clarification). A woman that enjoys the act of sexual intercourse with multiple sex partners (through non-monogamous relationships) is Taboo. Often peers call women who have sex outside non-monagamous grating names such as: slut, hoe, floozie, tramp, skank, etc… If we observe the usage of male counterpart “That’s what He said”, it will become obvious the punch line is not as equally abused. There is a reason for this, bluntly speaking there is greater connotative humor associated with using the pronoun “She” instead of “He”. Also, a promiscuous man is accepted as a societal norm and is not shamed, but glorified. In fact, conversely to women young bachelors are expected to have multiple partners as a display of their masculinity and sexual vigor.
Some progress has been made in the last 20 years with the binary classification of women especially in urban metropolitan areas such as New York, London, and Los Angeles where the binary classification of women has largely subsided. However, even so the binary classification system still subtly exists in all aspects of modern-day life. So should the “That’s What She Said” punch line be considered a shameless Joke or should it be considered offensive to all Women? Before, the answer is presented I would like to point to a similar sister joke “Go to the Kitchen and Make Me a Sandwich”. Both jokes are sexist in nature, however the latter one is outrageously so. Unlike “Make Me a Sandwich” jokes, the “That’s What She Said” punch line depends solely on a person’s word choice (which is completely random). As a result the punch line is directed equally and used by both genders. Personally, for me it is particularly amusing to use the punch line in the most grammatically ambiguous of situations for the best comedic effect. The “That What She Said” punch line should not be considered offensive, however it is understandable if it is considered immature. After all this debate it would be truly ironic if “She” in the punch line actually turns out to be a man named “She”.“That’s What She Said” is a testament of how far we have come as a society we have come to point of extreme trivial amusement. Ending on that note here is a video from Funny or Die humorously giving an anecdotal origin to the punch line (The Origin of That’s What She Said)
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[Last updated 9/20/12]