University News

Spotlight: New female group satirizes gender stereotypes

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

After one year, 200 subscribers and dozens of emails from an old man who blogs about love and cats, the RIB —  Brown’s first all-female comedy group — is finally on the map. The group attained Category I student group status in the fall from the Undergraduate Council of Students, making it the “new baby” of the College Hill comedy scene, said Rachel Borders ’13, co-founder of the group.

But the RIB’s journey began last spring, when Borders and Maria Acabado ’13, another co-founder and contributing writer for The Herald, were approached by a student who wanted them to be editors for a comedy publication written by women.

“Maria and I got a group of girls together to write comedy for it, but that publication never really took off,” said Borders, who writes for the BlogDailyHerald.

With this “new group of funny girls” and the comedic content they had already written for the original publication, Borders and Acabado decided to create their own comedy group and launch a website with the new material.

When the group’s blog went live in the summer of 2011, the RIB was born. Its name, derived from the biblical account of woman’s creation from man’s rib, also carries a second meaning — “to rib” as in “to joke.”

Now the group’s membership has approached 30 writers, all of whom contribute regularly to the online publication. Their writing includes Brown-related humor but also covers topics such as the dynamics of party dancing and the national presidential race.

The group’s site has garnered an online following from College Hill and beyond.

Among an assortment of subscribers to the blog is “Chris Sheridan,” a 55-year-old man who frequently posts his “creepy” opinions in response to the group’s sex-related posts, Borders said.

“It makes us happy that our humor transcends Brown,” she said. “I’m happy that we’re able to create stuff that entertains even old men.”

Receiving comments from readers the group does not know is “great personal entertainment,” Acabado added.

As a relatively young student group, the RIB has not chosen a specific angle for its material.

“Because we haven’t narrowed ourselves down yet, we can really do whatever we want,” Acabado said.

Still, while the content of the articles varies by post and writer, much of the RIB’s humor satirizes gender stereotypes in comedy and elsewhere. Posts are often classified under categories such as “Life on College Hill,” “Study a Broad,” “That Time of the Month” and “What are Sports?”

Even the group’s self-description on the site recounts its history in a satirical manner. According to the site, the founding members of the group came together, “synchronized their cycles” and “participated in exactly 17 semi-nude pillow fights” before officially publishing their work as a group.

“It was actually 18 (semi-nude pillow fights),” Borders said. But the group does not only write about “lady things” because they have more “intelligence than to only talk about our boobs,” she said.

The blog’s most popular post yet, a satire on the ongoing search for a new University president, has more than 10,000 views and was featured on the front page of WordPress, the site that hosts the blog. Written by Bryna Cofrin-Shaw ’14, the post is entitled “BREAKING NEWS: Presidential Search Committee Document Leaked.” In the post, Cofrin-Shaw unveils “news” of a memo from the Presidential Search Committee, documenting its “nationwide search … for a Native American, transsexual, Muslim, trilingual adopted woman” whose “degrees and experience in academia are fairly unimportant.”

“The purpose of this search is to identify any possible individual who fits this description,” the fake document continues, “and make her our next President.”

Other popular posts include commentary on the celebrity Kardashian family — Emily Spinner’s ’13 post entitled “Kim Kardashian is Krazy; Love is Not Real” pokes fun at the celebrity’s notoriously short 72-day marriage.

“The Kardashian family continues to prove to be one big, hairy tease,” Spinner writes. “They’ll invite you to lunch to watch Kris Jenner get wasted from a casual six glasses of Chardonnay and then rip you to shreds for admitting you don’t want six kids before the age of 32.”

Yet another post playing on gender stereotypes is Borders’ post, “When a Baby Cries,” a piece of writing that can convince even “the baby lovers to hate babies,” she said.

“When a baby cries, I’m reminded of three things,” Borders writes. “One, the next two generations will be significantly uglier because they won’t inherit my genes. Two, that baby will one day grow up to be part of 99 percent. … And last, there are now 7 billion bitching people on the planet.”

Beyond gracing the Internet with its witty social commentary, the group’s mission addresses a specific need for women’s presence in the College Hill comedy scene.

“It’s kind of surprising that there wasn’t something in place before this,” Spinner said.

Other members of the group offered perspectives from their involvement in other comedy groups.

“A lot of times on campus, for whatever reason, girls get pushed aside in comedy,” Borders said. “We’re excited that girls are getting noticed more doing comedy in a positive way.”

Lisa Franklin ’14, while not a member of the RIB, is one of two women involved in Brown Stand-Up Comics and is a copy editor for the Brown Noser. As a woman in comedy, it can be “tough at times,” she said.

“None of the problems that arrive from having two women in a group of 17 has to do with the fact that any of the members are sexist or mean-spirited or intolerant,” Franklin said. What can be frustrating for Franklin, though, is “having to explain to guys that a joke is really sexist,” she said. While their group is mostly male, their audience is usually not. An audience that is less male-dominated “may not find a joke funny,” Franklin said.

“It’s sort of frustrating sometimes knowing that you’re the only voice that can bring that balance,” she said.

Franklin said she thought that targeting a specific demographic to join a group — like the RIB did when it sought only female contributors — could seem “frustrating and regressive,” but “if you get 15 people who haven’t participated in comedy before, that’s fantastic.”

“I don’t think it’s a secret that girls are funny, women are funny,” Acabado said. “And they can write a funny joke just as well as any guy.” The group aims to create a “fun, laid-back environment for funny girls,” she said, especially on a campus of “male-dominated comedy groups.”

The group is just in its growing stages, Borders said. They constantly seek new members, though they don’t have plans to apply for re-categorization at this time. But that doesn’t stop them from dreaming big.

“A lot of times when people think of comedy, they think of (New York University), Northwestern  or Harvard,” Borders said. “We want them to think of Brown.”

Regardless of its status as an all-female comedy group, the RIB wants to set one thing straight.

“We’re not out to prove anything,” Borders said. “We know women are funny. We’re just showing it.”

“In your face, Brown,” Acabado chimed in.