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Accepted Paper:

And the fun we have there: Laughter and jokes as mechanisms of reverse dominance in female collective cosmetic rituals  


Elena Sims Fejdi (University of East London)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I will present the analysis of Bakhtinian female cosmetic rituals in the environment of direct sales cosmetics in Slovakia as instances of collective resistance to dominance.

Paper long abstract:

One of the main characteristics of these energetically costly and emotionally intense rituals were assertive laughter and lewd jokes that in Bakhtin's terms have the power to turn the existing hierarchies and power relations upside down. Women taking part in these rituals created a counter-culture of exaggerated femininity, bonding and ritual egalitarianism that was characterized by the morality of sharing, co-operation and reciprocity inhibiting any dominance hierarchy amongst the women.

Women in these carnivalesque cosmetic rituals accompanied by outbursts of shared laughter fostered the emergence of a temporal collective culture of reversal that subverted the individualism, competition and modesty of the expected everyday feminine behaviour in favour of loudness, joking, sharing, co-operation, immodesty and commitment to the female collectives. They reversed the economic logic of direct sales and replaced it with the moral economy of sharing.

In their ritual mode through collectively expressed agency women swung the 'pendulum of power' (Finnegan, 2013) and resisted the existing hierarchies between men and women. They collectively reversed the relationships of dominance to temporarily appropriate the social space in which these rituals were taking place for themselves.

Panel Irre05b
Laughing at the system: highlighting absurdity and failure through humour