Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication

First Advisor

Richard B. Crosby


This thesis investigates the use of feminist humor paired with specific rhetorical strategies in Netflix Original comedy specials in order to identify how female comics are gaining success through their public social critique. Specifically, this thesis details the sparse history of women in stand-up comedy, debunking the claim that women are not funny and instead articulating the power structure at play, which has limited opportunities for women comics. This project asserts that Netflix is offering a significant number of women’s voices through the online streaming service, demonstrating a shift in popular culture with feminist implications. After detailing the historical context, an explanation of humor and feminism offers insights into how jokes are an interesting site for feminist investigation. A clear break down of joke structure and discussion of feminist thought links the concepts in order to set the stage for the later argument regarding feminist humor. Through linguistic analysis, a table of characteristics, definitions and examples has been developed to demonstrate how feminist humor is perceived in the context of this thesis. Following the introductory chapters, this thesis offers two conceptually-oriented analyses using close reading and visual analysis of jokes from stand-up comedy specials, which specifically use feminist humor.

A detailed account of the rhetorical use of subversion is applied to feminist humor in order to identify how women comics are using humor to subvert the patriarchy. An explanation of the rhetorical use of silence shows how silence has shifted from a tool for oppressing minority groups to a tool used by the oppressed as a conscious activist tactic. Then a close reading of jokes demonstrates what the rhetorical use of silence is doing for feminist humor. In conclusion, this thesis demonstrates the recent shift in popular stand-up comedy, citing instances of how women are using subversion and silence as social justice rhetoric.


Copyright Owner

Arline Karen Votruba



File Format


File Size

108 pages

Included in

Rhetoric Commons