Bennie Jokes (1947-1990)

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Dublin Core

Title

Bennie Jokes (1947-1990)

Description

The earliest mention of "Bennie Jokes" in the student newspapers comes from an article in The Record published in 1947, when one Robert Duane Brown said, "...I was going to be the clever one again, and come forth with one of my sensational Bennie jokes; With the Bennie formal coming up I think that I'll keep relations cemented…” Here, the Bennie Joke is something that would be knowingly delivered to a crowd of Bennies, showing both its excessive flagrance and its intention, that would continue a tradition of "comedic sexism” lasting for another 50 years. Providing an example, Khyl Lyndgaard and Aaron Boatz wrote an article on Valentine’s Day in 1996 that was full of these jokes, with quips like:

“One good thing that did come out of Christmas was that several Bennies shattered the glass ceiling when some of the larger, bearded students landed jobs at several area malls as Santa Claus.”

“We also think there's a glitch in the dance floor. There is a sign up that says the floor is only rated for two tons or five Bennies, whichever comes first."

“Since the women came back to St. Ben's, seismologists have been baffled at daily tremors measuring up to 8.6 magnitude, and an apparent epicenter at the new St. Ben's track.”

”Jokes” like these were specifically targeted at and against the female students of the College of St. Benedict. It is also worth noting that there never existed any tradition whatsoever of recognized “Johnnie Jokes”, as these quips seemed to be aimed in only one direction. This attitude appears have been standard fare in order for the male students to have felt comfortable publishing these in the newspaper, and accounts from Bennies corroborate that. Kelly Gleason said in 1989:

“Within my first 24 hours on the CSB+SJU campus I heard what I thought were all the existing Bennie jokes. Since then, I've realized that was just the beginning. Not only was I supposed to gain 30 lbs. instead of the freshman 15; The jokes were funny, but not really. In the terror of acquiring a "Bennie butt," up to 30% of us, statistically, are starving or vomiting to keep that infamous rear end from becoming a reality.”

Evidently, these jokes were a mainstay of campus culture, and part of indoctrination into campus involved being bombarded with them to some degree. Yet, they clearly have massive consequences, as Gleason notes the statistic asserting that 30% of Bennies have eating disorders. Power dynamics were being strengthened by Johnnies under the cover of “comedy”, which negatively affected the mental health of Bennies at the time. A 1990 Record article about a variety show ends with the line: “Finally, the MC finished with his Johnnie and Bennie jokes," which shows how these jokes required integration in order to survive. Somehow, Bennie Jokes became acceptable if Johnnies also had a counterpart.

Date

1947-1990

Citation

“Bennie Jokes (1947-1990),” College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Libraries, accessed June 15, 2024, https://csbsjulib.omeka.net/items/show/1596.