Why Are People Who Argue Women Aren’t Funny Not Funny?
Christopher Hitchens, rare funny arguer of the unfunny female
Bored magazine columnists have debated for years as to why women are, or are not, funny. Inspired by Tiger Beatdown's post yesterday on another drop in the unfunny girl barrel—a study that found that women do not immediately react to the sight of a unicycle with humor (I fucking wonder why)—I believe it's time to rephrase the question.
Why are those who argue that women are not funny so unfunny?
First, let us review:
Funny women are not sexy. According to a 2006 study by Eric Bressler and Sigal Balshine, women rated "funny" men as more sexually attractive than men they didn't find funny. The opposite was not true. "And women, don't start trying to tell jokes to attract men," writes Tom Siegfried of the study. "The study found that men rated 'funny' women as no more desirable than the others."
Women don't have enough testosterone to be funny, concluded Professor Sam Shuste, after riding around a lot on his unicycle and noting that only men made fun of him. "The sex difference was striking. 95% of adult women were praising, encouraging or showed concern. There were very few comic or snide remarks. In contrast, only 25% of adult men responded as did the women, for example, by praise or encouragement; instead 75% attempted comedy, often snide or combative as an intended put-down."
Women are too concerned with having babies to be funny, according to this classic Vanity Fair piece by Christopher Hitchens. "Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can't afford to be too frivolous," he writes. "One tiny snuffle that turns into a wheeze, one little cut that goes septic, one pathetically small coffin, and the woman's universe is left in ashes and ruin. Try being funny about that, if you like."
Women are not funny because Germaine Greer needs to explain why she said women were not funny. Reasons include: They focus too much on bras and weight loss, cut down other women, are bad at improvisation, aren't competetive enough, would prefer to marry than work, and they're not desperate enough to be funny to get laid.
Those tasked with defending women in comedy have their own explanations for why women are not funny.
Women write their own stuff now. Alessandra Stanley begins her Vanity Fair response, "Who Says Women Aren't Funny?" strangely: "There are people who lament that no women now are as funny as Carole Lombard or Barbara Stanwyck in the screwball comedies of Lubitsch, Sturges, and Hawks. They are missing the point: today’s comediennes are on television, where they are often responsible for their own material." So, women aren't as funny as they were before, but at least they write their own material now, which is less funny than the male material they used to do.
The comedy environment is too hostile for women. In a response to Greer, Lynne Parker writes: "Moreover, there has been a common perception that comedy is a hostile environment for women. We are compliant in creating this image. The practicalities of life on the circuit are not for the faint-hearted—many hours on the road and antisocial hours do not engender a traditional home life. Many a promising female act has given up the juggling of career, marriage and motherhood, even temporarily, for the sake of an easier life."
Women are not socialized to be funny, as men are. On Broadsheet, Kate Harding responds to Greer: "Throughout the essay, Greer keeps offering great setups for an analysis of why women are culturally discouraged from developing and displaying robust senses of humor, then following them up with conclusions that amount to, 'We're from Venus — whaddaya gonna do?'"
Since all these arguements as to why women aren't funny—or why they're not allowed to be funny—are based on half-baked speculation and anecdotal evidence anyway, let's float a new theory: Why are people who argue that women aren't funny so unfunny?
The study by Bressler and Bashine showing that women are more attracted to funny men used the following statement as an example of humor: "Birthday cake is the only food you can blow on and spit on and everybody rushes to get a piece." The researchers themselves acknowledged that their funny statements were not very funny. "Given the sophomoric nature of some of our humorous statements, it is not surprising that participants did not ascribe 'intelligence' to our humorous individuals," they wrote. Perhaps women are actually more attracted to men who are not funny, and also stupid?
And those unicycle quips? "Equally striking [said Shuste] was the repetitive and predictable nature of the comments from men; two thirds of their 'comic' responses referred to the number of wheels—'Lost your wheel?,' for example." Hilarious.
Germaine Greer is humorless, but she gets a pass because she has a body that can produce children, and is without a good handle on the inherent comedy of the unicycle. (Christopher Hitchens, actually, is pretty funny).
So, we're not funny, the birthday cake and unicycle comedians of the world claim, because we're girls. What's their excuse?