When I was a little girl, nobody ever told me that sexism could be so boring / by mrm

In his tedious, unsurprising, and tragically unfunny article attempting to convince me and explain to everyone else “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” Christopher Hitchens manages to recycle or regurgitate most – all? ah, but who wants to count – of the dominant, easily accessible, and entirely unproved patriarchal platitudes about women’s relationship to humor.

Before you ask: yes, I am aware that this article appeared in a column entitled “Provocation.” I am equally aware that Hitchens is generally more interested in loudly exclaiming his point of view than engaging in any sort of dialogue. I could say, I suppose, that this is because he’s a man, and as such chiefly interested in the sound of his own voice. But I’m actually rather bored by such lame and predictable gender stereotyping. Would that we all were.

The article is jam-packed with such smug expressions of condescension as “…Women, bless their tender hearts, would prefer that life be fair, and even sweet, rather than the sordid mess it actually is.” Hitchens also refers to women as “cunning minxes;” whether or not this is an intentional slant rhyme with cunnilingus I’ll leave for someone else to decide.

Hitchens is not, of course, claiming that women have no sense of humor – after all, they laugh at men’s jokes. Nor is he claiming that no women are funny. He is happy to acknowledge that some are. Just not many. And not often.

He bolsters his claim of general female unfunnyness with such nods to scientific fact as “[women] are partly ruled in any case by the moon and the tides.” Well, of course they are! When I’m menstruating, I always think to myself: how lucky men are not to be partly ruled by the moon and the tides! Damn you, tyrant moon! When will you lift your cruel lunar tax, and give my people full enfranchisement! This of course explains why a woman can’t be president. She has a secret loyalty to the moon and the tides. Why, she’d sell the U.S. short at the drop of a hat! Or perhaps that bit was meant to be a joke. In which case, and it pains me to say this, I do believe I’ve heard it before. Starting when I was twelve and off and on with slight variation but without cease ever since. For a dash more science, Hitchens cites a Stanford University School of Medicine study which surveyed – brace yourself! – ten men and ten women. But of course, if it was done by Stanford, it must be conclusive.

“Good grief!” he moans at one point “Is there anything less funny than hearing a woman relate a dream she’s just had?” Yes. Many things. Let’s start with pick up lines, and move on from there.

Hitchens continues (and continues and continues, as this back and forth has gone on long past the publication of his article) to assert that men have to be funny in order to pursue women, and that women don’t have to be funny, because they don’t have to pursue men. He doesn’t seem bothered by his yawn-inducing attitudes of male as active pursuer and female as passive recipient of sexual interest. Not to mention his heteronormativity. But while we’re on the subject, let’s mention it. He never addresses this question, but I wonder: would Hitchens argue that gay men aren’t funny?

Furthermore, he is so good as to inform us that “[t]here are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians.” I looked for a citation, but it didn’t exist. Why not? Because he made it up. Because as anyone – anyone! – can tell you, there are far, far more male stand-up comedians than female stand-up comedians. Why that is may be a different matter (I’ll take the sexist climate of the stand-up community for starters), but the sheer wild imbalance of the ratio effectively makes his assertion impossible.

All of this, of course, not having been quite enough, Hitchens is happy to remind us that “[f]or women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing.” Ah well, so much for the past hundred and fifty odd years of feminism. Glad that’s over with.

I do not feel compelled to make the case that women are in fact as funny as men. I contend that the burden of disproof lies with the opposition, and that I am thus far unimpressed and unamused – unless of course, the whole thing was supposed to be a big laugh at all of these outdated, unverifiable, and old-fashioned assumptions.

But I doubt it.

Perhaps I shouldn’t expect anything better from Hitchens, however. Despite his lefty credentials, he’s often shown himself to be primarily interested in polarizing and pontificating.

Of course, the truly interesting question here is: why the eff ewe sea kay did
Vanity Fair – which, last time I checked, was still a women’s magazine – publish this piece?

Maybe in a future issue, they’ll publish shocking – and provocative – works of “journalism” such as: Why Women Aren’t as Smart as Men. Too obviously sexist? Okay, how about: Why Women Aren’t as Interested in Making Money as Men. Because as we all know, women just don’t make as much money. Well, they’re just not as greedy! You see, women, all women, have BABIES, and so they’re more compassionate. More nurturing. Less cut-throat, less competitive. By nature. What, you don’t believe me? But it’s science!

p.s. I know that this article originally appeared in January 2007. Well, I’ve only just come across it, via something else (I seem to remember it being thoroughly panned in bitch magazine). Come on, you’re shocked I don’t read
Vanity Fair?