It’s not a new debate, but I still spent a good chunk of time yesterday reading articles about the (ridiculous) question of whether or not women are funny, as funny as men, required to be pretty and funny to be successful, only truly successful when they’re not pretty…
Part of me doesn’t even want to dignify this with a response. It’s frankly a ridiculous question. It seems so obvious to me that the answer is, “Of course women are funny, and can be just as funny as men. There’s no male organ that controls humor that women somehow lack.” Because listen, I may have only taken AP Biology but I’m pretty sure the seat of humor isn’t generally hidden by your pants.
There are tons of really great articles that articulate my position in this whole “debate,” one of which is Emily Schorr Lesnick’s study on women in improvisation which you can read here. I’m weighing in mostly because I was so darn cheesed off by Christopher Hitchens’ January 2007 (told you this has been going on for awhile) article entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”
The major thing I want to say about this is that I think people have to be careful about using speculation and pop psychology and pseudo-biological-slash-evolutionary arguments instead of actual social science and research. Ms. Schorr Lesnick conducted interviews of female and male performers and performed research that resulted in a paper produced for consumption by both the general public and the anthro-sociological community. Mr. Hitchens made guesses based on the fact that women bear children and that men have to impress them to find mates. Sure, he quoted a study. That study said that, in their one experiment, women had brain activity that appears to say that they anticipate the punch line a little bit less than men and tend to enjoy it more because of the corresponding surprise. Which Mr. Hitchens then turns into, “Is it any wonder that [women] are backward in generating [humor]?”
I’m sorry, what?
And then to extensively quote Kipling, TOTES FAMOUS for his super-enlightened ideas about women, in a poem that I have never heard quoted in a complimentary light, and to use that as his background, like Kipling was some kind of expert…can you see why I went into rage-mode?
It’s so easy to use pseudo-science and speculation to come up with a theory that sounds plausible. I’ll do it right now! Let’s see. I posit that…men leave the toilet seat up because as apes, they would pee all over things as a way of marking their territory and that covering up the place where they peed would blur their claim and potentially allow other males to believe that the territory was up for grabs. Possible? …sure, whatever, who knows, YOU CAN’T PROVE IT’S NOT TRUE.
The thing is, then you put that out into the world, and people who already are looking for ways to reinforce something that, believe it or not, probably has to do a lot more with socialization and the power structure of society than biology, can grab onto it and use it to reinforce their position of privilege. And the people who don’t want to believe it think, huh, well, that does sound plausible, maybe they’re right, maybe I shouldn’t try to keep doing this thing if my biology is against me as well as these people out there.
As for specifically whether or not women are funny–my female friends regularly make me choke, seize up, stop breathing, and spit things out my nose with laughter. I adore female comedians who have all kinds of different looks. Some of my favorite improv performers are women. So…I’m sorry, what was the question? It better the heck be rhetorical.
You may just not be able to see where we collectively marked our comedic territory, since we were considerate enough to keep the dang seat down.