Depends who’s asking

Hitchens makes a very silly opening argument in this conspicuously silly piece, winsomely titled ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny’. (Is this part of his Kingsley Amis shtick? KA was brilliant, but the routine misogyny was hardly his funniest or most interesting bit.)

However, there is something that you absolutely never hear from a male friend who is hymning his latest (female) love interest: “She’s a real honey, has a life of her own … [interlude for attributes that are none of your business] … and, man, does she ever make ’em laugh.” Now, why is this? Why is it the case?, I mean. Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.

Come on. The fact that men don’t say their latest female love interest is funny doesn’t mean that women aren’t funny. Surely that ought to be obvious enough. Consider – someone tells you about her recent trip to Chicago, and doesn’t mention the Art Institute; that doesn’t mean that she didn’t go to the Art Institute. Someone tells you about her new car and doesn’t describe the back seat; that doesn’t mean her car doesn’t have a back seat. Someone tells you about her hike on Mount Rainier and doesn’t mention seeing an eagle; that doesn’t mean she didn’t see an eagle. The fact (if it is a fact) that men don’t say their newest girlfriends are funny could have nothing to do with the women and everything to do with what men notice and care about and talk about to other men. As long as we’re making sweeping generalizations, here’s one to sit next to Hitch’s: men don’t care whether women are funny or not, they care about other, more practical features. Or here’s a different and even unkinder one: men don’t like women who have senses of humour; men want women to laugh at their jokes, not say funny things themselves. Here’s another: men are threatened by women with senses of humour.

Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.

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