On closer reading

All righty. I was told to read Hitchens’s ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny’ more carefully, so I did, and was unsurprised to find more silly stuff, which I feel like poking a stick at. (You may say that he’s being ironic throughout. He’s not though. I recognize some of the thoughts from other work and from interviews; the stuff about childbirth and war for instance; he means it.)

While Jewish humor, boiling as it is with angst and self-deprecation, is almost masculine by definition.

Oh, is it? I must be a man then. (Mind you, I often think that, when I read journalism about what women are and what men are. When I read that women are caring and co-operative and warm and fascinated by Relationships, I conclude that I’m a man; when I read that men are indifferent and argumentative and cold and bored rigid by Relationships, I conclude that I’m a man. So it goes.) Angst and self-deprecation are male? Come on. I’m in a permanent state of angst, usually about a minimum of seventeen different things, and my dial is also stuck on self-deprecation. Yes yes, I know I’m conceited, I don’t deny that, but I’m also self-deprecating, dammit! Furthermore – I don’t know if Hitchens is aware of this (I would suspect not) but men are often more pseudo-self-deprecating than really self-deprecating. They pretend to self-deprecate but do it in a subtly self-flattering way. They tell stories about their own rudeness or social ineptitude or jokes that everyone misunderstood, so that it seems as if they’re deprecating the old self but in fact they’re reporting on how unconventional and zany and clever they are. So there, Hitch – you do that yourself; you know you do.

Male humor prefers the laugh to be at someone’s expense, and understands that life is quite possibly a joke to begin with—and often a joke in extremely poor taste. Humor is part of the armor-plate with which to resist what is already farcical enough…Whereas women, bless their tender hearts, would prefer that life be fair, and even sweet, rather than the sordid mess it actually is.

Well, there we are again – I must be a man then. But besides that, preference is one thing and understanding is another. Preferring life to be unfair is not incompatible with understanding that it’s not. Aren’t men supposed to be good at logic? Come on, Hitch, pull your socks up.

Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals.

Okay, he got that bit right. Well done. (Except he could have pointed out that we believe we become threatening to men if we appear too bright as a result of experience. It’s not just some superstition.)

For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing. Apart from giving them a very different attitude to filth and embarrassment, it also imbues them with the kind of seriousness and solemnity at which men can only goggle.


Humor, if we are to be serious about it, arises from the ineluctable fact that we are all born into a losing struggle. Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can’t afford to be too frivolous…I am certain that this is also partly why, in all cultures, it is females who are the rank-and-file mainstay of religion, which in turn is the official enemy of all humor.

Oh look, it’s the bottom of the barrel! It is males who are the non-rank-and-file mainstay of religion, after all, so why pin the humor-enmity of religion on women?

Okay, I read it more carefully, and found that it’s a lot more riddled with bad arguments than I had realized.

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