Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Women's humor

If you haven't read this cool article on women and humor, please do. I particularly liked this part:

“My mom had me when she was 40,” Fey said once on “Weekend Update.” “This was back in the ’70s, when the only ‘fertility aid’ was Harveys Bristol Cream. So waiting is just a risk that I’m gonna have to take. And I don’t think I could do fertility drugs, because, to me, six half-pound translucent babies is not a miracle — it’s gross.”

The best women comics often have that kind of bitchy edge. Joan Rivers, 71, is enjoying a career renaissance playing to a young generation weekly in New York . Roseanne Barr was bitchy, gross and successful on the air from 1988 through 1997, and Marcy Carsey, one of the creators of “Roseanne,” knew just how to get the show on the air after the honchos at Capital Cities balked.

Oh, I hope so. I am really bitchy, which means that I'll never be described by anyone as "nice" right off the bat. But if that means that I'm funny, well hell, I never wanted to nice. But I desperately want to be funny--deep down inside, I wish I were Oscar Wilde.

This part is really on the ball:

In fun, I said the following sentence to Howard Kurtz, one of The Washington Post’s stuffiest shirts: “I’d be happy to give the president a blow job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.”

It was even more fun to hear the blister sisters’ gasping laughter on the phone the morning they read that quote in the newspaper. It wasn’t until later — after a significant number of my more career-minded peers expressed their horror, and after my name and the word “blow job” were forever intertwined on Google — that I realized what a taboo I’d violated. Men take blow jobs a lot more seriously than women.

The phrase sounds funny and brings to mind images that are highly amusing. Men realize their penises are ridiculous too, but while they joke about them, they take them very seriously indeed. Men laugh harder at masturbation jokes than we do, but notice their unease if a woman tells a small-penis joke. In this man’s world, at least half the population won’t find anything funny in such an offer made in jest.

It's tough to be a woman who cracks jokes, because men will come into your sights as often as not. As Molly Ivins points out, Texas women particularly have a rowdy sense of humor because it's the best way to survive in such a misogynist state. I have gotten some of my biggest belly laughs just hanging out with the good ol' girls in beauty salons and the like.

But, as is true probably everywhere, women laugh harder when men aren't in earshot. I can't remember where I first read this, but I remember reading about how Margaret Atwood gave a reading and afterward asked everyone in the audience to write down what he/she feared most from the opposite sex. Women wrote things like rape and abuse; men wrote that they feared being laughed at. Women are not to laugh at men--I offend at least three men a day in the online world by cracking jokes at them.

I think this isn't the issue that it maybe used to be. Men couldn't be mocked by women because it was a hierarchy issue--inferiors don't laugh at superiors. At least not to their face. The ironic thing is top dogs make things worse because their refusal to be laughed at means that the laughter is always happening right around the corner....through the door....down the street....

It's going on, but they can't prove it, which ratchets the paranoia up many levels. In social settings where men and women fall more into "traditional" gender roles, nothing will cause as much discomfort amongst a group of men than a group of women right at the edge of earshot breaking out into hysterical laughter. But in some places, men are used to funny women and don't feel that they are above getting cracked on by a woman. I don't dog my friends as hard as some guys do, but I more than hold my own and as far as I can tell, no one thinks much of it.

Being funny is sexy. Most men and women both put "sense of humor" on the top of lists of what they are looking for in a mate. I think that often we assume that means that women want funny guys where guys want to meet girls that laugh at their jokes. But it's unfair to just assume that anymore--a good number of those men want a woman who makes him laugh, and the women want someone who laughs at her jokes.

40 Comments:

Blogger Elayne said...

Nice essay, Amanda! I'm not sure that "inferiors don't laugh at superiors," though. That's been one of the staples of comedy, from the days of the jesters through today's political satire, the idea that we can puncture the people in power through humor. What isn't funny is when superiors laugh at inferiors - racist and sexist humor, for instance, isn't so much humor as it is just meanness.

9/21/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

True--I guess I should have said inferiors don't laugh at superiors--to their faces.

9/21/2004

 
Blogger Astarte said...

Funny story...

I'm working on becoming a full-time programmer, so I soend a lot of time in the cubicles of other programmers so that I can learn what they're doing.

Friday, I think it was, I was sitting there and a co-worker came by and interrupted to ask a question. This is a guy I joke around with a lot, and have known for a long time (actually, both of them are). During their conversation, I'm playing with a pair of scissors, and when it's over, I look up at him menacingly, open the scissors, and say, 'Drop your pants'.

He gave me a fake-mortified look, and I sat there cracking up. I know he didn't take it too seriously, but it did engender a more serious remark than, say, if someone said, 'Oh, you're just being a chick.'

9/21/2004

 
Anonymous sarah said...

Random comment, but I enjoyed the article....about a year back, I was told by a guy I worked with that the reason I didn't have a boyrfriend was because no one wanted to date someone who was "bitchy". I was somewhat confused, because I never considered myself a bitch, as I try to be nice to people, but apparently my "bitchy" humor was unattractive.....maybe I'm overly sensitive, but as a woman in physics I encounter these stereotypes regularly. Anyway, keep on writing:)

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