Gene Weingarten: The Pinocchio factor

Gene Weingarten
Columnist September 5, 2012

The only truth to so far emerge from the presidential campaign is that truth no longer really matters; the lies and exaggerations on both sides are breathtaking, but voters seem to have accepted it as just a dirty part of the show, like folding-chair attacks in pro wrestling.

If it’s okay for pols, why not for columnists?

Gene Weingarten is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writes "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. View Archive

You know how I occasionally take on feminist Gina Barreca and generally lose because Gina is smarter, funnier and better informed than I am? What if I was not hampered by the need to stick to the truth? I decided to call Gina to discuss the results of three studies that I completely made up.

Gene: Researchers in the Czech Republic subjected bonobo monkeys to stress under various scenarios, and found that the females were more likely to “go to pieces” — i.e., act in a hysterical ways that actually worsened the crisis. Male bonobos tended to make more rational decisions that ameliorated the cause of the stress.

Gina: Oh, please. “Go to pieces” is such a male term. That alone is showing the inherent male bias of the researchers.


(by Eric Shansby)

Gene: (ruffling blank sheets of paper) I see here that the two researchers were named “Klara” and “Hildegarde.”

Gina: Crap. Well, I’d still question the nature of “going to pieces.” It’s very subjective.

Gene: Well, one of the stressors was a taxidermized crocodile. The male bonobos intelligently tried to seek higher ground. The females just shrieked at it.

Gina: Believe me, every woman on Earth has met that taxidermized crocodile. He is at every party and lurking behind every fifth personal ad. If you seek higher ground, he’ll just look up your skirt. Shrieking is usually more effective.

Gene: The second stressor was that all the fruit in the habitat was replaced overnight with plastic fruit. The males went foraging for new food sources. The females destroyed the plastic food. And they castigated the males, for some reason.

Gina: Of course they were angry! They thought they’d been tricked into a low-fat diet. “You don’t look good in that dress.” They recognized passive-aggressive behavior and were having no part of it. It was highly intelligent behavior.

Gene: Let’s move to a recent study at Duke that has concluded that professional women who self-identify as “feminists” scored seven points lower on standard IQ tests than women who did not identify as feminists.

Gina: Duke is in the South. Smart Southern women have developed strategic protective camouflage. They learn not to self-identify as feminists. They’ll bat their eyelashes and say, “I’m not a feminist, bless your sweet heart,” then take your job away from you. That explains the results. The stupid ones weren’t the real feminists.

Gene: I have to admit you’re doing pretty well here, considering.

Gina: Considering what?

Gene: Nothing. Computer scientists in Denmark found statistically significant differences in intelligence between people of different national origins, sorted also by gender. Jewish men of European extraction showed greatest aptitudes. Women of Italian descent were next to last. Italian women, dumb. Jewish men, smart.

Gina: Oh, God.

Gene: Sorry, babe. Facts are facts.

Gina: Okay, but who would you rather have make dinner for you?

Gene: I win! You lose! You had to petition for sympathy, using a kitchen stereotype, no less. This making-stuff-up thing works!

Gina: What?

Gene: Oh, I made all that %*!$ up.

(Two minutes of cursing ensues.)

Gina: Actually, with no requirement for truth, you should have done better. Simone de Beauvoir once said, “The treachery of men is limited only by their lack of imagination, which fortunately makes them infantile, transparent and ineffectual adversaries.”

Gene: Whoa.

Gina: So, I win.

Gene: Did she really say that?

Gina: No.

E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.

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