The Male of the Specious

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Have you read Christopher Hitchens's essay in Vanity Fair, where he claims that women aren't funny? Actually, he doesn't argue that point so much as he accepts it as an immutable and incontestable fact, then examines how this tragic state of affairs has come about.

The first thing I noticed about this piece was that it wasn't remotely funny, though not for lack of trying. Hitchens's efforts to inject humor into his essay were heavy-handed and painful, like a gorilla's efforts to inject Novocain into your jaw. The illogic of his arguments was, well, numbing. He goes on forever, but his case boils down to this: Women aren't funny because they are, y'know, ladylike. Demure li'l thangs who are easily offended.

It was such a bad piece of work that it kind of left me speechless. Fortunately, I was able to get help from some of my friends, all of whom are funnier than I am.

- - -

Hitchens has written what is perhaps the most forward-thinking essay of 1918.

-- Mandy Stadtmiller

I notice that Hitchens quotes, as an authority on women, the famous romantic Rudyard Kipling. I'm surprised he didn't also quote Vince Lombardi. Kipling is the guy who once wrote, "A woman is just a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke."

Hitchens really reveals himself, though, when he writes that he spends his life trying and failing to get women to exhibit "deep-throated mirth." I think you can figure out exactly what this guy's really not getting, and why.

-- Gina Barreca

He says he doesn't think Dorothy Parker was "ever really funny." That must be because he never read her lesser-known collection, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fart and Pee Jokes.

-- Patricia Myers

The argument that he is making, persuasively, is not that women aren't funny -- it's that we aren't stupid. Because we discriminate and do not laugh at everything this trifling little man finds funny, he concludes that we have no sense of humor. This is like concluding that women hate the outdoors because we don't like to watch bass fishing on TV.


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