Friday, December 08, 2006

A Compendium of Phallusies

In other non-news: Dashing, sleek and sexy he may be, but Christopher Hitchens is ever-increasingly full of shit. Check out his latest at Vanity Fair: Why Women Arent Funny

What an incredibly pompous, sexist, homophobic, racist and stupid piece. If ever I teach frehsman rhetoric again it will serve beautifully as a compendium of fallacies.

A short treatment of a few totally bullshit generalities here, starting the thesis:

1. "Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?"

Maybe they're just not funny in front of fat, pompous, chain-smoking poseurs, or maybe said poseurs often don't get the joke -- but in my experience women are at least as funny as men.

2. "Women appeared to have less expectation of a reward, which in this case was the punch line of the cartoon," said the report's author, Dr. Allan Reiss."So when they got to the joke's punch line, they were more pleased aboutit." The report also found that "women were quicker at identifying materialthey considered unfunny."

3. Haven't read the study but, Jesus, that excerpt sure sounds like a whole lot of wild (and perhaps projective) extrapolation. Yeah, that's the ticket, "punchline" is just like "orgasm" according to the male scienstist; women just don't get 'em as much as men, so they're superappreciateive when they do, but boy are they quick to complain when they don't.

Hitch doesn't find this ridiculous however, he buys it whole hog. From his description, at least, this study sounds like textbook crap-science-- proceeding from flawed premises through tiny samples and dubious methods to foregone conclusions.

3. "Men will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is, or they are, extremely stupid."

Speak for yourself Hitch. This is, I suppose, Hitch's attempt at "self-defecation", and also false modesty, and again, of course, utter bullshit. Find a really funny, smart guy and you'll find somebody who laughs with considerable discrimination.

4. "Women aren't like that [he means 'stupid']. And the wits and comics among them are formidable beyond compare: Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz,Ellen DeGeneres. (Though ask yourself, was Dorothy Parker ever really funny?) "

Just pathetic. Hitchens imagines that these are the funny girls among us. It's rather as if he were trying to show his hipness by grooving to Madonna or Nirvana. And yes, by the way, Dorothy Parker was often drop-dead funny. And if you want a really really funny gal from the same era, try another DP, Dawn Powell, maybe Angels on Toast or The Locusts Have No King for some truly harrowing laughs.

5. "Also, humor is largely aggressive and pre-emptive, and what's more malethan that?"
Right, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Fielding, Joyce -- all about the snarky put-down. They'd be doing sitcoms today, or standup. Really.
6. "There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there."

What scientific study produced this factoid? Does he mean more proportionally or simply more. This is a surprising claim since I'm fairly certain there are many, many more male comedians than female."

7. "Most of them [comediennes] though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three."

Yikes! My unscientific "review of the situation" in the clubs of Hollywood, on the cable channels etc., suggests that this is, once again, utter bullshit. Lotsa Jewish girls it's true. Maybe it has something to do with the way they'realso less afraid to be smart.

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

In response to this utterly racist reduction of Jewish humor to stereotype, two words: Sarah Silverman.

9. "Men are overawed, not to say terrified, by the ability of women to produce babies."

Riiiigght.... Maybe I'm being egocentric here, but not being consciously overawed myself, I'm skeptical about the general run of the lunkish sex. All of the bullshit mytho-poetic-anthropological apparatus Hitchens appends here sounds like urban legend, projection of the badly-phased Margaret Meade variety, and quintessential putana/Madonna crap. Anybody who mythologizes others with such hyperventilating exaltation is overcompensating for his latent bigotries. Hitch's view of women can be precisely reduced to: "life givers yes, but dumb cunts nonetheless."

Anyway, I could, but won't, go on almost line by line. This is some of the worst writing ever, anywhere on humor, stupidly wrong in almost every particular. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Hitch, of course knows funny, and feels qualified to judge any and all on their ability to discern and or produce same -- just check his uproarious performance on Bill Maher for evidence of this.

Having once dated a female psychologist who studied humor and sexual attraction, I have learned, in the most pleasant way possible, a fair amount about this particular subject. The short answer to Hitch's assinine question is: In many cases women "aren't" funny for the same reason they "aren't" smart -- because flabby, pasty, pretentious, flaccid, ridiculous little fellows like Hitchens are intimidated by funny women, just as they are by smart ones. Thus, traditionally it hasn't paid to be funny if you're a woman. Quite the reverse. Barrels of, nay, shipsfull of ink were exhausted in 18th and 19th century England on learned treatises about the way wit marred an otherwise perfect female character. This is what Jane Austen, perhaps the most subversively funny writer in the language, was on about so much, though she had to lay it between the lines. (Hitchens may've been in the Oxford pub the day they took this up in Lit History. )
As my scientist friend put it pithily: When in the personals ads a woman asks for sense of humor, she means "must make me laugh." When a man, or rather a man like Hitchens, claims to want a sense of humor he means, "must laugh at my jokes."
In closing, some traditional verse on the subject:
Miles Gloriosus
The bigger the hero, the harder the ardor;
in triumph behold the big dicks on us!
But there's nary a boner
which won't wilt when the owner
knows the beholder finds him ridiculous.


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