Okay, so, there was this piece by Olga Khazan in The Atlantic today. An article that, naturally, caught my attention right off the bat. There’s nothing particularly new about the argument that men don’t care much for funny women. I hear it all the time. Its sexist premise was quite often evident during my improv days, even though the women (minus me) were often much funnier. The local comedy groups, even the big groups in the cities, had a handful of funny women in their lineup, but there weren’t many. Of the professional shows I saw, the few women were always upstaged by their loud, stretchy-faced male counterparts, all vying for as much attention as they could garner.
Anyway, Khazan’s piece brought up some interesting, if troubling, bits of research on the matter (as much as The Atlantic writers are able to do with time constraints)…
According to evolutionary psychologist Gil Greengoss, the reason why men are presumably much more comfortable than women being funny is because, perhaps, they’re “willing to take more risks” when attempting to be funny, and thus, they attempt to be so more often. Because they crack jokes more often, even if their jokes fail miserably, the odds are better for them that they will certainly garner a laugh at some point. Khazan then indicates, since men make so many jokes/attempts at being funny, we naturally “assume” men as being “funnier,” no matter if their sense of humor is, actually, “funny.”
(So, yeah, bombard everyone with joke after joke after joke, no matter the joke, and by golly, the dude must be FUNNY.)
If, as Khazan states, “women want men to tell jokes; men want women who will laugh at theirs,” then, shit, well, we’ve all been conditioned to make certain males are the absolute center of attention, that the male ego must take priority. To take that away from them…by introducing a…oh, I don’t know…a funny woman (the horror!)…would be a turn-off, right? (No more attention FOR YOU, girlie girl!)
All in all, I find that a little too much, really.
Even worse though, there’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy happening with women: “Told that their humor isn’t wanted, many women don’t bother.” Seriously, keep reminding anyone of something that isn’t really true, and she or he gradually begins to accept it as truth.
What struck me as curious was that not once did Khazan employ any consideration of humor and gender from an international perspective of some sort, our overseas “parallels” (who aren’t, really, because they are so much better). I’m totally primarily thinking of England, of course. If any of this theoretical hokum is true, and men really are much more comfortable being with women who don’t take away all their funnyez, then how does one explain the evident “comfortableness” in having British comediennes on equal standing as their male counterparts (at least from what I’ve seen), and these are women who are not necessarily single.
I suppose it’s because the British — and I know I am so overgeneralizing — seem to be much freer, intellectually, not so constrained by gender stereotyping and restrictions as a result. Their idea of a desirable woman doesn’t seem quite as superficial as ours in the U.S. Funny women, as the research suggests, are smart, and in England, perhaps, that makes them desirable.
But is what is genuinely considered “funny” really “masculine”? And could that be yet another stupid-arsed reason why we frown on funny women here in the U.S. (unless, of course, they can tell fart jokes with the best of them)? I don’t think humor itself is particularly masculine, but I suppose I’ve never really thought of anything I’ve found funny so gender-specific. I don’t find slapstick or gross-out humor funny, and yeah, if I were to categorize that according to gender stereotypes/norms, that all would be (unfairly) categorized as “masculine.” However, I find that shallow and insulting to men simply because it has us stereotype them as being childish and superficial when it comes to humor and their tastes.
My own close male friends, family, and acquaintances understand the very nature of comedy, I think, which makes them world’s above the bullshit stereotypes who feel as if funny women have no place at the table. In fact, every single one of them has, or has had, relationships with funny women, women who never felt the need to keep her humor — her zaniness — subdued whatsoever.
If it is true, however, that many men have a hard time seeing “funny” women as even desirable, perhaps they simply need to check their own inflated egos at the door.