Finally! I have been very concerned that repressive and reductive gender stereotypes may be losing their hold on our cultural imagination. Thankfully, two older, intellectual, inexplicably confident men have decided to prove that it's still possible to think of women as overly sentimental, funny-bone-less wombs.

The novelist V.S. Naipaul has had the good sense to say what everyone is, of course, always thinking: women can't write for shit. I mean, they are physically capable of writing, but their work will inevitably deal with the fripperies and insignificant sentimental fluffinesses of a Woman's Life. As Naipaul notes: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me." Their writing is formed, deformed, by their "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world". And "inevitably for a woman," he continues, sensing he's on to a good thing here, "she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too."

And then there's Christopher Hitchens, whom I've made a point of disliking for many years. He has produced one of the most skin-crawlingly smug, offensive, condescending articles in recent memory. Entitled "Why Women Aren't Funny", the article asserts that women naturally aren't funny, that if they accidentally happen to be funny, they are generally "hefty, or dykey, or Jewish" (although as we all know, "Jewish humor, boiling as it is with angst and self-deprecation, is almost masculine by definition"), that "women, bless their tender hearts, would prefer that life be fair, and even sweet, rather than the sordid mess it actually is" (unlike all men), that "women do not find their own physical decay and absurdity to be [...] riotously amusing" (as, apparently all men do), that "for women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing. Apart from giving them a very different attitude to filth and embarrassment, it also imbues them with the kind of seriousness and solemnity at which men can only goggle." For women, then, "the question of funniness is essentially a secondary one. They are innately aware of a higher calling that is no laughing matter." 

Although he claimed earlier that women (if I'm following his argument correctly and not distracted by my urge to let loose upon him a mob of hefty, dykey, infertile Jewish women) aren't funny partly because they prefer life to be sweet and not gross and depressing, he now appears to be asserting that they're unfunny for the opposite reason: because they are always aware of the fragility and tragedies of human life and are terrified of losing the tiny child that contributed to making them not funny in the first place. 

As he comments, "One tiny snuffle that turns into a wheeze, one little cut that goes septic, one pathetically small coffin, and the woman's universe is left in ashes and ruin. Try being funny about that, if you like. Oscar Wilde was the only person ever to make a decent joke about the death of an infant, and that infant was fictional, and Wilde was (although twice a father) a queer." I'm not entirely sure what he's getting at with the "queer" bit. Are queers more or less likely to mourn children? Are they more or less likely to be funny? 

Hitchens' article boasts more irresponsible, over-generalized statements and unsupported claims than...Bernie Madoff's resume (not funny)...a science class in Texas (not funny) interview with V.S. Naipaul (not funny, but totally true).

If only I didn't have female reproductive organs and therefore see no humour in filth, embarrassment, and the increasingly pendulous folds of my aging body, I might be able to pull off of comic gem like this one from Hitchens:

"Be your gender what it may, you will certainly have heard the following from a female friend who is enumerating the charms of a new (male) squeeze: 'He's really quite cute, and he's kind to my friends, and he knows all kinds of stuff, and he's so funny … ' (If you yourself are a guy, and you know the man in question, you will often have said to yourself, 'Funny? He wouldn't know a joke if it came served on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.')"

Hilarious! If I didn't believe in his thesis from the very beginning, I certainly did after I clapped eyes on that sauce crack. 

Hitchens, while discussing well-known progressive writer Rudyard Kipling, refers to the "great masculine equivalent to childbirth, which is warfare." Which is odd, because I always thought, because so many male authors said so, that the great masculine equivalent to childbirth was the production of Great Thoughts or Great Works of Art. A man's novel is his child. A man's painting is his child. A man's philosophical musings are his children...etc...etc... And I have to say that if that is the case, both Naipaul and Hitchens have managed to produce some astonishingly unattractive, sickly, aggravating kids. I anxiously await that tiny snuffle turning into a wheeze, that tiny cut going septic, so that I can put these articles in pathetically small coffins and go off and make a whole lot of jokes about shit.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.

6/17/2011 12:44:53 am

Thank God you didn't try and make this funny. Idv'e had to punch an ass in the neck. Not even sure which part of that is the metaphor.

11/2/2012 08:48:06 am

This is what ugly, unfunny, pompous men do to mentally wank themselves off.

Humour isn't the only outlet for insecurity. Sometimes insecurity finds its avenue through bigotry.


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