Hitchhacker’s Guide to the Gal-Laugh Thing

James Nicoll posted a link to the infamous Hitchens Vanity Fair piece about women not being funny. (Unlike Hitchens himself, for instance.)

I’d seen it before, and was in two minds about commenting on it here. On the one hand my views of Hitchens are colored by politics, and I don’t want to make this a blog a political soapbox; there are plenty of those on this tubulous interweb thing. On the other hand, the issue is really about writing and genre, which is on-topic. The things Hitchens says about women and humor, others were saying about women and sf not so very long ago.

The trouble with discussing Hitchens’ piece for its content is that there isn’t much there there. Hitchens’ acuity on the subject of humor can be summed up by his rhetorical question, “Though ask yourself, was Dorothy Parker ever really funny?” Anyone who even has to ask himself this can’t know much about Parker or about humor. People have expressed some bewilderment about how CH manages to publish blather like this. I think some publications (like Slate and VF) keep him on in the interests of diversity: they can’t be univocal bastions of liberal purity with a saber-rattling chickenhawk like Hitchens as a regular contributor.

But what was interesting to me was the lack of self-knowledge that CH displays. He obviously considers himself funny because he can make women laugh (see his third paragraph) but he doesn’t seem to be acquainted with the idea of polite laughter or of nervous laughter. He later remarks “it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals.” If he’d replaced “men” and “They” with “I” he might have begun to approach the real issue.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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