June 02, 2006

What's So Funny

The accusation from antifeminists that's easiest for me to shrug off is the accusation that I don't have a sense of humor. I doubt I have the best or the most discerning or the most-like-your-own sense of humor, but I obviously have one. It's such a nonstarter, that accusation. It's like, are you even trying? Or did you just press the big red button on your Automatic Feminist Basher and "humorless" is what it spit out first?

This came up in the comments to an old post that got linked by feminist parody site Feministing.org. Oh, wait, time out--


Why Feministing.org Doesn't Get a Link - Reasons That Do Not Apply:

  • I'm scared of them.
  • They outrage me.
  • My femynyst principles will not allow it.
  • Why Feministing.org Doesn't Get a Link - Reasons That Do Apply:

  • I'm afraid of adding to the vast number of links they've accrued already; I'm scared that my linking to them might BREAK TECHNORATI FOREVER.
  • It's just not very good at what it tries to do, and I demand quality in entertainment.
  • I know that the site is run by the guy who maintains the "Ameriskanks (Mostly) Suck" page, and I seriously think that guy has capital-p Problems. Quick quiz: Which quote is from The Nice Guy, and which quote is from aspiring cannibal Kevin Ray Underwood?
  • (1)

    But worst of all, she gave me the old "lets just stay friends" talk. I hate that thing. I've heard it so many times I know it by heart.

    I guess I'm just too nice, women all want to be friends with me. Even girls I don't like have told me what a nice guy I am, and, as if that wasn't bad enough, I've even been told that "I actually forget you're a guy, I don't even think of you as a guy, you're like one of the girls to me."


    Millions of men around the U.S. are nice guys like me. They make an effort to think of women as equals. They are attentive, faithful, kind and nurturing. While some people call us "nice guys", others (primarily women) call us "just friends," or even "wimps." We hear things like: "you are such an angel." "You are so sweet." "You are so understanding." "You say the nicest things." "You are so considerate." "I love the flowers." "You treat me better than all my old boyfriends." "We have so much in common." "I know I can rely on you when I want to whine to somebody about the guys I do sleep with." And that, friends, is when you fight the urge to hit her repeatedly upside the head with a broken bottle!

    I'm not saying poor-pitiful-me-ism causes cannibalism. I'm just asking whether we can really afford to take the chance that it might. Think, think of the children.


    Anyway, here's the thing: I don't mind misogyny in humor per se, but most misogynistic jokes are told by two kinds of people:

  • Misogynists who think they're funny.
  • Funny people who are sometimes misogynistic.
  • And obviously, for me, it makes all the difference which of those two is making the joke.

    If you're funny, you can tell any kind of joke. Nothing's off limits. That's kind of a point of this movie, isn't it? You can't be too offensive, if you're good enough. Someone who's really funny can be thoroughly, repulsively offensive because what comes across to the audience, even in the midst of offending, is a clear sense that this person does not HAVE to be offensive. They're not limited to mere offensiveness. They have more than one game going on. They're not being offensive because that's the extent of their ability (see: Clay, Andrew Dice), they're being offensive because they can be, because they feel like it, and let's face it, because sometimes it's FUN to be offensive.

    Yes, it is. Don't argue with me. Part of what makes certain jokes funny is the naughtiness of them, the sense that you're telling a truth that was supposed to be kept a secret. And the truth is sometimes offensive. Most children, for example, cannot draw worth a lick. We're not supposed to say that, because My God! They're Only Children! They're Just Learning to Express Themselves! How Can You Be So Cruel? How Can You Crush the Fragile Bloom of Their Budding Creative Expression Underfoot Like That?

    I don't know. I just know something about "Vrrroooooooooooommmmmm! F" makes me laugh. Because it's funny. That's how.

    We're also not supposed to equate the word "pussy" with "hopeless coward." That's really demeaning to women! It must stop. But we're making progress on that front, because no one I know, feminist or otherwise, ever laughs at this:

    Peter Gibbons: Lumbergh's gonna have me work on Saturday. I can tell already. I'm gonna end up doin' it, because, uh . . . because I'm a big pussy . . . which is why I work at Initech to begin with.

    Michael Bolton: Uh, yeah, well, I work at Initech and I don't consider myself a pussy, okay?

    Samir: Yes, I am also not a pussy.

    So that's why I'm just not much annoyed by Maddox: I don't get the sense that Maddox "means it," even if he did say some pretty stupid things in his interview about women, which he definitely did.

    But I'm more interested in other, tangential questions that interview brings up, like: We're seeing a small trend in books that tell dudes how to be manly; what's up with that? I kind of think that what has happened is, we've obsoleted the man-as-ultimate-provider ideal for guys anymore, and they're trying to find other ways to redefine themselves; which, great, but I'm sometimes leery of the ways they're choosing to do that.* I dunno about this "the manliest guy is the guy who guts fish with his teeth" business.

    That's what I wonder about the whole Maddox thing--if not his version of manliness, whose? Where's that gonna come from? It has to come from men, obviously. Pro-feminist men need to quit playing the More Feminist Than Thou card against each other and come up with something.

    And maybe it's just me, but it would probably go over better if it were funny.


    This is why, by the way, I stay right the hell out of feminist conversations that critique pro-feminist men. Which brings me to something else I've been wanting to vent:

    If you're a dude who's all proud of how you don't cloak yourself in the feminist label, not like those other poseurs, those guys who think they can be feminist but who really just don't have a clue, can you do me a favor? Consider. Consider that I NEED those guys you're so superior to. Not want. NEED.

    I don't care if they sometimes get shit wrong, I don't care if they sometimes forget themselves and start bossing women around, I don't care if they often step in it, I don't care if they brag about watching porn, I don't CARE. I am not exactly drowning in alternatives, did you notice?

    Right now, my chief alternative is guys like Harvey Mansfield, Tucker Max, and the Maddox readers who make the mistake of taking Maddox's shtick seriously:

    hey maddox, why shouldnt we be allowd to rape girls in the army? write about it

    So listen: When things are so golly-gee-good for women that I can afford to hold pro-feminist men to higher standards, because so many men are beating down the gates to overthrow the patriarchy, I will let you know. But I don't think we're there yet. I don't think we're remotely close. You can't even get all women to agree that feminism is beneficial right now. And you want me to smack down a guy who's up for it?

    Have you ever worked at a place where the boss hired two or three people solely to gain the luxury of terminating one? One who wasn't pulling his weight? That's where I think women are at with this. Once we bring aboard some new hires and get them set up, then . . . .

    I'll get all nitpicky about Who's Really a Troo Feminist when I can afford to get all nitpicky it. When I have nothing better to do with my time, that's when. That time ain't now. Or did I miss where it was you being interviewed for your surprisingly successful (and movingly pro-feminist) book?


    Posted by Ilyka at June 2, 2006 12:18 PM in i don't know you tell me

    Dunno what the hell it is with me and trainwrecks, but of course I just had to go visit feministing.org, even though your non-linkage of them required me to go out of their way to do it, and CAN I JUST SAY:

    Part of having a sense of humour is the ability to distinguish between things that are funny, and things that aren't. That site? Totally not funny at all.

    Posted by: Moebius Stripper at June 3, 2006 05:02 AM

    Most of the humor from that site is unintentional, if my comments section is anything to go by. I have a feeling they're not exactly sending me their "A" team.

    As for the suspicious fact that every antifeminist link I've received in the last few weeks has included a comment by various persons praising the Brilliant Intellect of one Russell Wardlow--why, as to that, I'm just going to pretend I've forgotten the internet definition of sock puppet.

    Posted by: ilyka at June 3, 2006 11:50 AM

    Checked out the feministing "parody" site. Eee-yuch.

    You're gonna hate me for this, Ilyka, but I just tend to lump this in my general life rule of "Republicans can't do parody, satire, or in fact very much humor at all." I know, I know: There are impressive exceptions. But what I do see (and if it's political, it's always from a conservative) is OVERKILL.

    "Hey, wow, what an outrageous comment I'm making! Hey, look at me, aren't I crazy?!? WAAAY too craaaaaazy to be TROOO!

    "Or.......... IS(?)......... it??!?!"

    (bad punctuation intentional)

    I think the conservative preference for moral clarity usually prevents them from handling satire and parody deftly. To parody your enemy, you have to BECOME them. You have to empathize with them a little, even as you eviscerate them. It's doublethink, I guess.

    I'll bet these guys are masters of fart humor, though.

    Posted by: JD at June 3, 2006 01:31 PM

    I'm afraid you're going to be mad at me after this comment...go right ahead and yell at me if you must...

    I admit to finding the feministing.org site *mildly* amusing, but only because it makes fun of some people I don't like. (Yes, I can be mean and petty that way.) I found out about the site when I saw in my referrals where a female blogger who linked me (I think it was one of my posts responding to your strawfeminist posts) also linked them approvingly. I agree that the site is trying too hard, and therefore misses the mark somewhat. I had no idea who was behind the site. Actually, I think a truly great, hilarious feminist parody site can only be done by a woman. If I were a humorist (which I'm not) I would create one myself.

    Also, I know you're angry at Russell Wardlow, but I have to defend him a bit. I've actually seen him try to talk some sense into Steve H. at Hog on Ice when he gets a little too misogynistic. So I really don't think he's a sexist. I think he just disagrees with feminists a lot of the time just like I do.

    And, when it comes to feminist men...I don't think a man has to be a feminist to treat women with respect. In fact, I would say that treating women with respect is a sign of true manliness. As far as I'm concerned, knuckledraggers like Tucker Max are not real men.

    Posted by: Susan B. at June 3, 2006 04:06 PM
    I admit to finding the feministing.org site *mildly* amusing, but only because it makes fun of some people I don't like. (Yes, I can be mean and petty that way.)

    Oh yeah, I get that. I wouldn't be surprised if most of their traffic comes from people who just can't stand Amanda. Then again, that's another argument against calling it "feministing," since, duh, Amanda doesn't post at feministing.com.

    Actually, I think a truly great, hilarious feminist parody site can only be done by a woman.

    I'd agree with this too, though I don't think the gender of the creator's as important as having it be someone with at least a passing familiarity with the popular feminist blogs.

    I think a woman has better odds of being in that position, but maybe the right guy could do it if he were inclined. The Nice Guy isn't that guy, though. He's not submerging his anger and resentment enough to pull it off; it shows through too plainly. Most funny stuff HAS anger and resentment somewhere in its genesis, but it's when you can't transmogrify it effectively into "funny" that it just alienates your audience.

    So I really don't think he's a sexist. I think he just disagrees with feminists a lot of the time just like I do.

    To be perfectly honest, I don't even care whether Russell's sexist. I think guys who patronize me and respond to what they wish I said instead of what I actually said are douchebags. Russell meets that criteria.

    And one of these days I'll have to post about how Steve H. is another ostensible misogynist who doesn't bug me. But maybe I've just been seduced by his recipes. Oh, the recipes . . . .

    In fact, I would say that treating women with respect is a sign of true manliness. As far as I'm concerned, knuckledraggers like Tucker Max are not real men.

    Word to that. It's what kills me about the current manliness obsession. You know, I think my own grandfather on my mother's side was pretty manly: He served in Italy during WWII, built his own house from the basement up, and took crazy-ass snowbiling trips into the Utah canyons well into his 70s. But he also deferred to my grandmother's every whim from the moment he walked in the front door, and he at one point worked three jobs to ensure a better life for his family. It seems to me that the young-manlies want all the fun of manliness without the "three jobs" part, which makes it easy for me to say "to hell with them."

    Posted by: ilyka at June 3, 2006 04:25 PM

    Gack, I cannot WRITE today. It's "has included comments by various persons" in comment #2, not "has included A COMMENT." It's "meets those criteria," not "meets that criteria," and "snowmobiling," not "snowbiling" in comment #5. I am a moron. Someone needs to remind me of this page next time I complain about incoherent ungrammatical doctors.

    Posted by: ilyka at June 3, 2006 04:56 PM


    Well, Steve H. is a funny guy and seems to be a basically decent person, so I can forgive him being down on women sometimes. He's just as hard on men, anyway, so I think he's really more a misanthrope than a misogynist. I have to stay away from his recipe posts -- I gain weight just reading them. If he ever gets married, his bride better have the metabolism of a hummingbird! ;-)

    Your grandfather sounds very manly in a genuine sense. I never knew either of my grandfathers because they died before I was born. That's just as well because neither of them were all that great, from what I've been told.

    Posted by: Susan B. at June 3, 2006 09:32 PM

    It's only slightly intended as a parody, or maybe not at all, but Feminist Acres is pretty funny.

    Posted by: Clancy at June 8, 2006 07:20 PM