Internet journalism is shaped by algorithms. The headlines that succeed and garner the most clicks either succumb to the current trending newsfeed or bear a seductive headline, something sensational or controversial. With that reality in mind, when I wake up to another headline, this time from The Atlantic, that reads “Why Men Don’t Like Funny Women: Plight Of The Funny Female,” I don’t feel angry or surprised – it’s business as usual. People will read this article for a slew of reasons: the headline is sensational, the premise makes them mad, or maybe they agree that funny women aren’t likable.
Honestly, I think framing the discussion this way is irrelevant. Rather than focusing on the internalized prejudices of men who crave women who will themselves smaller and more likable in the face of patriarchy, I’d rather focus on the funny women who exist, and why we’re leaving these exhausting cowards in the dust.
Despite the “biologically informed” stereotypes, most men don’t pursue comedy to get laid. The men I know and love in the comedy scene pursue it because they are human beings who have found an artistic outlet they find meaning, catharsis and absurdity in. Getting laid is cool for anyone, but most comedians would quit after six open mics if that was their main operative. The same applies to women, we don’t pursue comedy to be attractive to men (or women), we pursue it because we’re human beings who found a way to sculpt our internal chaos into something palpable and empathetic and silly. In short, humans don’t exist solely for mating, we can cultivate traits and interests without attractiveness being our ultimate aim. This also applies off stage – you don’t have to be pursuing comedy to realize that employing humor gives you relief from depressing realities, helps you connect with all sorts of people, and YES, makes you more attractive.
Here’s the thing: I’ve poured over these sensationalized articles and studies about whether women are funny, whether it’s attractive for them to be funny, if they will die alone in a flaming forest of celibacy once they’ve uttered a joke, and I just don’t care. I have found plenty of men who enjoy and seek out intelligence and humor in women, but they are largely brushed over in this study because progress and nuance doesn’t encourage clicks. I have also experienced a lot of blatant and casual sexism when I assert myself comedically or intellectually (or really assert myself at all), and for me, it’s an easy vetting process.
Do a lot of men still think men are funnier than women? Yes. Is that disappointing? Yes.
But when it comes down to it, I feel bad for the tiny world these men are limiting themselves to. What kind of cave do you want to live in, in which you can’t enjoy and respect the wealth of hilarious, powerful, intelligent, and scathing women in the world? But here’s the thing: Funny women don’t have time for cowardly men. We aren’t attracted to small-minded stereotypes of toxic masculinity, and we know that being our absurd selves isn’t condemning us to a life of loneliness and rejection. It’s just the opposite: it’s opening us up to a fuller and more authentic experience.
Funny women aren’t waiting to be given the signal that it’s okay to be ourselves – we’ve been pushing against these tired limitations for decades and will continue to do so. In comedy and beyond, women are too passionate and motivated for our behavior to be side-lined by the insecurities of cowards, and increasingly more men are fighting these fights with us.
So to those men (and women) who cling to old ideals of men being funnier and women being secondary: I’m genuinely sad for you. Come join the rest of us when you’re ready, it’s more fun over here.