Germane Greer thinks women aren't as funny as men. Or maybe just that she shouldn't have said women aren't as funny as men. Or perhaps it's that men are keeping women from being as funny as they might be. I worry she might be saying that men have made being a woman so horrible that their crushed spirits take all day to summon up a bon mot. (I wonder if she isn't just mean and trying to make me cry.)
I'm just hoping she isn't saying I should stop trying to be funny so that women can have a chance. Is funny some sort of zero sum game? I want to be fair and decent and not an asshole, but I really like it when women friends and I are funny all at once. So do bartenders.
Clearly, I'm not as smart as Germane Greer. If she's going to publish this sort of worrisome stuff where I can see it, she ought to make an effort to talk down to me, like my mother explaining why Daddy isn't going to be living with us anymore. (It was, in fact, my fault. Someone should study the absenteeism of fathers whose sons sew clothes for their own dolls.)
As it is, I read Beaten to the Punchline thinking, “If biology is destiny, then surely women are destined to be better comedians than men.” If culture is destiny, ditto. After all, there's only so much fun to be had out of a prostate exam, but tampon insertion strikes me as territory ripe for exploration. If there's a bigger hoot than childbirth, I can't think what it might be. Add to this the fact that the entire male sex is one big opportunity for snarking, and the idea that all this potential hilarity is being suppressed strikes me as very sinister indeed.
But what do I know? I called an old time dyke friend.
“Susan, are women as funny as men?”
Susan pauses to consider. “How many radical East Bay lesbians does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
I cooperate. “One, and it's not funny.”
“There you go. Women are as funny as men until men take their pants off. After that, men have a definite advantage. Why are you asking me questions and not offering me breakfast?”
“Because Germane Greer says men won't let women be funny. I think.”
Susan sighs. “Is she still alive?”
“I don't know, but she's in The Guardian.”
“Are you looking at that picture of her? The one where she looks like she's sucking a lemon but is smug about it because her lemon is bigger than yours?”
“I think so. And she's giving me my mother's eyebrow. It's creepy.”
Bigger sigh. “Those academic types all confuse ‘woman’ with ‘Dr. Feminist, Piled High & Deep.’ It's tragic. Undergrad feminists have their sense of humor anesthetized, and if they make it through to grad school, it gets scraped out with a sharpened ice cream scoop. Being unable to make a joke helps them be outraged victims who can write an encyclopedia about it without cracking a smile.”
It's clear to me Susan's morning coffee is taking effect. “I bet she wrote a whole article about being funny without being funny once. What else can you expect from a woman whose parents named her Germane. Can you imagine? ‘This is our little girl Germane. And her brother, Trenchant.’ Stuff like this is why lesbian brunches are a Sunday morning in hell – that and the idea that you can make a croissant without butter or wheat.”
I'm fairly sure Susan would whack me in the head if I said something like this, but I'm not going to mention that. I'm still feeling like a little fairy butterfly pinned in a case by Ms. Greer's fixed, all-knowing gaze. “Does she mean I talk too much and try too hard to be funny and that my dinner time stand up gets in the way of yours?”
“Honey, the day you think your stand up is bigger than mine, I'll show you the dozen or so of them I have in a drawer. Now where are we eating? That woman always makes me want a Bloody Mary.”
I don't suppose any of this this actually proves anything, but since I'm still recovering from snorting my morning coffee out my nose, at least I'm sure I know some really funny women.