A little over a year ago, Vanity Fair ran an editorial diatribe by everybody's favorite Mother Theresa-hating British atheist, Christopher Hitchens, called "Why Women Aren't Funny." This month, in what seems like a belatedly fawning gesture of PR, the magazine put a glamorous Annie Leibowitz photo of comediennes Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman on the cover of their new issue, along with Alessandra Stanley's article, "Who Says Women Aren't Funny?" It was like a fumbled attempt to throw a lampshade over drunk grandpa when the party guests arrived, a year late.
With the enthusiasm of a Dexedrine-addled sot, Hitch clumsily responded in this month's issue to Stanley's thoughtful profile of 12 comic actresses, writers and stand-ups, with an editorial called "Why Women Still Don't Get It." I was eager to read his latest balsa wood defense of his dopey argument and respond accordingly, but I soon realized it would be like trying to debate the raving derelict who mutters to me every morning on my way to the F train that I am made of tin foil and on fire. It's simply unfair to criticize a lunatic.
And rest assured: Christopher Hitchens has lost his mind.
His response to Stanley's essay has very little to do with what she wrote. Hitchens instead uses the opportunity to slump into Maurice Chevalier-esque reverie about the seductive charms of three female writers, including Stanley, whom he would lunch with once upon a sometime. His cringe-inducing description of meals with women he said made him feel he was "breaking bread with the witches of Eastwick" included a cast of characters he described thusly: "[t]he flame-haired Maureen Dowd, the lithe and lissome brunette Jane Mayer (then at The Wall Street Journal), and the quasi-legally blonde Alessandra Stanley." Whenever men describe women by their hair color, I'm tempted to remind them that not everything is porn. Too bad Michiko Kakutani wasn't around: he could have dined with the Asian girl, too.
Hitchens' piece devolves into the disclosure that he always had a thing for Stanley, as though anybody ever wanted to know that. Hitch wryly interprets her article, which was ostensibly a retort to his, as proof she indeed does pay him mind. "And now, what a pulse is beating under my leathery old hide!" He writes. "Oh joy! She did care all along. Perhaps -- oh heaven -- she still does!"
Two questions come to mind after I read this part: 1. Does Christopher Hitchens think that he is funny? And 2. Does anybody else want to dry-heave into the nearest trash can?
Hitch then launches into a cut-and-paste-a-thon of "she said, I said," in which he juxtaposes clips from Stanley's new article next to excerpts from his old one, assuming the reader will deduce he was right.
While I know bloggers less lazy than Hitchens (and I'm talking about the ones that post cat photos once a month), I thank him for the refresher course in some of the more laughable conceits from his original piece, including his helpful categorization of the three kinds of women that actually can be funny ("Most of them...are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.") and his observation 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."
I call bullshit on that second part in particular, and not just because I'm a little touchy whenever a bloated neo-con calls me a baby-making machine. Anybody who's ever seen The View knows that if you turn it on at random, there's an excellent chance Joy Behar will be joking about her latest pap smear. Women are obsessed with filth and embarrassment. I speak as a member of the third category mentioned above, so even Hitchens should listen to the funny Jew.
On second thought, I don't want Hitchens' ear. Because if his latest bumbling ramble is any indication, he'd just dismiss whatever I have to say and focus only on my tress hue or physicality, as he nauseatingly does with the writer he refers to as "the molten, tawny Alessandra." It's like handing in a term paper to a dotty pervert and expecting cogent feedback.
My only fear with his opinion is that it is tacitly shared, in its greyer shades, by men who still see bright, witty, capable women as a threat. Most people won't put pen to pad to brazenly opine, "men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals," but I fear many cannot appreciate what a funny woman has to offer, simply because she is distractingly female. I am concerned about the guy who might pick up this month's issue and ogle Fey, Poehler and Silverman's fetching cover portrait and merely think to himself, oblivious or indifferent to their ferocious comedic talents, "the blonde one is hot."