Saturday, December 23, 2006

Just unlike a woman

I've been reading a lot on the net lately about women.

Christopher Hitchens, who was once a good writer and therefore still commands some attention, wrote an entire article on "Why women aren't funny". Apparently men are funny to attract women, but women don't need that because they look pretty. (Apparently, also, all women are nice-looking and no man is interested in anything except good looks.) Surely this ought to make women the final judges of what is funny. In fact, the Stanford study, which he quotes and bases his article on, says women are "swift to locate the unfunny" -- Hitchens' paraphrasing. But his conclusion is not the obvious one: instead he declares that this quick reaction to unfunniness is why they are "backward in generating [humour]". Meanwhile, he himself praises scatological jokes but is unamused by Dorothy Parker. He does admit that some women are funny, but they're generally "hefty or dykey or Jewish".

[Update: Hitch's paraphrasing is wrong too: Mark Liberman talks about it here and the original PNAS paper by Azim et al is here. Thanks to Abi for the pointer.]

Natasha has a thought-provoking post (not really gender-specific) on why we think others are more attractive than ourselves, based on a recent study, and on how fashion photographers airbrush defects from models (who have impossibly skinny bodies anyway -- I personally can't see why that should be attractive).

On that topic, here's an example of what you get if you airbrush models to make them even skinnier.

In other recent news, an Indian athlete failed a gender test after winning a silver medal at the Asian Games. Here's Scott Adams' take on that. He offers his own gender test to his readers. (On a serious note, the Gulf Times / DPA suggests that poor nutrition could be to blame by causing hormonal imbalances, and points out how traumatic it must be for the athlete at the moment; and Otis Hart observes that failing such a test may be much easier than you think.)

Which brings me to that well-known misogynist, Bob Dylan, who observed in 1987 that he "hate[d] to see chicks perform" because "they whore themselves." The interviewer asked if that included Joni Mitchell. Dylan said "Well, no. But, then, Joni Mitchell is almost like a man..."

Often, that seems to be the highest compliment a man can pay.


Abi said...

Christopher Hitchens turns out to be totally wrong about the conclusions of the Stanford study he cited. It turns out that almost all journalists who covered that study got it all awfully wrong. Mark Liberman has a great post on this. Here.

Maybe you could update this post to include the link to Liberman's post?

Rahul said...

Done, thanks.

Tabula Rasa said...

been surfing the web for sex, have we?

i thought the scott adams link was the best one.

Rahul said...

I found the airbrushed models quite interesting myself -- especially the original, unaltered pictures. They're just as thin there. Alarming.

The Dylan interview is fun reading, even apart from the women-in-showbiz quote.