In these troubled times widely published male polemicists are often unencumbered by thought (original or otherwise), but are nevertheless paid by popular periodicals to churn the stuff out. When a chap’s had one of those lost weekends and the deadline approacheth, not to worry; he knows he can always fall back on everybody’s favorite, the dudely essay expressing contempt for women. These give universal satisfaction.
Of all the rhetorical ploys used by men in essays written to express contempt for women, one of the hokiest and most dilapidated is the stale old “men are so dumb, women are so smart.” Other versions include: “my wife wears the pants in the family,” “I grovel at the feet of my goddess-like wife,” “Men control the world, but women control the men.”
Now, you take any widely published male polemicist who wants to defend some pet sexist theory he’s cherished since he and the Earl of Winknudge were lads together up at Oxford, slumming at the Bada Bing between cocktail parties for people who subscribe to the New York Review of Books. When the widely published polemicist applies his famous rapier-wit to the pressing issue that men are just so extremely stupid they can’t refrain from imbecilic, juvenile behavior, whereas women are too daintily intelligent to condescend to men’s degraded level, hark! It is a handy warning signal that he has jumped the shark. He is no longer a contributor of any consequence to enlightened discourse, and a concerned family member should buy him a nubby sweater and gently nudge him in the direction of a job teaching 200-level writing courses at some backwoods Christian college.
Coincidentally, widely published polemicist Christopher Hitchens, one of America’s most popular ‘ex-Trotskyites’, Cindy Sheehan-bashers and souses, uses precisely this men = dumb, women = smart gambit in an asinine Vanity Fair fluff piece entitled — and can’t you just picture the anticipatory drool pooling on the editors’ Aubusson carpet as they imagined the delicious hue and cry of today’s Prada-wearin’ ‘feminists’ over this sassy, transgressve un-PCness — “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”
What Hitchens actually writes, using the stupid/smart formula in explaining why men are so much more fucking hilarious than women, is “Wit, after all, is the unfailing symptom of intelligence. Men will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is — or they are — extremely stupid. Women aren’t like that.”
There is no reason to refute Hitchens’ “argument”; it reminds me of one of those jokey emails sexist asshole bosses love to circulate around offices (“How many men does it take to open a beer? None! It should be open when she brings it.”). Which is to say, his argument’s so stupid it refutes itself. But of course you’ll be curious, so here are a couple of excerpts:
It begins slipping into insignificance by the second paragraph with “Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I’m talking about.”
It rounds the bend into hackneyed jagoffery with “As every father knows, the placenta is made up of brain cells, which migrate southward during pregnancy and take the sense of humor along with them.”
It formally relieves itself of any relevance to an even barely sentient audience by the time it gets to “There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.”
I wish I could say that Hitchens, in mistaking useless bong-scrapings for words worth reading, merely failed to debug his joke-writing software when an Eisenhower-era stereotype virus crashed his hard drive, but the truth is, he’s just a fucking knob.
In any event, I mention the Hitchens piece not to ignite some big, obvious “but of course women are funny” discussion, but I do like to take the opportunity of Hitchens’ embarrassment to remind the enlightened blamer that the ‘men = stupid, women = smart’ schtick is dude-code for “what follows is a lot of hilarious misogynist chick-bashing and glorification of our glittering male privilege, but it’s cool because chicks dig it when you pretend you notice their brains at all.”
Forget feminist critique; even by the traditional patriarchy-approved standards of good writing, to which widely published male polemicists ought at least to pretend to adhere, the device is a tired, wheezing clichÃ© with a collapsed lung and a grey complexion.