Why It Matters That One Loser Said Women Aren’t Funny

By now, you’ve probably heard about the ridiculous things Adam Carolla said in an interview with the New York Post. If not, here’s a nice quote:

“They make you hire a certain number of chicks, and they’re always the least funny on the writing staff. The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks.”

So, basically Adam Carolla is stupid. I mean, yes, he’s sexist, but more than that he’s stupid. He has to be, to take that leap from “This is my terrible opinion” (i.e. “I don’t think women are funny”) to “this is the universal truth” (i.e. “women are not funny”). We all know he’s wrong, and so does my Twitter feed. So does Rob Delaney, who wrote this great piece about it.

One thing I’ve seen a lot of women comedians and writers saying is that there’s no use in continuing to talk about something that’s not even up for debate. Like, of course women are as funny as men, and just because one idiot says they aren’t doesn’t mean we should pay attention to him. I certainly agree with that in a way. As the great Sarah Silverman (one of the few women Adam Carolla finds funny, apparently!) says, “Women who get offended when people say that women aren’t funny probably aren’t funny, you know? Who cares if 90-year-old Jerry Lewis thinks women aren’t funny? It’s fine. It’s endearing, if anything. It’s like if your grandmother’s racist—it’s adorable, it’s fine, it’s subjective.”

I get this viewpoint, really. But still, I disagree that we should just ignore dummies like Adam Carolla. Maybe we, as grown adults, know that he’s wrong and stupid. We can pretty easily ignore messages like that. But you know who can’t? Young girls.

I think about myself when I was in high school,and I’m appalled by some of the things I thought and said. I didn’t like female comedians. I didn’t like female DJs (on the radio. I wasn’t, like, really into remixes). I don’t think I owned one CD with a female vocalist and I almost exclusively read books by men. I mean, I actually said that I didn’t think female comedians were as funny as men. Those were words that came out of my mouth! As I went on into college, I smartened up some, but I still, somewhere in my subconscious, didn’t respect female writers as much as I did male writers. Once in a workshop, some dbag listed the “greatest living writers” as John Irving, John Updike, and Philip Roth. I certainly won’t dispute that those are great writers, but they represent a very straight, white male viewpoint. I wish I’d had the knowledge and courage to say, “Um, what about Lorrie Moore? Alice Munro? Toni Morrison?” Fantastic, talented female writers? As it was, I didn’t even roll my eyes at this guy.

Why was I like this? Well, unfortunately I can’t pinpoint just one thing. Messages were constantly coming at me, reinforcing my negative self image. From the abstinence assemblies at my high school where speakers told the girls that it was their responsibility to withhold sex while the boys had no responsiblity for anything, to more assemblies where speakers our school hired told us that we shouldn’t dress slutty so we wouldn’t be victimized and objectified while ignoring those who were doing the victimizing and objectifying, to a culture in general that blames women for rape, assault and abuse, to the lit classes in college that didn’t feature even one work by a woman, to the books I was reading full of male opinions, to shows like Family Guy that consistently joke about rape, molestation, and domestic abuse. As girls, we were constantly being told, over and over again, that we weren’t worth as much as men. Our careers weren’t worth as much. Our bodies weren’t worth as much. Our brains weren’t worth as much.

Maybe it would’ve been different if I’d had the internet in school. Maybe if I’d had websites like Rookie or Hello Giggles, where I could see a variety of smart, funny female voices, maybe then I would’ve had a higher regard for myself and my gender. But I didn’t. I was hearing and seeing all those negative things, all the time, and I was buying into them.

Just as it wasn’t one thing that made me think this way, it wasn’t one thing that changed my mind, either. Books, Bust magazine, films by female directors, female comedians, female politicians, some smart and encouraging teachers and just plain growing up all did their part. Slowly but surely, I realized something pretty obvious. I am smart, and funny, and ambitious.

So maybe Adam Carolla saying that women aren’t funny doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. And by itself, it isn’t. But it is one more insult lobbed at women, one more message of inferiority that a girl will hear and believe. Girls aren’t as funny. Girls aren’t as smart. Girls aren’t as business-minded, athletic, ambitious, whatever. This is yet another statement that degrades the self worth of girls, and when you take away a girl’s self worth, you create another victim.

Adam Carolla can say what he wants. This is, after all, a free country. But I think we have not just a right but a responsiblity to say, loudly, that he is wrong. Because even if we know he’s an idiot, there’s a girl somwhere who thinks he’s right.

After all that, something fun: Maria Bamford’s website has a list of just a few funny women. Watch out, Adam, looks like Roseanne’s on the list.

2 Responses to “Why It Matters That One Loser Said Women Aren’t Funny”

  1. Lucy

    Terrific post! I agree wholeheartedly.

    It wasn’t until I stumbled upon some amazing feminist studies courses at uni that my world view started to seriously shift. My professors inspired me and presented a completely new view of womanhood, one which emphasized strength, independence, intelligence, self-respect, amongst many other things. I think if I’d been exposed to these ideas earlier, the process of growing up would have been far less painful and alienating.

    I wish young girls and women could all be included in a supportive, positive community that encourages them to embrace who they are, express themselves, and feel super confident. The Pawnee Goddesses would be a dream come true haha :-)

    Reply
  2. Mandy

    Brilllliant post. I totally agree. Although I considered myself to be fairly forward thinking and a feminist from a young age, I never even thought about all the quiet, intrinsic messages I received from school/TV/movies/society in general. Girls are “good”. They’re quiet and don’t rock the boat. Being funny doesn’t usually go with those traits. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I’m seeing how silly that viewpoint really is. I hope that my future daughters won’t have to wait that long to figure it out!

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