Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Funny Ladies

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate’s Supreme Court reporter and one of my favorite writers anywhere, wrote what is so far my favorite homage to the late great Molly Ivins. (My own post died of overambition as I spent too much time trying to dig a dog-eared copy of Molly Ivins Can’t Say That . . . out of my basement to meet the news cycle.)

For a framing device, Lithwick analyzed Ivin’s humor – how it worked and how she used it. Read the whole thing, but here’s my favorite bit:

    [Ivins] once said her greatest compliment came from a Texas legislator who told her, in all sincerity, "Young lady. You got huevos." And in Ivins' view huevos means overcoming that fear and standing up for those without money, or power, or influence. It's quite a trick to make single mothers or crumbling middle schools funny, but Ivins did it. And that's why she loathed Limbaugh. Not because he wasn't funny, and not because he preferred different politicians. But because targeting "dead people, little girls and the homeless" is cheap and cruel. Fair or not, Ivins had a humor code and by her law, satire "was a weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful." Reversing that order isn't bravery. Ivins could be brutal when she went after the corrupt and the powerful: She lashed back at the media love fest over Richard Nixon when he died with one of the most blistering pieces she ever penned. But she saw that wit as a means to an end.
As it happens, humor is at the root of much of the discussion about women and blogging. Maureen Dowd’s piece on the dearth of women as bloggers or columnists asserts that women aren’t allowed to assert and therefore are discouraged from the essential work of punditry. A piece in AlterNet about Sarah Silverman trods down much the same road – witness this quote from Drew Carey: "'Comedy is about aggression and confrontation and power,' says the stand-up comic. 'As a culture we just don't allow women to do all that stuff.'"

All of this is worth considering, but I don’t think it explains the puzzle about the dearth of women bloggers on the left. First, if there is a liberal woman blogger out their whose effort died because the audience was turned off by her assertiveness, I’d like to hear her story. Second, why should the right embrace the aggressive, mean-spirited “comedy” of a Coulter or a Malkin with no equivalent on the other side?

So this doesn't solve the puzzle, but maybe it's one piece. Meanwhile, it does give us a sense of what we are missing.


Jill said...

Coulter and Malkin are narcissists. I thought that explained it? :)

Village Green said...

Who's the one doing all the disallowing? I've never felt like I needed permission to do the things I set out to do with my life. Sure there have been barricades to tear down and social perceptions to alter -- but in the scheme of things, women do have choices to make. It bugs me that women get nailed for "aggressiveness." We either don't have enough of it (testosterone?) or we have too much and that puts people off (HIllary).

As for Maureen Dowd she's good when she's not writing about women.