One year, my mum told me my New Year’s resolution should be to stop being ‘so mean’ to people. She didn’t mean that I need to stop spending my days kicking people’s teeth out or pushing OAPs into the path of passing busses, but that I should stop being so ‘sharp’ with my jokes. She secretly loves it when we watch something on telly and call everyone doughy and stupid, but thought I might need to tone it down, especially as she’s quite like to send my Grandparents a piece of my writing that doesn’t contain the words ‘fuck’ ‘arsehole’ or ‘it’s like there’s a tumbleweed blowing across her vagina’. I remembered this the other day, as I’ve just finished reading ‘Bossypants’ by the brilliant and hilarious Tina Fey. In it she talks about the struggles she’s had as a high-flying woman in TV and comedy. She works hard, is spiky and funny and leads a large team of people. Because of this she’s been called a bossy ballbuster, but among her male colleagues those qualities would be seen as go-getting and driven. While not a high-flyer (I’m too busy eating crisps and watching RuPaul’s drag race to take over the world), I’ve often been called bossy, and even more often been called a bitch. Not a jokey lighthearted ‘biiaaatch’, but a stone cold bitch with a capital B.
The number one reason for this is the fact that I like to make jokes. I can be a little snarky, and I’m sure that on occasion I take it too far; I once teased my mum until she cried, because she couldn’t work out how to use the DVD player. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I have never, ever, heard a man vilified for taking the piss. Sure, I’ve heard ‘mate, that’s taking it a bit too far’, after a very un-PC joke, but usually through a veil of hysterical laughter. If a girl makes a nasty joke about Kim K’s dress sense, she’s being a bitch and letting the side down. If a bloke laughs about Kanye’s giant square Lego head, then it’s all in good fun. Recently Jezebel ran an article about the ugliest wedding dresses ever, and were told off for being mean to other women. If we truly want equality, then we have to look at what the men are doing; and GQ would be able to publish a gallery of the ugliest V necks (or whatever it is GQ readers are into…leather car seats? Hair removal cream disasters? Penis pumps?) without so much as a ripple.
Women like Fey seem to cause a crisis of masculinity in men, simply because she is funnier than them. There are lots of angry little blokes at home on their computers, having rage filled wanks over her and then writing on message boards that she’s a steely, ugly cow. Women do it too, but they seem to direct it towards other women. I’ve rarely seen a woman take a man down because he’s funnier than her; because it seems to be accepted as the natural order of things. If I’m totally honest, much of the time I find my male friends funnier than my female friends, because they’re willing to push the boundaries in a way that the lasses aren’t. But when my girl mates get going they can be utterly brilliant. I’ve rarely found anything better than rapping to The Next Episode with my little sister, before melting into a big puddle of breathless laughter; and her impression of Sean (de) Paul has to be seen to be believed. As for me, I’ve certainly been told that my crudest jokes are ‘unladylike’. What is it I’m supposed to joke about then? Cupcakes and fairies and teeny tiny dogs in teacups like I’m Katy sodding Perry? Women, after all, are supposed to be pure and bland, and they should, to quote Peep Show, ‘poo out little Malteasers that smell like the Body Shop’.
Witty women like Fey aren’t some sort of freakish anomaly missing the ‘soft’ gene that supposedly makes us good at making pack-ups and picking out cushions. Telling jokes doesn’t make women bitches, it just makes us FUNNY. Maybe even funnier than some men. So the critics can stew over it all they like; we’ll be having the last laugh.