Why aren't women allowed to be funny on dates?

Sorry, funny women. Your wit is unlikely to win you any dates with men.

Sorry, funny women. Your wit is unlikely to win you any dates with men.

According to a study published last month, which explored "humour's role in courtship", men who are funny are considered more attractive. But women? Not so much.

The leader of the study, Professor Jeffrey Hall, from the University of Kansas, told the Daily Mail, "Men use humour to gauge if women are interested in them… For some men it is a conscious strategy." Put simply, if a bloke wants to date a woman, he should make her laugh. But jokes made by a female actually damage her chances of landing a dude. So, witty ladies, please rest your pretty little mouths – that sort of thing is for men only.

The Huffington Post - understandably huffed about this outcome - pressed Hall on the issue and the good Prof obliged. "There are many people who would argue that there is something inherently sexist with the script," Hall said. "I would agree with that criticism inasmuch that it puts limits on women's behaviour and plays to stereotypes about how a man and a woman is supposed to be."

Indeed. I believe it was fictional (racist) heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, who opined "I'm tired of saying, 'How wonderful you are!' to fool men who haven't got one-half the sense I've got, and I'm tired of pretending I don't know anything so men can tell me things and feel important while they're doing it…"

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Almost 80 years later (200 years if you're basing it on the book), I bet there's scarcely a woman who can't relate. Women, after all, are called to be audience members – we laugh, we nod, we pretend we've never heard that shitty joke before. This receptive audience role extends beyond humour, though, as Scarlett herself knew. A man is there to "win her over", to "impress" –  to impart knowledge, to flex his ambition, his assertiveness – and the woman exists to clap her dainty little hands together. We are passive, ready to reflect your best qualities back to you, sweetness! My own personality? I'm sorry – could you explain the question?

We are forbidden in the delicate stage of early courtship from voicing almost anything – that includes our opinions, our jokes; our genuine feelings. And, as the study indicates, it's still expected that women will embody this shoddy impersonation of a placid naif even in 2015.

So you can shout about Tina Fey; and you can quote from the book of Amy Poehler, and you can tell me that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is your Kween. But then I will politely direct you to the wider culture, where you may see for yourself such shining examples as Kyle and Jackie O, Lisa Wilkinson and that bastion of feminism, Karl Stefanovic. Or how about the dude at your office who has no clue how lame his gags are because he works with too many polite women? Perhaps it's evident in your own mum and dad's relationship – one makes you laugh while the other makes the rules, huh?

This dynamic – of the clownish manchild and the straight, tongue-clucking woman who knows better – is showing zero signs of abating.

As the late comedian Phyllis Diller once said, "Stand-up is a bold, aggressive act", and the words 'bold' and 'aggressive' don't seem that hot on a woman, do they? "Oh I love a woman with a sense of humour". Really? A brief survey of my own reveals that often, what this phrase really means is that many men love a woman who laughs at their jokes and banters along without being funnier or smarter than their date.

So, whenever some idiot points to the lack of women at Comedy Festivals or on TV and asks if women are truly as funny as men, what they fail to realise is that they are asking the wrong question. The real question should be: "Why aren't women allowed to be funny?" I mean, really funny. Not goofy, not silly, not quirky, not riffing on common Boganisms or acting as the 'straight man'. 

I'm talking acerbic wit; that take-no-prisoners, mouthy, bold humour that doesn't end in a self-deprecating punchline. And herewith the answer: being funny renders women sexless. A real sense of humour, as confirmed by the study, leads to rejection from males. I'm sure I don't need to repeat that famous quote of Margaret Atwood's – that "men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them" but there it is. Only I suspect something else, besides humiliation, is in the mix – the fear of male redundancy.

Those in power always have a hard time abdicating, so if some dude churning out mediocre jokes is enjoying the valiant label of "a total cack" in the eyes of the ladies, he's not about to loosen his grip on it –  or worse, dare to believe that somewhere, someone with a vagina is funnier than him.