I agree with you both. Sort of. But:
In death, Christopher Hitchens manages to prove one of his most irritating theories: that men are funnier than women. But not in the way either of you think.
Let’s go over the argument one more time:
In a notorious 2007 Vanity Fair piece, Christopher Hitchens waded into the women and comedy swamp.
He thought ladies couldn’t be as funny as men in part because of the serious business of childbearing and rearing.
To be fair, Hitch didn’t say women weren’t funny—he went out of his way to single out women he thought really were, or to stereotype those who succeeded. It’s just that women’s reproductive systems got in the way of us being truly hilarious, while men needed jokes to just to get a lady in the mood—never mind into bed. Men had a biological imperative to be funny, while women could just sit there looking pretty—until they had babies, after which they got all serious and humor-impaired. (I’m shortening the argument for you, because it’s the Internet.)
I thought this was a load of hooey, until I found a video of Hitch, wearing a Santa hat, leading a group in an anti-Christmas song. In the beginning frame, he’s got a glass in his hand, and I’m sure he’s a little pickled. He profanes North Korea.
And he is very funny.
And that’s when it hit me: if that video had been of Christina Hitchens, it wouldn’t have been so funny.
Because even in
2011 2012, drunken smoking cursing Santa hat-wearing ladies aren’t bon vivants. They are Girls Gone Wild.
And if they have kids? They are Bad Mothers, Staying Out Late. Doubt me? Amidst all the Hitch-iana we’ve been subjected to in the past few
days weeks, have we heard a peep about Hitchens’ kids? I’m sure they’re devastated—Hitch was probably a very fun dad. Do we know that? Nope.
After Christina Hitchens’ death, we would be hearing more—a lot more—about her three children, and how they were holding up. Barbara Walters would ask: How did they feel about their mother’s wild lifestyle, the time she spent neglecting them to go gallivanting all over the world?
And if an ailing Christina Hitchens had kept up her relentless writing schedule until the end as Hitch did, there would be criticism that she was “taking time away from her family.” (Remember the flak cancer patient Elizabeth Edwards got for continuing to support her husband’s campaign? If only that had been the end of her troubles.)
All the jolly drinking until dawn, the self-aware suicidal smoking and adolescent fight-picking done by a woman? Would invite comparisons not to Ernest Hemingway, but Amy Winehouse.
I really wish that weren’t true. Because you know what? We need our wild-eyed journos, male and female. And we need this effing weird paradigm to change.
I tried to make a list of the Wild Gals of Journalism, and the closest I could come was the late great salty Molly Ivins, who emphatically renounced booze. Katha Pollitt? Gail Collins. Awesome. But not…Wild. Sure, Rachel Maddow tries to show you how to make cocktails on TV, but that’s more Food Network than Frontline.
So let’s be clear: I am not arguing against Christopher Hitchens, that fabulous debauched curmudgeon. As a serious journalist, Hitch subjected himself to waterboarding and a Brazilian wax, both of which he got paid for, handsomely. (Very Judd Apatow meets Sebastian Junger!)
That is the definition of a Good Gig, the kind of free-range writing few people, male or female, gets to paid to do.
And I think it’s about time we get a woman into that gig. Because we still need curmudgeons. We still need people who make us really, really angry. And who would make us angrier than a woman breaking those rules?
I’m looking at you, Graydon Carter. Hitch is dead, long live…the next Hitch.
Even if she can never be as funny as Hitch, thanks to her ovaries and—I’ll say it—that darned dusty patriarchy. The new Hitch? She’s already writing a brilliant, furious blog, and going to the Middle East or Occupy Wall Street on her own dime. She gets into the occasional bar fight and the more than occasional stranger’s bed. And she writes like an angel. The funny thing is she may not even want to be part of a dead tree organization..but if she does: hire her pronto.