Y’know there’s this overarching myth that’s been following women around since the beginning of jokes, comedy, and possibly even since the first chortling grunt laugh of our Neanderthal ancestors. Y’know, the one that proclaims female, estrogen-makin’, bird brains are just not that funny. Why, you ask? Well, because psychological half-science a’course! I mean, look, according to all kinds of ‘studies’ men are just the funnier gender, okay? Women are just biologically incapable of making you laugh anywhere near as strongly as a dude with an ‘edgy’ joke! It’s fact.
COOL STORY, BROS. TELL IT AGAIN.
Look, I take no issue with these kinds of studies per se. They’re just a collection of data that proves that no one laughs at women’s jokes and no one thinks women are funny. What irks me is the overbearingly sexist insinuation these studies make. Which is that women might just be biologically less funny than men.
Of course, they never go so far as saying that explicitly because they would then be burdened by the need for biological evidence WHICH WOULD PROVE THEY ARE DOWNRIGHT BONKERS. Instead they make light references to pop psychology here and there and say that these findings may have “something” to do with the way women are socialized.
To which I say: No, no. It has EVERYTHING to do with the way all women are socialized everywhere.
I mean, consider it from a local angle and look at how most Arab women are conditioned both within Kuwait and elsewhere. Girls are born into a social environment which is, for the most part, explicitly telling them that if they ever hope to be considered as desirable they have to remain modest (translate: quiet) and pliable no matter what, and that they should never ever bruise a man’s ego by seriously outsmarting or outshining him. If you’re the kind of girl that sits still and smiles at everything everyone says you’re ‘tharba’ (put-together). If you’re the kind of girl who always makes sharp, witty, off-hand remarks and cracks jokes in a confidently unapologetic tone then, more often than not, you’re about the last thing from being “tharba.”
Oh, but psychology says? Well, I guess we’re done here. I mean, it certainly couldn’t be all those ingrained social customs of what constitutes a desirable, potential wife and what constitutes a yucky, she-man telling people how to judge a woman as soon as she so much as attempts to make a knock-knock joke. No? Psychology? ‘Kay.
Fine. You know what? They’re right. Most women are not funny. But that’s because most PEOPLE are not funny. Being a funny person with strong comedic timing is a learned artistic skill. In order to be funny you need to teach yourself to be outspoken, unapologetically honest, very self-confident, and absolutely REFUSE to humor people. And, well, these traits are not exactly the traits we foster in our little girls (and even our adult, women-folk).
Instead, we go with mistrust of other women, a crazy obsession with needlessly expensive junk, and the idea that, when it really comes down to it, being pretty is a lot more important than being smart. The reason no one laughs at women’s jokes is because, to most people, they don’t read as jokes. They read as uncomfortable confessions or socially awkward comments. Because our society teaches girls that they need to always work on attaining perfection 24/7.
A man’s ideas are just as important as his body. A man is encouraged to be bold and speak his mind candidly. A woman is told that, while her ideas may matter on some level, they are not nearly as important as the need to perfect her physical body at all times. A woman is told that she needs to re-re-re-RE-think every step and utterance she makes lest she be considered as anything less than “tharba.”
And all these crazy, unnatural, socially constructed outlines are the very reason why I was nothing short of delighted when I first saw Basma Sultan’s “Dine With Basma” segment on Bel Mokhba’s YouTube channel.
For one thing, Basma Sultan is a very funny woman. She has the kind of raw, candid humor that you really only share among the closest of friends. She doesn’t think twice about embracing the awkward things that everyone is already thinking about and turning them into a joke we can all laugh at (the free food, the passing bus, the self-promotion). Her charm is in her off-beat, bubbly personality that is outspoken and entirely genuine. She laughs at what frustrates her just as much as she laughs at what amuses her. You laugh with Basma Sultan because Basma Sultan knows how to tell the best kind of joke. The kind that naturally and easily rolls of the tongue like that’s how she really talks all the time. And I bet she does. I bet Basma Sultan is just as genuine and carefree and hilariously outspoken in reality as she is in that video.
I don’t know of many women in Arab media who are willing to speak so candidly, embrace their personality so openly, and so confidently and easily navigate from one joke to the next on a public platform as well as she does. In that way, Basma Sultan is a freaking relic. She is extremely rare. And its so awesome to see her in action like that.
But, hey, I know plenty of other funny Arab women. Hell, I’m a funny Arab woman. And I know that if all these comedically gifted ladies take Basma’s route and decide that they actually don’t give a flying dingbat what anyone thinks and just start to confidently embrace their personalities (which happen to be funny as hell) the rest of the world will totally know it too. Even more importantly, they’ll grow to love it.
All my love!