Last week, I asked (not rhetorically, because I pretend to be an equal opportunities blogger) do people really want to put their lives on(the)line? Or do they do so only because they feel pressurised, because there might be no audience if they don’t?
During the course of this general outpouring, I got to thinking about women and men, and how women seem to do the vast majority of this type of confessional journalism. Women are far more likely to write about personal things, I thought. We’re also under more pressure to write about ourselves and our interior worlds, if we want to be heard. It’s not so much the “I” in First Person, as the “X”.
Whether we can only be trusted to write about our interior worlds because we’re not worldly-wise enough to write about grander, humanity-defining subjects, or because we’re ravenous for the personal angle in the first place, is a grand, humanity-defining question, says I to myself.
Comedians Are From Mars
But then I got to thinking, that’s not right, either. It’s not as simple as that. True, women do more personal writing. But I was on the bus yesterday (spoiler alert: this is a true confession), and the guy next to me was watching a video of a stand-up comedian on his phone.
That was when I realised. Stand-up comedy is men’s confessional journalism. They may use comedy to distance themselves from their most intimate secrets (whilst telling you about them), but the families and partners of stand-up comedians know that nothing is sacred. They, as well as their partner, will be flayed in the course of a set. Their personal tragedies are joke fodder.
There’s Fabulous Equality in Intrusion
Over the past few decades, there’s been a simultaneous shift towards writers putting themselves at the heart of the story, and comedians turning their personal lives into sets.
Here’s a bit of background I learned from a seasoned old ship dog, on a journalism course I did once. He was a veteran of foreign press agencies and had a wicked tongue when it came to his students (but that’s enough colour being used to disguise info-dumping).
He said that so-called “colour” journalism wasn’t really a thing until the 1960s, when it began to be used in order to give an otherwise clinical news piece a sense of atmosphere. It was popularly used illustrate the mood of the people, in articles about social upheaval and civil rights movements of the time.
Over the next couple of decades, this grew legs, when journalists began talking about how they themselves felt about the atmosphere around them, or their interview subject. They introduced their own beliefs into their articles, discussing how they were challenged or upheld by the subject at hand.
In no time at all, confessional journalism had been invented: and then came the internet, and before we knew it, our angst-ridden diaries were legitimate reading material.
At the same time as all of this was happening, a new breed of stand-up was born – usually male – who instead of telling jokes, made a joke of themselves.Embed from Getty Images
That’s Nice, Tara. But What The Hell Has That Got To Do With The Theme At Hand
The motivation behind this shift to the personal is the same for each gender. Both men and women are mining their lives for material, in order to get noticed.
And whilst women seem to be identified most with writing about personal stuff, men are doing it just as much, albeit in a different style. According to a scientific study I made up twenty minutes ago, the vast majority of male bloggers I know, who write about their personal lives, are using humour to distance themselves from it.
Incidentally, the average male blogger would seem to be far quicker than me to label their blog as a ‘Humour’ blog. I’m sure there’s another study in that.Embed from Getty Images
Are Women Not Funny?
Why do men’s personal stories come out in comedy, when women adopt a more serious, emotional tone? Can women not be funny? Can men not be serious?
I don’t have the answer to that. (And if you thought I did, you’re on the wrong blog.) But I wonder if female stand-ups struggle more professionally because people tend to take them too seriously. It’s not that they’re not funny. It’s more like they’re being listened to as though they couldn’t possibly see the joke themselves.
Could it be that men are seen to be funnier, because so many people grow up with mothers being all serious about eating your greens and going to sleep, while our fathers get to pun around about botty burps and beer?
The Homework For Today
I’d like you to look inside yourselves. Bring a torch. Some of you might like to bring satnav, and a packed lunch. Up to you.
When you’re reading women, do you assume they’re being serious? Are you quicker to see the humour in a man’s writing? Or are women just not writing enough comedy?
Answers on a sheet of bog roll please, telepathically transmitted to the comments section. I thank you.