Look, it’s no secret that men just aren’t funny. The comedy world is absolutely dominated by women like Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Maya Rudolph, and Tig Notaro, who bring the hilarity while speaking from an informed, progressive mindset. The men who make it big tend to try to emulate “edgy” comedy by being grating and bigoted, like Kurt Metzger or the cast of Top Gear.

This is most likely due to simple biology. Back in the Paleolithic era, men hunted while women stayed close to home to take care of babies and gather berries. Hunting requires absolute silence, lest you give away your presence and scare off your prey; therefore, men evolved brains that focus on staying quiet and listening.

Gathering, on the other hand, allows and even requires talking and socialization. This is how women of the Paleolithic evolved the ability to make funny jokes as a way to bond. Hence, the women of today produce comedy that is intensely enjoyable and which forces society to examine its biases and get better. Men who attempt comedy only end up pushing everyone away. Like Jeff Dunham. Who wants to be near that racist? Nobody. Not even other racists.

Anyway, today it has come to light that yet another group of men have attempted comedy at the expense of women, and failed miserably. The UK organization Entangled Bank is hosting a science event called Consensus. At first it wasn’t clear from their website what the consensus was, exactly, but luckily they had Frequently Asked Questions that spelled it out:

I am a fanatical, misandristic ‘feminist’. May I drone on about the lack of women in the line-up and despatch abusive, bigoted, mis-spelt, ungrammatical missives to the organisers and presenters?

No. Please save your talents for Twitter and Facebook, that is what they are for.

We’re actually very disappointed that none of our female invitees accepted, but that is just how it was. As scientists we have no choice but to accept reality. Wanting something to be otherwise does not make it so.

That could not be truer. Wanting the organizers to be the least bit funny, or at least decent people, does not make it so.

After women like Suzi Gage brought this to the attention of Twitter, Entangled Bank edited the page to delete the question (though Gage got a screenshot). When people noticed that and started complaining, Entangled Bank edited the page again to include this response:

Why are there no women on the panel?

We tried. We failed. The event was set up at short notice and as it happened, of all the excellent people we approached the only ones available on the day were men. We knew this wasn’t ideal and questions would be asked, so we tried to make a joke about it.

We tried. We failed. Should have been spotted by us, but as soon as our attention was drawn to it – via Twitter – we removed it. That only added to the confusion as some people saw the reactions without always knowing what was being reacted to.

So, sorry. It’s not through lack of effort the line-up is wide-ranging in the nature of their brilliance but entirely mono-gendered, but it is our fault the attempt at levity about it fell flat. And we do appreciate the efforts of all those who drew our attention to the error.

I know what you’re thinking at this point: but Rebecca, how do you know that the organizers of this conference are men? That is a very good, skeptical question, dear readers. Allow me to present the evidence:

1. As previously established, men are not funny. The FAQ was objectively unfunny.

2. As previously established, men rely on bigotry in order to “shock” their audience into not realizing they’re not being funny. The FAQ was aggressively misogynistic.

3. In their response, Entangled Bank states that the FAQ was there because they hadn’t “spotted” it. How can you not spot something that appeared in the official description of your own event on your own website? It’s simple: men, as hunters, did not evolve the ability to spot important things. Only women, the gatherers, evolved that ability. A woman would have immediately spotted that FAQ, if not while she was writing it then definitely when she was proofreading it, posting it to the site, or scanning the page to be sure all the text was formatted properly. She would have spotted that misogynistic blurb like a succulent berry hanging from a twig in a spotlight of morning sun.

So, clearly Entangled Bank doesn’t have any women on staff to help them write their jokes. With that in mind, here are three FAQ options that would have been funnier than the misogynistic choice they went with:

Why are there no women on the panel?

We asked several women to participate but unfortunately none were able to make it. Next year we’ll try harder, but for this year we will have a cardboard cutout of Jocelyn Bell Burnell that has a motion detector so when you walk past it says, “If we assume we’ve arrived: we stop searching . . . FOR WOMEN.”

or

Why are all your speakers older white men?

We asked several women and people of color to participate but unfortunately none were able to make it. We’re not sure why, but it’s a shame because we were planning a workshop with Richard Dawkins titled, “Things Marginalized People Should and Should Not Be Angry About: Everyday Bigotry (No) and Religion (Yes).”

or

How many women did you ask to speak at your event?

DUUUUUUH WHAT’S A WOMAN

These are all free for you to use, Entangled Bank! You’re welcome.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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26 Comments

  1. Avatar of Kammy
    September 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm —

    Event organizers: Levity? How the fuck does that work?

    Brilliant and funny, as usual, Rebecca. :D

  2. Avatar of Jeff Coder
    September 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm —

    I will increase the sample size by one and confirm that I am both an old white male and horribly, horribly unfunny.

  3. Avatar of delphi_ote
    September 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm —

    “I am a fanatical, misandristic ‘feminist’. May I drone on about the lack of women in the line-up and despatch abusive, bigoted, mis-spelt, ungrammatical missives to the organisers and presenters?”

    I don’t understand the need for change. The original question pretty much answers itself, though, “Why are we such raging assholes?” is a lot shorter.

    • Avatar of MrFancyPants
      September 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm —

      Yeah, if the first response you can think of to that FAQ question involves any variation on the word “misandry” and a sneer at feminists, then you’re not at all going to give the impression that you’re an entitled/privileged dudebro. Not a chance! I’m sure that women who are scientists will clamor to be included next time, in droves, given how accomodating the organizers are.

      • Avatar of Louis Redux
        September 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm —

        I found out the hard way that when your joke is indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the bigots, it’s time to find another joke.

      • Avatar of delphi_ote
        September 23, 2013 at 8:54 pm —

        But COME ON! They went through ALL the trouble of inviting some chicks, and the cold hearted femistazi still said, “No!” Misandry! But they were also just totally joking, girls! HA HA! Winky face! Irony tag! J/K LOL! They were totally just kidding about your being a buncha stuck up bitches, so you should totally come next year. Unless you’re just uptight, fanatical feminists, of course. KIDDING! Joking!

        Insulting people is hilarious, as long as you say it’s a joke.

  4. Avatar of onamission5
    September 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm —

    Over and over I am stunningly unsurprised that the response of misogynists to the fact that women don’t seem to want to be around them is “that’s just how it is I dunno what’s wrong with women” and not “what am I doing that is driving women away?” Gee, could it be that these guys just don’t give a fuck, and are only paying lip service to equal representation after all?

  5. Avatar of Louis Redux
    September 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm —

    Now THIS is funny. And even better than that it clearly has some proper evolutionary psychology (which am an science dontcherknow) behind it. Also it has caused me to think about doing some research. After all, berries are pink, in paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies women evolved to pick berries or something, this is why women like pink. I will now construct research into whether or not jokes are pink.

    For science!

    I also did blog on this event: http://www.poaj.net/oh-for-fu/ which is a little bit more serious than this comment. Which isn’t serious. I feel I need to make that clear. There are other men on the internet and they might not get it. It took me ages to think this up.

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
      September 23, 2013 at 8:46 pm —

      <fakeblockquote>”… which is a little bit more serious than this comment. Which isn’t serious. I feel I need to make that clear. There are other men on the internet and they might not get it.”</fakeblockquote>

      Yes! This! This is why I always take the trouble to explain my jokes, because otherwise people other men won’t understand why they are funny. I’ve heard that jokes don’t have to be explained to be funny, but that’s a logical fallacy. Argumentum absurdum, I think. I do know for a scientific fact that all my jokes have to be explained, (and I’m pretty that if Rebecca had included any jokes in this post, she would have explained them for us.) But once I explain my jokes, they are hilarious.

  6. Avatar of Nicole
    September 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm —

    I would like a cardboard cutout of Jocelyn Bell Burnell delivered to my office please.

  7. Avatar of sallystrange
    September 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm —

    Gosh, whyever would a respectable lady scientist turn down an invitation to speak at a conference with such a fine bunch of TOTALLY NOT SEXIST AT ALL scientists and organizers?

    Women! They’re so mysterious, amirite?

    • Avatar of Louis Redux
      September 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm —

      Sally, not only are they not sexist, they’re really funny and seriously looking for women speakers. Seriously looking for women speakers but because of short notice they couldn’t quite get any. Now far be it from me to suggest with my sceptical brain that Bill Bailey (v famous in the UK btw) and Richard Dawkins are busy people, but I am guessing there was some arrangement of calendars to make that combination happen. Perhaps many jokes were told to make those people’s schedules fit. Or is that too cynical of me to think? I wouldn’t want to think cynical things of a leader in the atheist/sceptical movement. Why that would be misandry!

      • Avatar of MrFancyPants
        September 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm —

        You know, I thought the same thing. It’s not like you can call up Dawkins the day before and say “Hey, will you come speak for an hour at our thing tomorrow? We’ll have complimentary muffins” and figure he’ll do it. The thing is, unless you’ve been living under a rock the last three years, it should be pretty obvious that getting women speakers at skeptical/science conferences just might be difficult to do, even if you’re hosting a conference known to be friendly and accomodating. So it seems that a thoughtful conference organizer would start emailing and calling women from day one, and not let up. Call me a pessimist, but an inner voice tells me that what they probably did was go after the men with big names right away, and then at some later stage realized “whups, gotta get some women in here oh too late!”

  8. Avatar of knitty
    September 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm —

    Sometimes I wish we had a ‘like’ feature for comments. The last two are priceless.

    I literally LOL’d.

    Unfortunately I am not as funny as I think I am woman. Which is very irritating to me when a more funny male breaks the mold and makes me laugh. I have to wonder what the world is coming to when that happens.

  9. Avatar of Stephanie Zvan
    September 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm —

    I keep seeing the reason for all-male panels given as “All the women we asked turned us down!” And I think to myself, “Self [I'm very formal], they asked a panel’s worth of people to appear. Some of those people turned them down. They then asked more people. No, they then asked more men. Does this mean that they looked at their original sample of invitees and decided that since all the women and none of the men turned them down, this was just a day on which all women were busy? Because if you want women on your panel, you keep asking women instead of asking more men.”

    • Avatar of delphi_ote
      September 23, 2013 at 9:02 pm —

      How are they supposed to ask more women to come when women only represent slightly over half the human population? Are you suggesting they explicitly look for more female speakers to invite? Misandry!

    • Avatar of Senritsu
      September 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm —

      Well, you see, women have extra things to do that men don’t have to worry about – like PMS-ing, endlessly raging on the internet, plotting ways to steal liquid gold seed from alpha men, categorizing all the pink berries we found each day…

      You know… girl stuff.

  10. Avatar of Michael Grayer
    September 23, 2013 at 7:20 pm —

    It perhaps should also be noted that another question was also removed from their FAQ at the same time:

    “I believe in God. Will I have the chance to throw abuse or physical objects at Richard Dawkins?
    No. We will throw you out instead. But questions aimed at any of our presenters are very welcome if asked in a polite manner.”

    Make of that what you will, but I find the irony of the disappearance of both those questions at the same time very ironic, especially given that Dawkins has not been shy about accusing events organised by religious societies of misogyny in the past.

  11. Avatar of John-Henry Beck
    September 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm —

    Just thought I’d drop in to say the post is pretty funny. I guess I’m a sucker for the sarcastic style.

  12. Avatar of aceofsevens
    September 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm —

    As a man, I find this offensive, but I can’t argue with science.

  13. Avatar of Will
    September 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm —

    This is one of the best evolutionary psychology blog posts in existence. Job well done. Very clearly explains why men evolved to be not funny, and I look forward to the day when scientists locate the unfunny gene to support your obviously true claims.

  14. Avatar of dxman
    September 24, 2013 at 3:34 am —

    As a man and a programmer I must agree – just as with hunting, my brain has evolved to last the long hours sitting waiting for elusive algorithms to appear in the forests of code. I can sit for hours just staring at a wall, which is ideal for my male-dominated job.
    And humour? That is absolutely true as well, I use shock-word humour all the time. My daughter’s favourite joke is “Daddy said bum”, which shows that women (and girls) are capable of taking a man’s idiotic attempt humour and actually making it funny.

  15. Avatar of Bjornar
    September 24, 2013 at 10:01 am —

    I think the fact that they just changed it without whining that it was funny, ironic and true should count as a victory for reason, even if it’s obvious that the guy who wrote it, at least, has some issues.

    And/or maybe it was calculated. I wouldn’t have heard about this event but for the controversy, and they may have through all PR is good PR.

  16. Avatar of zylla
    September 24, 2013 at 11:26 am —

    Shhhh! Be vewwy vewwy qwiet, I’m hunting jokes! =}

    This reminds me of the “hilarious” insertion of names for the crew of the South Korean jet that crashed at SFO in July: some low-level idiot thought it was funny and slipped it in, probably not expecting it to actually get posted… or maybe not. Idiots. Even if there were a context in which this were funny, remove that and helloooooo??

  17. Avatar of Eve
    September 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm —

    YES! In so many ways! To celebrate your wondrous snarkfest on evolutionary psychology, here is a present, from boingboing.net.

    I was also charmed by this, which is still in the FAQ:

    Is the event accessible to wheelchair users?
    Certainly. Economy and Standard floor seats are easily accessible. We’re happy to provide one free carer seat per seriously disabled person.

    Only per seriously disabled person, of course. People who are merely mildly disabled will just have to stuff it. I would really love to know how they are going to assess this. Are they going to team up with ATOS and the DWP? The people who sent me a correctly-addressed letter asking me what my address was, after corresponding with me there for nine years? The people who love to write medical reports stating that a woman applicant had had a hysterectomy several years before the birth of their first child (well, it happened to two people that I know of, but that was in a very small group)? And according to whom, amputees are only temporarily, and mildly, disabled?

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