In January 2007, Christopher Hitchens published a Vanity Fair piece called "Why women aren't funny" that claimed there was a humor gap between the sexes. Four years later, the inflammatory essay continues to be an oft-discussed and debated part of the cultural conversation. Reading Tina Fey's new memoir, Bossypants, Curtis Sittenfeld had Hitchens in mind. "At the risk of sounding like the feminist police, I confess that I wasn't sure before now of Ms. Fey's place in the sisterhood," she writes in The New York Times. "After all, her 30 Rock character straddles a fine line between role model and pathetic stereotype of single womanhood." But in reading Bossypants, Sittenfeld realized that the very fact that Fey is so funny and successful, making jokes about everything from farts to Sarah Palin, demonstrates a certain kind of feminism. Here, an excerpt:
Ms. Fey's priorities in writing a memoir appear to have been flatulence jokes first and feminist consciousness-raising second. But what she manages to demonstrate, something I'm not sure I'd ever realized, is that flatulence jokes are a form of feminist consciousness-raising. That is, Ms. Fey's rebuttal to Christopher Hitchens's much-discussed 2007 Vanity Fair column about the unfunniness of women can be brief ("It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good. I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove it doesn't exist.") because she doesn't need to make an intellectual argument that women are funny. She just is funny.