Coors holds a very special place in my heart. I loved working there because the beer business is fun and they treated their people very well. However, I quickly learned that being an executive for a beer company meant being able to take humor like a man.
I have not been in a mens locker room but traveling with an otherwise all male management team might be similar to what it is like. Their idea of entertainment was a stream of jokes taken at someone else’s expense.
Good wit is attractive to women and important in male hierarchical play.
One reason I fell in love with my husband was that I loved his way with words. I admire Ray’s humor because he is able to be very funny without resorting to being gross, vulgar or hurtful. I consider that evidence of his intelligence.
Apparently, I am not alone in being attracted to a man’s wit.
Whenever you look at on-line dating sites, you will see many references regarding good sense of humor (GSOH). But that doesn’t mean that men and women are looking for the same thing.
Women want a man who is a humor “generator,” while men seek a humor “appreciator.” (Eric Bressler, a psychologist at McMaster University in Canada)*
Geoffrey Miller theorizes that men learned to use humor and wit to attract a mate and perhaps to outsmart other men.*
Men and Women use humor differently
Jonny Goldstein replied to my April 8th post saying, “‘the arch enemy’ statement was definitely written twit in cheek!” Jonny, I was using your words to make my point about male competitive spirit, not to express hurt feelings. I very much appreciated the reminder that I wanted to write this post about gender differences and humor. Many thanks also to Tim who left an inspirational comment here on April 30th about verbal jousting.
Anything said when comparing men and women usually includes sweeping generalizations and certainly there are individual, cultural and demographic differences. But looking at some expert opinions, it would be worth considering:
“Men taunt other men with clever nicknames and insults. That isn’t something that women do. They don’t tend to play practical jokes, or engage in humor that humiliates or puts somebody down.” (John Morreal, a professor of religion at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, who has studied humor for 25 years.)*
“For women the primary goal of conversation is intimacy and, for men, the goal is positive self-presentation. Women’s humor supports a goal of greater intimacy by being supportive and healing, while mens humor reinforces performance goals of competition, the establishment of hierarchical relationships and self-aggrandizement.” (from Mary Crawford’s book, Talking Difference on Gender and Language)
Many men can feel threatened by a woman with a sharp wit. However, men who do appreciate their female partner’s humor are usually more secure, mature and educated than average. (Don Nilsen, a linguistics professor and expert on humor)* I would add the same holds true for male appreciation of intelligent, successful women.
*Thanks to William Lawson who sourced the experts for an article in Psychology Today.
There are fewer successful female stand-up comics
I know a lot of very funny female writers of books, columns, blogs etc and there are some great comedians but in general the number of men investing their time in being humorous, particularly stand-up is simply larger.
I think it could be explained by the two common goals of being funny: to joust with other men and to attract women.
Jokes about the difference between men and women
No discussion about the gender differences in humor would be complete without at least one humorous reference to stereotypical differences between men and women. There are so many, here is one cute list and a sample:
If Laura, Suzanne, Debra and Rose go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Suzanne, Debra and Rose.
If Mike, Charlie, Bob and John go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla, Peanut-Head and Scrappy
Generational Differences in Humor
Do male teenagers use particularly aggressive humor? I should ask my friend, Vanessa Van Petten, author of Teens Today but I did pick up this amusing recent experiment.
As reported by the BBC, Sam Shuster observed hundreds of people while unicycling around Newcastle upon Tyne. He discovered that men made more jokes at him than women. He said the majority of male jokers were aggressive and mocking, while most women at most teased him with a smile. He found teenage boys to be particularly aggressive in their humor.
Is the Way Men and Women Use Humor Changing?
Political correctness and the evolution of the place in society of women and minorities may have affected how we use humor. As women become integrated into previously male domains, is the gender related use of humor changing? What have you noticed in your life?