From Patrick Coffin, Catholic media personality and apologist (though not a philosopher):
These talented women — and I want to put it delicately but factually — are on the mannish side.
…Maybe this male-female difference an evolutionary biology thing. Maybe it’s that most men are attracted to women who find them funny as opposed to being funny per se.
I did not make that clear and I think some of the blowback stems from my use of the word women. I take responsibility. I was referring *primarily* to female stand-ups, not every last woman on earth. Humor is somewhat subjective, and women and men laugh at different things for their various reasons. I stand behind the basic point, however, which is that comedy as an enterprise is essentially a masculine one.
In some places, he says “women.” In some places, he says “female stand-ups.” In some places, he says “comedy as an enterprise”. Which is it?
We should define terms and distinguish between masculinity and traits commonly assigned to men. John Paul II defined femininity as a woman’s way of being in the world. By extension, masculinity is a man’s way being the world. With this definition, a trait, such as courage, is not masculine or feminine, even though society typically assigns it to men. Women are quite courageous. It just, in general, takes on a different style or look or context.
To say men have some qualities and women have other qualities is a form of fractional complementarity. The problem with fractional complementarity is it means the individual is incomplete without the other sex. That God made each person incomplete.
Men and women are complementary but in an integral way. My experience and worldview complement the man’s experience and worldview because I have experienced the world differently than he has. The sum is considerably greater than the individual parts. The individual parts are still whole and complete.
You cannot call a woman masculine because masculinity is a man’s way of being in the world and a woman cannot know it experientially. To call a woman mannish is an insult to her dignity as a woman, as it is to call a man girly. A woman can demonstrate traits more commonly associated with men but that does not make her less feminine because it does not alter the fact that she has and can only experience this world as a woman.
If masculinity and femininity refer to a man or woman’s way being in the world, respectively, then characteristics can not be masculine or feminine per se, but they are likely to be experienced in different ways by men and woman. Thus, if “female stand-ups” in “comedy as an enterprise” demonstrate traits more commonly attributed to men (“mannish”) then that is a reflection not of humor or women but of the business of stand-up comedy.
If we take humor as a characteristic and assume this method of “different ways of being in the world” then we could expect to see a different style of humor from men and women. If the feminine genius, according to Saint John Paul II, is a woman’s particular gift of regarding the human person and attending to others, then we could expect a more feminine humor to be deeply nested in context, attuned to her audience.
Perhaps this is why fewer women are in stand-up because that style of humor is anonymous. The comedienne speaks to a crowd, not an individual, must please many, must tell jokes, stories without the interpersonal interaction one might associate better with the feminine genius. A feminine style of comedy would be better demonstrated in a conversation, a back-and-forth, where she can build from and react to the other person in a humorous way.
Thus Coffin’s comment should have read, “stand-up comedy as a style of humor is more masculine.” One could add, “It is not well-suited to the common style of humor possessed by women.” He did not write that. Instead, he wrote, “Women, as a rule, aren’t funny.”
Women are not shocked and offended by this Catholic man’s words because they are politically correct. It is because we are human beings. It is because we expect a man of God to have a view of women that presents women in the image of God. God endowed women with humor because we are made in his image and I dare say, considering what women go through biologically, no one is funnier than God.