Women Are Funny, and Other Field Notes from the Internet

Women are expressing themselves online with flair and without reservation. Duh.

More and more women are making themselves heard. The web has opened the door for more women to use their voices, and we’re not just talking about blogHers. They are journalists, bloggers, comedians, sisters, mothers, wives, and friends. They are writing about their bodies, their relationships, their marriages, their children, our culture – without reservations.

What the women we admire here share in common is a strong personality, a unique voice, a way of seeing the world and a gift for storytelling that is accessible and, most importantly, humorous. Because it’s a fact: Women are actually pretty hilarious. Bravo to the following XX-ers for their bravery when tackling difficult topics, and their refusal to be nice girls in the face of criticism.

Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins was an outspoken liberal who wrote about politics in a brazen, bald-faced manner. Based in Texas, she took aim at the politics and politicians in her state, and, in the last years of her life, targeted President George W. Bush. She worked a stint at The New York Times, where she would come to work in blue jeans accompanied by her dog whose name was an expletive, and continually challenged her editors in word use and language. She returned to Texas to write for the Dallas Times Herald when they promised to let her write whatever she wanted.

She famously wrote about one congressman: “If his I.Q. slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day.” (h/t NYT) She continued to speak her mind in print until her death in 2007.

“During a recent panel on the numerous failures of American journalism, I proposed that almost all stories about government should begin: “Look out! They’re about to smack you around again!”

Heather Armstrong

An early blogger (we’re talking 20o1), Armstrong is best known for writing snarky comments and funny anecdotes about her coworkers and boss on her blog, Dooce, and then getting fired for it. Now, “dooced” is a term in the Urban Dictionary defined as “to lose your job due to the contents of your weblog.” Armstrong’s blog is now one of the most-read mommy blogs on the internet, although it started out as a personal blog about her work as a graphic designer in Los Angeles and her dating life. Her book, It Sucked and Then I Cried, How I had a Baby, a Breakdown and Much Needed Margarita details her battle with post-partum depression. She is warm, uncensored, and talks frankly about her blogging life, her entitled dogs, her growing daughters and everything in between.

“…Leta scrunched up her face and moaned, ‘Something isn’t right.’ It smelled like someone had died. Someone who hadn’t showered in the 20 years leading up to his death. Someone who ate only sauerkraut and licorice. And wore Crocs.

When we reached the family room we saw a giant puddle of vomit in the middle of our Persian rug, so huge that it was leaking off onto the hardwood floor and creating other puddles. MULTIPLYING DOG VOMIT. That shit is scientific. … There was no way around it. We were scooping up dog vomit with our hands and trying not to puke. Enter: our little helper.

… For those of you who have never lived with a two-year-old, they don’t help anything. Give them a broom and you will have to replace broken light fixtures. Marlo wanted to jump head first into that vomit. ‘Help you!’ she said.

… That’s when Jon picked her up and moved her backwards, setting her down with enough oomph to reinforce the severity of multiplying dog vomit. …Except, she didn’t understand. She just wanted to help. And so she collapsed into hysterical tears. And these were not the tears of a toddler who did not get her way. They were tears of a toddler whose feelings had been crushed. Decimated. A mother knows the difference.

I felt as shitty as the mountain of diarrhea we discovered a half hour later in the living room, worse than the other puddle of vomit we found on the carpet in the study. … I apologized to Marlo and let her use a few paper towels to wipe up the more shallow parts of the mess. Although, sometimes you have to draw a line and that line is ‘toddler is not allowed anywhere near canine diarrhea.’ Except I dug down deep to find the patience to say gently, ‘Sorry, Marlo. Only mom and dad get to clean up the poop.’”

Tina Fey

We recently discussed Fey’s hilarious book, Bossypants. As an established comedian, you expect her to be funny, but she is also down-to-earth and she delivers her stories in such an appealingly dry way you’re surprised to find yourself laughing. Fey sneaks up on you.

As a college student, Tina exacted revenge on a girl who had previously stolen her boyfriend. Afterward, she writes, “Obviously, as an adult I realize this girl-on-girl sabotage is the third worst kind of female behavior, right behind saying ‘like’ all the time and leaving your baby in a dumpster. I’m proud to say I would never sabotage a fellow female like that now. Not even if Christina Applegate and I were both up for the same part as Vince Vaughn’s mother in a big-budget comedy called Beer Guys.”

Denene Millner

Millner is a columnist for Parenting magazine and has authored several books. She began her blog, My Brown Baby, in September 2008, as “a space I created for African American moms looking to lend their critical but all-too-often ignored voices to the national parenting debate.” On My Brown Baby, Millner weighs in on inappropriate fashions for girls, the critical role of fathers, teaching children about race, the beauty of black girls and politics. Her voice is rich, clear and unequivocal. The way she describes her daughters’ beauty is lyrical and full of emotion, while her comments about politics are laser-sharp.

“…this Michele Bachmann character has the temperament of a nagging Chihuahua: She just refuses to go quietly into the dark night.
So since she insists on standing in front of microphones and saying the first thing to come to her small, small mind as she marathons on the road to the White House, responsible Americans have the duty to step up and shine a light on the crazy. After all, this is the country that elected Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger – hell, Ronald Reagan and the political wreck that was George W. Bush. We don’t exactly have the best track record with putting and keeping zany candidates in their place. I’d really like to make Bachmann an exception to the ‘We’re America and We Love To Elect the Crazy’ rule in the next presidential election.”

Julie Klausner

In her book, I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated, Klausner is so truthful and unsparing, that she made Vanity Fair’s Mike Sacks blush. Klausner also wrote a weekly business advice column for Salon called Lady Business. A journalist and comedian giving business advice. It works.

When a male employee wrote in about being distracted by his coworker’s low-cut blouses, Klausner wrote,

“What I know is definitely uncool is for you, a young, straight man in the workplace – not a minority unless it is Opposite Day – to take umbrage with a female colleague’s apparel choices. Because, frankly, what Perla in accounting wears to work so she can cover her bits and feed her family is really none of your business – even if your erection disagrees. If she’s violating a dress code rule that she’d been briefed on at the time of her hire, somebody in H.R. will talk to her, and she’ll probably be embarrassed and start wearing a scarf. Wow, what a victory: treat yourself to an extra Michelob Ultra if and when that goes down. As for your not being able to ‘focus’ on your work? It’s, no offense, so down on the list of problems I’m worried about that the oil-coated ducks in the Gulf are taking their last gasps of breath just to call you a chode.”

Mindy Kaling

Some call Kaling, a writer and actress on The Office, the Tina Fey for the younger generation. In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? her voice does have a young, fresh quality to it. When she talks about never having had a one-night stand and how she reacts to her friends’ stories, you can’t help but be charmed by her practicality and reasoning. Her best friend rules bring back memories of high school, her heartache over middle-aged valets is endearing, and her distaste for people using the word “retarded” reinforces the good feeling you get from her stories.

“Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing going on in their current life. What I’ve noticed is that no one who was a big star in high school is also a big star later in life, except athletes. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.”

images: EssGtrialx, carol browne, david shankbone, thebrownbookshelf, newyork.ucbtheatre, nohodamon

Andrea Newell

Andrea Newell is a Michigan-based writer specializing in corporate social responsibility, women’s issues, and the environment.