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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

for everyone who has somehow failed to grasp this fact: I am a woman

Someone in comments recently assumed that the review she was commenting on was written by a man. It’s not worth pointing out this commenter or this review specifically because this happens all the time: I get emails or comments from readers who assume that they are addressing a man.

So I must ask this:

How does anyone not realize that I am female? My name — my very feminine name, not a “Chris” or a “Pat” or any other name that is gender unspecific — is right there in the banner across the top of every page. My name appears again right under my picture at the very top of the righthand column. I may not be the most attractive woman in the history of the world or even someone a gossip magazine has dubbed the Sexiest Woman Alive at this point in time, but I’d like to think I at least look like a woman. How is it in any way unclear that I am not?

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  • Yeah, people can be astonishingly stupid and oblivious if given the chance. But m’eh, anyone who can’t figure out which movies you’ve seen, or that you’re a woman, just nicely tags themselves right away as someone whose opinion you can safely disregard.

  • Mimi

    Where, where are these comments? I must read them and giggle!

  • MaryAnn

    No, it really isn’t worth it. And most of them come in email, anyway.

  • JoshDM

    Wait, you’re not a guy?

    . . .

    If a guy reads about a girl who he thought was a guy, but isn’t anymore, what does that make the guy who read about the girl who he thought was a guy?

  • Confused.

    I was tempted to say something witty to MaryAnn like “You’re a woman? Prove it.”

    But then I realized that (1) it’s really not that witty (and the only thing worse than being witty is not being witty) and (2) she might fly down here and smack the crap out of me. (Then again, that might not be so bad.)


  • A Guy

    Dude (in the most inclusive sense)!! Worry not! Anyone who reads your reviews of Apatow comedies would instantly know your gender. Letting passionately held personal politics get in the way of a good laugh—to the point of turning the review into a drama—is a very chick thing to do.

  • Anne-Kari

    A Guy – I always find it amusing that people like to make sweeping generalizations about an entire gender by accusing other people of sweeping generalizations based on their gender.

  • JoshDM

    Assume everyone on the internet is a guy until they prove it. It’s safer that way.

  • A Guy

    Anne-Kari: I couldn’t quite follow your comment, but I think it reinforces the point that, when it comes to a sense of humor, women need to be graded on a curve.

  • MaryAnn

    Women need to be graded on a curve? You mean, to bring them into some sort of alignment with male “norms”?

  • Anne-Kari

    A Guy:

    Aw, don’t worry if you couldn’t follow my comment. You tried your very best, and that’s all that counts…

    Well actually you missed the point entirely, but you get an “A” for effort. Of course, I graded that on a curve.

  • A Guy

    To be honest, the “grading on a curve” bit is not my original contention, it’s Hitchens’ in Vanity Fair:

    Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about…

    Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex…

    Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift…


  • misterb

    All I can say is that if Christopher Hitchens thinks he’s funny, he’s kidding himself in a particularly pompous way.

    Doesn’t it seem reasonable that women and men might have *different* senses of humor, as they are acculturated differently? Now, it’s true there are more male comics than women, but that also means there are more mediocre to abysmal male comics.

    Bottom line – I can name 5 female comics off the top of my head that would outfunny Christopher Hitchens every night.

  • AlanM

    A Guy, when it comes to humor, most people need to be graded on a curve. My cats can out-funny 95% of the people who have ever lived and they spend most of their time asleep.

    Actually, when it comes to humorlessness, I’ve always felt that conservatives take the cake. Republicans just aren’t funny. Al Franken is funny. Jon Stewart? Funny. The Half Hour News Hour (Fox’s attempt at The Daily Show)? Not so funny. P.J. O’Rourke is pretty funny, but he’s more of a libertarian (I’m not going to explain why that makes a difference. It just does). Ann Coulter is hilarious, but I have a nagging suspicion she’s not trying to be.

  • MaryAnn

    A Guy, do you know any actual women? Or do you only consider people to be women if they’re mute fuckbunnies?

  • paul

    Political humor requires that you reveal a new truth or a truth in a new way. Since conservatives are, by definition, opposed to “new” truth, and some of them are opposed to “truth”, it’s harder for them to be funny. The best they usually manage is shock jock humor like Rush, and I never laughed at him (well, I should have said “with” him). Shock jocks humor is when a person has nothing new to say, just cruder ways of saying what so many have said before. A “rush” to the bottom of eloquence.

    As for women and humor, to be honest, I’m a lot more likely to reread MaryAnn’s reviews when she doesn’t like a movie. Oh, god, how I laugh, even when I liked the movie myself.

  • shoop

    “Bottom line – I can name 5 female comics off the top of my head that would outfunny Christopher Hitchens every night.”

    Five? Well, you’re doing better than I am, misterb. But, let’s see how I do off the top of my head…
    1) Sarah Silverman–this is the only time I’ll use the term “comic genius” in this post. Why? Four words–“I’m F**king Matt Damon.”
    2) Rosanne–she made me laugh a lot when she started out, and she oversaw one of the finest sitcoms ever. She did, however, go a little nuts.
    3) Lisa Lampenelli–she makes me laugh sometimes, in an “Andrea Dice Clay” sort of way, but sometimes rudeness is just rudeness.
    4) Wendy Liebman–she just killed me, but she kinda ran out of material early. She did, nevertheless, contribute an aspirate-your-popcorn-hilarious segment to “The Aristocrats.”
    5) Rita Rudner–makes me laugh sometimes, but then again, she also co-wrote “Peter’s Friends,” which means she has a lot to answer for.

    So, there’s 5, anyhow. Funnier than Hitchens? Well, it’s kind of apples and oranges–we’re judging from a serio-comic essay rather than a routine. And am I the only one who, while not agreeing with Hitchens 100%, thinks he’s making some valid points…?

  • AlanM

    Paul: “As for women and humor, to be honest, I’m a lot more likely to reread MaryAnn’s reviews when she doesn’t like a movie.”

    That’s true about every film critic worth reading. Roger Ebert’s review of North is a classic. I’ve read each one of James Berardinelli’s zero-star reviews and loved them. There is just so much more to say about a bad movie than a good one. All great movies are alike, but all bad movies are bad in their own way.

    (First person to spot the reference gets a virtual high-five)

  • A Guy

    MaryAnn: Do I actually know any women? Have you really not figured it out yet?

    I am a woman.

  • shoop

    AlanM–I think you’re paraphrasing Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, with regard to unhappy families.

  • MaryAnn

    A Guy, if you are a woman, then surely you must know that unless you consider your role in a relationship with a man as something other than a mute fuckbunny (which a woman can only even aspire to be if she looks like a Barbie doll, which most of us don’t), women *do* have a corresponding need to appeal to men.

    But I find it hard to believe that any woman today would suggest that women should be “graded on a curve,” even if that’s a quote from someone else.

    Then again, I’m also surprised that men who say things like “always assume a person of unknown gender is male” and “people who claim to be female should have to prove it” don’t realize that even though they say those things in jest, they reveal quite a bit about the assumptions of our society: that the “norm” is male (and white, too, though that’s another discussion), and any deviation from that must be considered suspect, at best.

  • Ryan

    Actually, what they mean is that a lot of people on the internet who are guys anonymously pretend to be women. It is especially common in MMORPGs. WHY this is the case, I do not know.

    Also, while any guy who aspires to find a ‘mute fuckbunny’ as his significant other is an idiot. (And there are idiotic guys out there, no doubt.) I sort of agree that women need to do less to attract guys than vica-versa. I’m just talking anecdotal experience here…but I think Darwin could back me up ;)

  • paul

    Alan, I don’t mean to brown-nose, but MaryAnn’s reviews are the only ones I reread, the reviews of the bad ones because I laugh so hard the and reviews of good ones because I want to better understand why they are good. I discovered her reviews through Rotten Tomatoes, which offered scores of movie reviewers, but this site is obviously the one I keep coming back to.

    Ryan, women pose as men on the Internet so they can interact on the Net without being hit on. I’ve read that some men pose as women so other people will pay more attention to them. Some middle-aged FBI agents pose as 12-year old girls so they can catch perverts (they even undergo training so they can “chat” about Britteny Spears, etc.). Some people have extreme Facebook entries (or other similiar sites) so they can get the most “friends.” I remember back in college when some regulars to a then modern but now ridiculously primitive website complained about how the conversations were getting dull so I pretended to be two different people arguing about women and both of them were accused of sexism, but oh, the conversation picked up a lot.

    Posing, pretending, and porn are the vices of the Net we put up with for the sake of its virtues.

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