THEY USED TO CALL ME SNOW WHITE: Women's Strategic Use of Humor by Regina Barreca

THEY USED TO CALL ME SNOW WHITE: Women's Strategic Use of Humor

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Barreca (English/Univ. of Conn.) looks at women's senses of humor--and finds them good. Perhaps the best things here are the one-liners, scattered as liberally through the text as nuts in a fruitcake. The title is one, a version of a classic Mae West line: ""They used to call me Snow White--but then I drifted."" Also represented: Jane Austen, Lily Tomlin, Anita Loos, Gilda Radner, Erma Bombeck, Dorothy Parker, and even Margaret Thatcher. Linking the one-liners is an intelligent--how can it be called serious?--look at female humor, now out of the kitchen and into the comedy clubs and the board rooms. Barreca's thesis is that women's humor, including sexual humor, is different from men's. For instance, women laugh at institutions and the powerful (men among them); men laugh at lesser beings (women frequently among them). Women for many years kept sharp senses of irony hidden as part of the required Good Girl image; only Bad Girls (like Mae West) laughed out loud. That's all changed now, along with sexual mores, and Barreca suggests ways that women can use humor to both advance their careers and enrich their personal lives. Much of the advice is anecdotal (""and then I said""). Will the reader always have a snappy comeback when necessary as the women cited here seem to? Probably not--but some of the strategies, such as how to react publicly to sexist or sexual humor, are useful. In the 80's, men were advised, ""It's all right to cry."" Barreca convincingly tells women of the 90's, ""It's all right to laugh.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1991
Publisher: Viking