The article “Why Women Aren’t Funny” deals with the justification of humor being considered a men’s prerogative inaccessible to women. The author argues that male biological makeup differs from female even though both sexes can possess a sense of humor. To prove this thesis Hitchens uses various rhetorical arguments and distinct rhetorical strategies that appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos, which are the central notions of rhetoric as a science. Hitchens manages to build his argument successfully throughout the whole article with the help of linguistic means of persuasion that deal with the reflection of personal attitudes, collective representations, scientific data, and well-known facts.
In the article, Hitchens first showcases the peculiarities of humans’ psychology, since men are traditionally considered funny and women as pretty or serious. According to the author, humor is the prerogative of a man, who has to be impressive so as to be attractive in women’s eyes. The former possess more complex and quick mechanisms of constructing jokes that have formed throughout the evolution of human beings. The author involves the arguments of logos in the paper using the results of a study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine, where the biological facts and strong logical connections between the thoughts contribute to the audience’s persuasion. For instance, talking about the peculiarities of humor perception and its reflection on brain activity the author uses information with professional vocabulary so as to convince the audience:
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But they also found that some brain regions were activated more in women. These included the left prefrontal cortex, suggesting a greater emphasis on language and executive processing in women, and the nucleus accumbens…which is part of the mesolimbic reward center (Hitchens).
Therefore, with the help of such rhetorical tool as appealing to scientific facts the author creates an impression of extensive knowledge of this topic and awareness of the current scientific inquiry.
Second, the author supports the thesis appealing to the peculiarities of female and male characters. It is a fact that men tend to perceive anything to be funny due to their specific attitude towards life that presupposes fewer troubles and concern about others, in particular children. For example, only men can laugh at ordinary everyday life, which is full of anxiety, such as parental care of babies, imperfections of human body, etc. On the contrary, women cannot let themselves find it funny due to their serious attitude towards life, obligations and rules. Thus, men do not have to pretend to be serious and can use their talents to crack a joke every time they want to express their intelligence and captivate women.
Lastly, Hitchens emphasizes that women cannot be funny because men do not like intelligent women, who can surpass them. Moreover, they do not want women to be competitive and prefer the representatives of the weaker sex to be the audience but not the comedians with a high level of IQ. In addition to that, nature presupposes such distribution of roles and makes women more serious whereas men can be the mockers.
Such plausible structure of argumentation makes the article justified and logical. Moreover, the author manages to organize parts of his speech in the right way and uses many rhetorical instruments maximizing their persuasive effect. Throughout the article, the author gradually explains his position reinforcing it with the additional arguments.
Hitchens appeals to logos not only at the beginning of the article. Throughout the article, his thoughts are logically connected. For instance, talking about the connection between the humor and intelligence as a biological capacity and result of evolution, the author used general facts and deductive structures to appeals to logos:
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For women the question of funniness is essentially a secondary one. They are innately aware of a higher calling that is no laughing matter. Whereas with a man you may freely say of him that he is lousy in the sack, or a bad driver, or an inefficient worker, and still wound him less deeply than you would if you accused him of being deficient in the humor department (Hitchens).
Thus, appealing to logos convinces the readers, because human beings as rational creatures are used to trusting scientific facts and logical structures. Moreover, the usage of arguments that influence logos leads to active intellectual work of the audience that has to approach the topic with the help of the author as completely as possible. Eventually, the readers may feel inspired and experience identification with others because of the logical arguments, which help the author explain his idea.
In addition to that, the author appeals to ethos in the article so as to accomplish the rhetorical goal of persuading the audience. In the article, Hitchens refers to many different sources, among which are the biological studies of Stanford Medical School, the information about the comedians Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Kipling’s poetry. The usage of such sources and quotes enables the author to justify the plausibility of the arguments because it shows the thorough preliminary work made by the author. Such references can evoke the audience’s empathy. Therefore, the audience feels trust towards the author and emotional devotedness.
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Furthermore, in his desire to be more persuasive Hitchens utilizes the details of his personal life, in particular the relationship with his girlfriend. Such strategy demonstrates the will of the author to involve all possible sources to make the necessary impact on the audience and show the sincere personal interest in the analyzed issue. Therefore, appealing to ethos contributes to the encouragement of the audience and embodies the call to reconsider the usual understanding of the phenomenon of humor, and its relatedness to the two sexes.
Finally, the author of the analyzed article appeals to the third significant rhetorical component – pathos, which is often thought to be the most important one. It is evident that successful arguments have to rely not only on the correct use of statistics, scientific data, and reflection of the collective representations but also on the emotional communication with the audience and its structuring according to the reactions, expectations, and nonverbal responses of the public. Therefore, to fulfill this task Hitchens endeavors to build the article in the format of the dialogue that always emphasizes the democratic style of the author, who does not pretend to be the source of the ultimate truth. On the contrary, Hitchens shows with the help of this strategy that the argumentation is a mutual effort and a collective activity, where the audience is not just a passive multitude, but an active participant in the intellectual enterprise that can influence the course of events. For instance, the author poses many rhetorical questions pretending to ask the opinions of people. Moreover, he uses the pronoun “we” in many places creating the impression of the collective subject of rhetorical speech: “Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about,” “we know,” etc.
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In addition to that, Hitchens uses to different devices, among which are epithets, expressions like “the glory of slaves”, a proverb “we are all born into a losing struggle” that add an informal atmosphere to the communication and influence the audience’s expectations. Such vivid language captures audience’s attention and helps to express solidarity with each other due to the informal communication style. Furthermore, Hitchens pays much attention to the selection of words and expressions that can make the audience accept his views. When he speaks about women, he uses phrases like “bless their tender hearts” hoping that women will not stay indifferent. In addition to that, the usage of the pronoun “we” makes the audience feel their own significance and author’s respect and desire to think about the problem together.
To sum up, Hitchens uses distinct rhetorical strategies at a high level, which make the communication efficient and successful due to the translation of significant meaning and persuasion of the readers. The author of the analyzed paper uses arguments that appeal to three rhetorical dimensions: ethos, logos, and pathos. The means of persuasion are specific verbal expressions and references. Appealing to the scientific data, personal attitudes, collective representations, and communication with the audience, the author multiplies the effect of the rhetorical devices used in his article. In addition to that, the author combines these rhetorical components in such a way that it is not easy to separate them. Only the unity of three dimensions of the rhetorical argumentation can lead to the successful perception of the theme and arguments by a particular audience. Due to the professionalism of Christopher Hitchens, the structure and general logic of the article and its arguments manage to fulfill this task.