Flash: Why Women Don’t Like Slapstick

From the Internet Hive Mind: Hostile Architecture Bench (https://theludlowgroup.com/2018/03/01/the-discussion-on-hostile-architecture-a-public-service-or-infringement-on-human-rights/)

“Okay, I give up. Why the bear?”

Lizzy turned her head to the side to look at Robert as they walked through the city park. “It’s been two months. That meme is over. Kicked the bucket and put a fork in it done.”

“But would you choose the bear?” he pressed.

Before answering, Lizzy glanced to her other side where Payton strolled next to them, verifying he was restraining his acreage-eating pace down to what normal mortals could keep up with. He gave her a small smile and a shrug of his oversized company logo’ed t-shirt. She rolled her eyes at him, then turned back to Robert. “If we do the original supposition where I am walking in the woods and a random bear or a random man crosses the path in front of me, which I would rather encounter? Then bear.”

“But why?” the whine, like Lizzy had purposely tried to hurt his feeling when he was the one to bring up the question made Lizzy wince.

“Because I am in the woods, duh.” Lizzy decided to play if for laughs with some underlying truth, otherwise the luncheon walks would get tough and the group dynamics in the work space would get awkward. “I am in the woods, the bear lives there. I’m cruising through his living room. Basically if I don’t bother him by changing the channel on his TV, he is going to leave me alone. Or her, I shouldn’t misgender the hypothetical bear.”

“Ha, ha.” Robert responded, taking a deeper breath. While he and Lizzy were of age, he had been a coach potato more aggressively before Manyard Associates got through their mutually thick heads to participate in the Heathy Living Initiative at the start of spring. Payton joined them when got hired last month, not wanting to sit at his desk alone in their portion of the cubicle farm. “Why not a man?”

“Por dios,” Lizzy shook her head. Robert always made thing difficult, his privileged white CIS    male ass just couldn’t learn to be P.C. without a clue-by-four hitting him across the head. “Because the man doesn’t belong in the woods. If he is there…” She paused searching for a delicate way to put it without arguing for the rest of the walk as they swung around the far lamp post and started back to their office building.

Payton’s deep voice said to her right, “He followed her.”

That is a man that gets it.

“But what if he didn’t. Follow her.” Robert panted lightly beside them. “He was just. There. You know.”

“If a man is around a woman, she can’t just think that they are just there. Not like the bear. Even when they are, because, you don’t know.” A couple instances where things changed on a dime flashed through Lizzy’s head. Her voice deepened and softened with a mixture of sadness and fear. “You never know.”

“It’s not. All men.”

“But it is all women.” Payton’s response carried a rhythm and melodic touch quoting a song.

Lizzy would need to ask him for the artist later. (Morgan St. Jean, “Not all men,” and the song made her cry. And get angry. She wanted to put it on repeat, and also never hear it again. But that was a couple days later.)

“Sure.” Robert sank onto the bench in front of the glass doors. The one with the swooped seats and the arm rest in the middle to prevent homeless from the park from sleeping in front of the skyscraper at night. He pulled back his sleeve to check his watch. “Twenty minutes. We are getting. Better.”

“Time to add another lap. Maybe head down to the amphitheater” Payton smirked at the two elders. “We got thirty minutes to play with, and the down and up the hill will be great cardio.”

“Not today Satan.” Lizzy shook her head. “Give us a moment.”

Leaning his head back on the bench, Robert looked up at Lizzy through squinted eyes. “Are men really that bad?”

Is this a conversation she wanted to have? Robert constantly pushed and prodded. If it wasn’t her being female in a male-dominated industry, then it was her Latino roots, or her Catholic upbringing, or her immigrant grandparents on her father’s side. Sometimes he listened. The clue-by-fours did get through … rarely, but sometimes.

Fine. They hadn’t had a good fight in a while. With Payton there, maybe it won’t get that bad.

Not like the time she reamed Robert’s ass during the COVID when he complained about food not getting harvested so he couldn’t get his favorite fresh fruits and vegetables. If you don’t allow immigrants across the border, which during COVID they absolutely didn’t and shouldn’t, then natives needed to take up the slack and, shocker, they didn’t. It wasn’t the complaints about food that set her off after being locked in her apartment alone for two months, but the grumbles about how COVID wasn’t even a thing if it wasn’t for immigrants and then started on his patented grievances about not enough jobs for normal hard-working men. She had felt the sting personally about the hard-working men, because it implied women as well as immigrants were stealing jobs. Something he had been needling her about since they had been teamed together in 2018.


He had cut her off mid-rant on their video call. He didn’t talk to her for over a week, wouldn’t even answer her texts on the project until she got their boss involved. A supervisor who made her apologize. Not him. But that is the way of the world. Right or wrong (and she would admit at least to herself, she had gone too far on that one), women just have to apologize if work would continue.

But afterwards, Robert did ask what had made her so “prickly”. At least, he hadn’t blamed it on “that time of month.” She had decided to focus on her not feeling like he not valued her as a co-worker since he constantly implied that women shouldn’t be working but stay at home where they belong, taking care of families. A therapy issue for him she figured was leftover from his divorce. And miracles of miracles, he had listened. Or at least changed his behavior. Not another snipe about women choosing careers over or along-side families.

And a slow roll back of his stance on immigration.

Maybe another lesson would take. She glanced at her watch. Five minutes before they needed to head indoors. How do to this quickly?

“It’s not that men are that bad, not all men.” Lizzy gave Robert a smile. “It’s just women are that fragile compared to men, and men forget that.”

“How so?” Robert tilted his head, and even Payton looked interested.

“Okay, you are about a standard-sized man, and I am a standard-sized female. I’m five four, and you are?”


She nodded. “Six-inch difference, standard. I’m one sixty-one.” They had weigh-in regularly as part of the Healthy Living, so the three of them had a solid handle of the others weights.

“Down two pounds. Good going!” Payton congratulated her.

“One ninety.” Robert rounded down, like normal.

“Thirty pound difference, still normal. Now I want you to picture yourself as a female with a man proportionally bigger than you. That would be about seven inches and thirty-five pounds heavier. I got more fat than you, nearly 10%, so picture—”

“Ha, still a chunky monkey.”

“Dude.” Payton leaned forward and slapped Robert’s arm.

“I’m a female, we got extra fat for boobs and ass and thigh. Deal. I have to.” Lizzy glared until Robert leaned back, muttering sorry. “Anyway, figure the male has less fat but more muscle. So over six foot—”

“Basically me,” Payton said. “I’m six five, two fifteen. I still go to the gym for weight-lifting, keeping the BMI down.” He lifted his t-shirt and rubbed the hair over his slightly sculpted six-pack.

“Excellent. Now Robert, stand up.”

“Okay,” the dark-haired man stood.

“Payton, I want you to stand as close to him as we normally get in the elevator.”

Payton took a step forward and Robert immediately took a small step back.

“No, no, Robert, don’t step back. If you take a step back, you might upset the man. This is a random guy. You don’t know how he will react. Stand your ground, but keep your eyes on his chest, don’t meet his eyes.” Lizzy glanced at the distance between the two men. “Payton, get as close to Robert as you see most average sized guys get with women at a bar.”

“Oh, kay.” Payton close the distance until a hand’s width was between them.

“Robert, how do you feel?”


“Safe? Secure? It’s only another human being. Just a man. Remember you are a woman in this scenario. And it’s not all men. He could be safe or he could be a ramdo. Is there just a little unease in your stomach?”

Robert raised his head. His eyes clearly darted over Payton’s broad chest and shoulders, finally landing on the face half a foot above his own. “Um, he is a bit intimidating.” Robert took two steps back. “But then he is unnaturally big.”

“Nope, he is the average size proportionally of man to woman. He is as big to you as you are to me.” Lizzy narrowed her eyes. “Now close the distance again Payton. Robert, the next question is what do you think would happen if he bumped you, if he shoved you?”

“I would fall down.”

“That was quick.” Lizzy shook her head. “No question at all about what would happen. I bet you would likely even bruise. And he might not have meant anything about it, he was just walking down the hall knowing people will get out of his way because he is bigger than the men and women around him. He might not even have noticed you go down. Now imagine if he was drunk or angry? Could he break something? Maybe an arm?”

“Oh, hell yes.”

“One final roleplay training before we go in. Payton,” Lizzy waited until the twenty-three-year-old moved his baby browns from looking down at Robert to her black eyes, “I want you to lean in and say with meaning ‘Alice, pow, right in the kisser.’”

Payton repeated it.

“No, say it like you mean it.” Lizzy waved her fist and made a mean expression.

Payton did it with feeling.

Robert took a big step back.

“And that, boys and girls, is why women hate slapstick.” Lizzy gestured toward the glass doors where the lunch exodus was reversing. “Shall we?”

“What do you mean?” Robert came around to her left side while Payton closed on her right, protecting her unconsciously just like they did when they were at the park. If someone jogged past in the other direction, she would drop behind Robert and Payton would take the rear since he had the easiest time catching up. “How did that explain why women hate slapstick?”

“How did you feel the second time Payton quoted Ralph from the Honeymooners?”

Robert pressed his lips into a firm line and glanced away.

“What’s the Honeymooners?” Payton asked.

“I’ll send you a link.” Lizzy looked up at the kid co-worker while they waited for the elevator. “Black-and-white slapstick television.”

“Where a guy threaten to hit a girl?”

“A guy threatened to hit his wife, regularly.”


“For fun, for laughs.”

The elevator door opened and they entered, Ralph hit the tenth-floor button, two other people entered with them choosing floors six and nineteen.

Lizzy continued, “Obviously, he loved his wife and would never hit her. She would laugh and tease him back. Women back then would never have been hit.” Lizzy’s lips twisted delivering the sarcasm font in her talking.

“Oh my god.” Payton eyes rounded in disbelief.

“What show was that?” the female waiting for the nineteenth floor asked while they waited for sixth floor to get off and the doors to close again.

“Honeymooners.” Lizzy answered.

The other woman nodded, “Tracks.”

The three co-workers and the extra person stayed quiet until the elevator opened on the tenth floor to let them off. They each tapped their badges at the front door of their company, unlocking the door and putting them on the clock.

“Not all slapstick is like that,” Robert said as they walked the maze to their joint four-desk cubicle. They mostly used the fourth desk for conferencing in the West Coast team.

“It is all like that on some level.” Lizzy retorted, slipping into her chair. “Look, I get it, slapstick is funny for guys because punches and shoves when you are all the same size and have muscle mass doesn’t hurt that much. But women are always around guys significantly bigger. Half the people women are around could hurt them by accident with a shove, so girls don’t joke around physically. We learn our lessons as teenagers when guys start shoving each other, if we get shoved, we get hurt. So no jokes of punching each other.” She clicked through her screens seeing what emails, voice mails, and instant messages had come in during their lunch hour. “It gets ingrained, playacting hurting other people isn’t funny because it always hurts when you are smaller.”

“Always taking the extreme.” Robert filled his cup with hot water to start his afternoon tea and dropped in the tea bag saved from the morning.

“You forget too soon.” Lizzy swiveled back to Robert. “All the guys around me are the size and strength of Payton to you. How funny would you find men his size fighting?”

“Like WWE?” Payton asked, “We don’t watch that for laughs.”

“Exactly. Slapstick comedy is usually performed by slim men, average-sized or non-muscular men. Short men might be on the receiving end. It always punches to the side or down, never up to someone stronger or bigger. What is there funny about that? Isn’t that one of the rules of comedy, good comedy, always punch up?”

“I … hmmm.” Robert pressed out the water from his tea bag before tossing it out. “I need to think on that.”

(2,367 words; first published June 2, 2024 (written 5/7/2024))

One thought to “Flash: Why Women Don’t Like Slapstick”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *