They Used to Call Me Snow White…but I Drifted

Women’s Strategic Use of Humor

By Gina Barreca

Published by Viking in 1991 and issued as a paperback through Penguin Books in 1992, Snow White became an instant classic for both academic and general audiences interested in how women use humor and what others (men) think about funny women. Barreca, who draws on the work of scholars, writers, and comedians to illuminate a sharp critique of the gender-specific aspects of humor, provides laughs and provokes arguments as she shows how humor helps women break rules and occupy center stage. Barreca’s new introduction provides a funny and fierce, up-to-the-minute account of the fate of women’s humor over the past twenty years, mapping what has changed in our culture–and questioning what hasn’t.

From the Original Description

My boyfriend and I broke up. He wanted to get married…and I didn’t want him to.

Why is this joke, (told by stand-up comic Rita Rudner) funny? And why would it fall flat if its genders were reversed? Why, for that matter, do men and women laugh at such different things? This erudite, witty, and at times deliciously ribald book examines women’s humor, the jokes and stories that have only recently come out of the kitchen and onto the nightclub stage. But They Used to Call Me Snow White is also a guide for any woman who wants to respond forcefully yet appropriately to a boor’s come-on or a boss’s put-down. Drawing on a lineage of female humorists that extends from Jane Austen and Dorothy Parker to Lily Tomlin and Nicole Hollander, Gina Barreca shows how the proper punchline can work wonders on the street, in the bedroom, and even in the corporate boardroom.


“…amuses while instructing. When you respond with a bitchy, funny remark, you are not so much being hostile as asserting your right to be heard. You are making sure that you have the last word. And the last laugh.In Snow White, Barreca gets hers.” — People magazine

“An impassioned, wily, and often hilarious argument for women to unleash their sense of humor on the world.” —The Chicago Tribune

“Shuttles fluidly between Ivory Tower scholarship and real world experience…her text mixes personal reminiscence with good counsel…” —The Christian Science Monitor

“Barreca is a sharp analyst of women’s humor…observant, witty, acerbic, and knowledgeable.” —Los Angeles Times

“A book women will relish, one that promises it’s all OK: I’m funny, you’re funny; a book that gives the brain surgeon permission to hoot with her mouth open.” —The Hartford Courant

“Wise, liberating, and merry!” —Booklist

“Barreca offers illuminating analyses of humor as a weapon and of the Good Girl/Bad Girl dichotomy in books, movies and TV.” — Publishers Weekly

“Recommended.” —Library Journal

They Used to Call Me Snow White... But I Drifted

Publication Information

Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: University Press of New England (UPNE) Publication
Date: May 14, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1611684452

  • This reissued classic edition of They Used to Call Me Snow White has a new introduction by Gina Barreca
  • They Used to Call Me Snow White was a Globe and Mail Best Seller for 19 weeks
  • They Used to Call Me Snow White is now in its 19th printing