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A joke I don’t get

I overslept and thus came in at the end of the panel at DLD on women in the industry. The room was packed. A man in the audience (was it Ben Hammersley??) followed up on a panelist’s claim that an EU requirement that 30%of some government body (sorry to be vague; I couldn’t hear so well) made a real difference. The man asked for some examples of the difference this had made in policies.

In the course of her answer, the woman in her perfect English said that she didn’t think women were more peaceful than men. Germany has female fighter pilots, she said, and “Condoleeza Rice was a woman.” Even before she realized her mistake and corrected herself, the audience tittered.

Not a big deal. But I’m curious about why the crowd found this funny, or why it made the crowd anxious. Had the panelist made some other small mistake in English — “Rice are a woman,” “Rice a woman is” — no one would have laughed. It would have been rude to. It was the content of her mistake that caused the laugh, as if the very possibility of changing gender makes us nervous. Or possibly it was because we think power could turn a woman into a man. I don’t know.

Or maybe I’m just a little cranky from a late night, a fantastic dinner, and just a little more wine than I should have had.

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7 Responses to “A joke I don’t get”

  1. When you say “Condoleeza Rice was a woman” the implication is that she is dead, and of course Rice is not dead.

    The other English errors carry no such implication.

  2. may be they were just anxious she was goin to poke the chancellor ?

  3. Condoleeza Rice was a woman (who conducted herself in a very aggressive manner when she was Secretary of state). The “was” refers to her professional position and not to her existence.

    This illustrates that we associate our being with our doing to a dangerous extent. As a recently retired educator I walk around and frequently ask myself “Who Am I?” now that my life is no longer defined by the role in society that I played for too many hours each week.

    Carl Jung delineated masculine and feminine poles of the psyche that are inherent in everyone regardless of their biological gender. People have often commented that I have a strong feminine side because of my sensitivity, my interest in poetry and art, and my long hair. This feminine side is not gender based but it reflects orientation toward a psychic pole of intuition. The masculine pole of the psyche reflects orientation toward a psychic pole of thinking.

    As women gain “equality” in the professional world, their psychic orientation shifts to the thinking pole of the psyche because thinking is the dominant polarity of professional life, business, education, and modern life. To become successful in a thinking based culture one must become thinking based. It may not be “a man’s world” anymore but it is still a “thinking world”.

    The feminization of culture is a much broader based equalization based upon balancing psychic polarities. So I suggest that we need equal rights for the feminine pole of the psyche. As an educator I faced this issue continuously as funding for the Arts was consistently cut and funding for Math, Science, and Computer Science was increased.

    When women began to achieve equal social status there was an underlying hope that they would improve the organizations they entered because their feminine psychic orientation would balance masculine thinking and therefore egalitarian organization might balance hierarchical organization. What we now have is women in prominent positions of power who act as men used to act and we are surprised at this. The role or position and the dominance of thinking , however, have not changed. Women have manifested their inherent masculine psychic polarity in order to fill a position in society that is a psychically masculine position. In the same way, a stay-at-home “Dad” must manifest feminine polarities to care adequately for his children.

    One way to look at change is to document the percentages of women in certain professions. A far deeper litmus of change might be to redefine the roles and structures that both men and women are asked to fill. I am hopeful that the Obama administration will redefine the role of Secretary of State and not just appoint a different women to the position. I am also hopeful that this administration will begin to redefine Nation and Corporation so that we may live in a more balanced world.

  4. clearly you understand what people were giggling at – you just don’t find it funny.

  5. Not being there I can’t gauge the precise nature of what was going on, but isn’t it funny because just a few days ago Rice was the most powerful woman in the world and now, with Obama in power, she’s just a footnote. One linguistic slip reflects the pleasure – and relief – that she’s no longer secretary of state.

    Perhaps even a reflection of the attempt to paint the Obama regime as such a new broom that she might as well be dead.

    Or it’s just because people in Europe like to laugh at anything to do with the Bush administration.

  6. I don’t get the controversy. The phrase obvious implied Condy is no longer a woman but some other gender.

  7. I like how you write, please continue to do the same!

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