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Yes It’s True: ‘Anything you can do, I can do better…’

Let’s go back 50 years in time to 1971, when Archie Bunker was becoming a household word and “All in the Family” was emerging as the No. 1 show on television.

I recall a stunning episode in which a feminist friend of Gloria’s issued a riddle to Archie, who despite checking with many of his friends and associates at the local watering hole, failed to solve it.

The riddle was that a man and his son were in a serious traffic accident, causing the death of the father. The boy was rushed to a hospital, where the emergency surgeon declared, “I can’t operate on this boy, this is my son.”

Archie and his pals had spirited discussions about how this situation could occur, but they failed to recognize what would be more noticeable these days — the surgeon was a woman and indeed the mother.

I admit I failed to solve the riddle when it was presented 50 years ago. It was just another attempt by Producer Norman Lear and show executives to enlighten the American public about our prejudices.

Yet this occurred not long after the broadcast of the series of Virginia Slims advertisements telling modern American women, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Long enough to smoke a certain brand of cigarettes.

One of the earliest examples of shameless advertising targeted to women was woven by the legendary Edward Bernays, who staged a group of women joining a very popular parade and smoking cigarettes along the route to demonstrate their independence and promote women’s suffrage during the second decade of the 20th century.

Even earlier, in fact before 400 B.C., the dangerous play, “Lysistrata,” by Aristophenes, was performed in ancient Greece. The plot revolved around women refusing to provide services in the bedroom to their husbands until they agreed to end Athens’ Peloponnesian War against Sparta.

Perhaps we can call it “The Lysistrata Effect,” but I continue to notice the increasing number of women taking on roles that years ago seemed reserved only for men. More and more females are becoming doctors, lawyers, scientists, astronauts, NFL referees and even the vice president of the United States.

One of my earliest memories of a deliberately amusing song about the gender was issue performed in church went like this:

“Reuben, Reuben I’ve been thinking what a fine world this would be, if the men were all transported way beyond the Northern Sea.”

Not long ago I confessed to hygenists and oral surgeons at Robinson Dental Care in Wayland that my greatest fear in my tender youth wasn’t of death, but of dentists, the gruff, grandfatherly types who may have harbored secret passions for sadism. That fear has slowly dissipated over the years because of the more gentle approach of women.

I remember that in the fall of 1987 there was a lot of grousing over the news that formerly all-male fraternal and business associations, such as the Rotary Club, had to open themselves up to female members because such organizations unfairly favored the male species.

Don’t get me started on athletics. I remember when Wayland had such locations as “the girls’ gym” and “the boys’ gym.” It was important to understand the distinction or you might end up in the wrong place. Shades of Plessy vs. Ferguson — “Separate, but equal.”

They didn’t even let the girls play just like the guys until 1973.

And now two of the three superintendents at Wayland, Martin and Hopkins schools are females. Furthermore, the top three administrative positions for Wayland Union Schools now are held by women, a historic first.

I hear tell that one area of concern for white men who in bygone days owned all the important positions is that not only are the plum positions going elsewhere to people of color, they’re going to women.

Though the motives were more than suspect, Virginia Slims ads got it right more than 50 years ago: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.”

Geez. What’s next? A woman president? Perhaps she and her ilk will take a cue from Lysistrata and put an end to war.

 

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