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The following is an excerpt from the book Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .
by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
Published by Abrams Image; March 2007;$18.95US/$22.95CAN; 978-0-8109-1493-3
Copyright © 2007 Thomas Catchart and Daniel Klein


Here is a riddle that has baffled people for decades:

A man witnesses his son in a terrible bicycle accident. He scoops up his boy, puts him in the back of his car, and races to the emergency room. As the boy is rolled into surgery, the surgeon says, "Oh, my God! It's my son!"

How is this possible?

Du-uh! The surgeon is his mother.

Today, not even Rush Limbaugh would be puzzled by this riddle; the number of female M.D.s in this country is rapidly approaching the number of male M.D.s. And that is a result of the power of late-twentieth-century feminist philosophy.

The real dawn of feminist philosophy dates to the eighteenth century and Mary Wollstonecraft's seminal (or should we say ovarian?) work, A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In that treatise, she takes on none other than Jean-Jacques Rousseau for proposing an inferior education system for women.

Feminism got an existentialist reinterpretation in the twentieth century with the publication of The Second Sex by philosopher (and paramour of Jean-Paul Sartre) Simone de Beauvoir. She declared that there is no such thing as essential womanhood, which she thought was a straitjacket imposed on women by men. Rather, women are free to create their own version of what it is to be a woman.

But how elastic is the concept of womanhood? Does the reproductive equipment we are born with have nothing to do with our gender identity? Some post-de Beauvoir feminists think so. They claim we are all born a blank slate sexually; our gender identity is something we gain later from society an our parents. And these days learning gender roles has become trickier than ever.

Two gay men are standing on a street corner when a gorgeous and shapely blonde strolls by in a low-cut, clingy chiffon dress.

Says one of the men to the other, "At times like this, I wish were a lesbian!"

Are traditional gender roles a mere social construct, invented by men to keep women subservient? Or are those roles biologically determined? This enigma continues to divide philosophers and psychologists alike. Some deep thinkers land firmly on the side of biologically determined differences. For example, when Freud declared that "anatomy is destiny," he was employing a teleological argument to make the case that the way the female body is constructed determines women's role in society. It is unclear what anatomical attributes he was referring to when he concluded that women should do the ironing. Or consider another biological determinist, Dave Barry, who has pointed out that if a woman has to choose, between catching a fly ball and saving a child's life, she will choose to save the child's life without even checking to see if there's a man on base.

There's also the question of whether men are biologically determined too. For example, as a result of their anatomy are men predisposed to use primitive criteria in choosing a spouse?

A man is dating three women and is trying to decide which to marry. He gives each of them $5,000 to see what they do with the money.

The first has a total makeover. She goes to a fancy salon, gets her hair, nails, and face done, and buys several new outfits. She tells him she has done this to be more attractive to him because she loves him so much.

The second buys the man a number of gifts. She gets him a new set of golf clubs, some accessories for his computer, and some expensive clothes. She tells him that she has spent all the money on him because she loves him so much.

The third woman invests the money in the stock market. She earns several times the $5,000. She gives him back his $5,000 and reinvests the remainder in a joint account. She tells him she wants to invest in their future because she loves him so much.

Which one does he choose?

Answer: the one with the biggest boobs.

Here's another text that argues for an essential difference between men and women. It's got to be essential because the First Man was free of social constructs and his impulsiveness was therefore innate.

God appears to Adam and Eve in the Garden and announces that he has two gifts, one for each of them, and he would like them to decide who gets which gift. He says, "The first gift is the ability to pee standing up."

Impulsively, Adam yells out, "Pee standing up? Hot dog! That sounds really cool! I want that one."

"Okay," says God, "that one's yours, Adam. Eve, you get the other one -- multiple orgasms."

The social and political results of feminism are legion: voting rights, rape-victim-protection laws, better treatment and compensation in the workplace. Recently, another social fallout of feminism has been male backlash. From this a new category has arisen: the politically incorrect joke.

Calling any joke that pokes fun at feminism politically incorrect adds a new dimension to the joke -- "I know this joke goes against accepted liberal philosophy, but hey, can't you have fun anymore?" By bracketing a joke in this way, the joker makes a claim for irreverence, a quality that can make a joke even funnier, and more socially perilous to the joker, seen in this over-the-top joke;

On a transatlantic flight, a plane passes through a severe storm. The turbulence is awful, and things go from bad to worse when one wing is struck by lightning.

One woman in particular loses it. She stands up in the front of the plane screaming, ''I'm too young to die!" Then she yells, "Well, if I'm going to die, I want my last minutes on earth to be memorable! No one has ever made me really feel like a woman! Well, I've had it! Is there anyone on this plane who can make me feel like a woman?"

For a moment there is silence. Everyone has forgotten his own peril, and they all stare, riveted, at the desperate woman in the front of the plane. Then a man stands up in the rear. He's a tall, tanned hunk with jet-black hair, and he starts to walk slowly up the aisle, unbuttoning his shirt. "I can make you feel like a woman," he says. "Iron this."

In response to the onslaught of politically incorrect jokes came another new breed -- stories that start out like the typical, chauvinist jokes of yore, but with an added twist in which the woman prevails.

Two bored male casino dealers are waiting at the craps table. A very attractive blond woman arrives and bets $20,000 on a single roll of the dice. She says, "I hope you don't mind, but I feel much luckier when I'm completely nude." With that, she strips down, rolls the dice, and yells, "Come on, baby, Mama needs new clothes!" As the dice come to a stop she jumps up and down and squeals, "YES! YES! I WON, I WON!" She hugs each of the dealers, picks up her winnings and her clothes, and quickly departs. The dealers stare at each other dumbfounded. Finally, one of them asks, "What did she roll?" The other answers, "I don't know -- I thought you were watching."

The moral: Not all blondes are dumb, but all men are men.

Here's another example from this neofeminist genre:

A blonde is sitting next to a lawyer on an airplane. The lawyer keeps bugging her to play a game with him by which they will see who has more general knowledge. Finally, he says he will offer her ten-to-one odds. Every time she doesn't know the answer to one of his questions, she will pay him five dollars. Every time he doesn't know the answer to one of her questions, he will pay her fifty dollars.

She agrees to play, and he asks her, "What is the distance from the earth to the nearest star?"

She says nothing, just hands him a five-dollar bill.

She asks him, "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes back down with four legs?"

He thinks for a long time but in the end has to concede that he has no idea. He hands her fifty dollars.

The blonde puts the money in her purse without comment.

The lawyer says, "Wait a minute. What's the answer to your question?"

Without a word she hands him five dollars.

Copyright © 2007 Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein