Thursday, January 12, 2006

Feminists and Lightbulbs

Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money is impressed by the intense scrutiny British politicians face - both from the media and from the public - compared to what one typically sees on this side of the Atlantic. This is an excellent point, and indeed others have made it in the past. One of my English friends once told me it was inconceivable to her that a television show as deferential to authority as the West Wing would ever be made in Britain. The British are not nearly so awestruck by their leaders; any television program about the British Prime Minister would certainly be a piss-take. For my part, I find it difficult to imagine political satire as scathing as Private Eye taking hold in America. Except on the blogs.

Kieran Healy's 2003 post (linked to above) features an update in which he points out that British politicians hone their skills in cutthroat debate societies. Quite right. Many an
Oxford Union President has gone on to bigger and better things.

Kieran's post also reminded me of one of the more stunning incidents I have ever witnessed. Incredibly, I find no mention of this incident anywhere on the Internets. It must be out there somewhere. If anyone reads about this elsewhere, let me know.

I was at the Oxford Union sometime between 1998 and 2000 to watch a debate on the motion "This House Believes Women Will Control the 21st Century" (or something similarly lame-sounding). Germaine Greer was one of the debaters. I honestly don't remember whether she was for or against the motion. I suppose she was probably for it. When she finally spoke, near the end of the debate, she said she was sorry to see that the Union was still the way she remembered it from decades earlier. The women were still using
their looks ("hanging their tits out," as she put it) to get elected to office, etc. On the topic of debate, she said that the 21st Century would likely be out of everyone's control, if the late 20th Century was any indication. We were buggered, basically.

So what did I find so stunning that evening? Between the first and second halves of any debate, the floor of the Union is open to members of the society in attendance. (Anyone familiar with Oxford Union protocols should feel free to correct me in the comments if I get this wrong; I only attended a handful of debates at the Union.) During the comments from the floor, a dark-haired undergraduate - I believe it was
OUCA (Google cache) member George Callahan - stood up and said that, although both sides of the debate had made excellent and interesting points, neither side had managed to answer the "age-old question" of how many feminists it takes to change a lightbulb.

[Dramatic pause]

The student was standing six feet from Germaine Greer when he gave his answer. "Two. One to change the bulb, and one to suck my cock."

It was a breathtaking moment. Literally. The hall was packed, but you could have heard a pin drop.

The Union President (Aitkens) was very upset, but Greer was not bothered in the slightest. In retrospect, the sheer audacity makes it quite funny. No one knew how to react at the time.


Blogger estifallen said...

DAMN I wish I'd been there to see that!!

22/2/06 12:29 AM  
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