A few days ago, the host of a Czech science Facebook group has posted the following cartoon:
It's the picture of the "first woman on the Moon". It's a joke which is funny because there's no atmosphere on the Moon which is why an engine based on a pressure deficit couldn't operate there! ;-) I needed to explain the joke right away to make the readers sure that there's nothing sexist about the joke – especially to please female readers who aren't trained in aerodynamics unless they are good at the blowjob.
Pavel V., the host, sent me an alert for me to look at the "feminist šitstorm led by Dr Kateřina Falk".
So I looked there and saw a discussion with some 500+ comments. You can see some disagreements about the quality of the joke.
But most of the comments contain positive smileys. And I think that even some of the women's reactions that were dissatisfied with the joke were pretty funny and creative, for example a quote from a fairy-tale about the Insanely Sad Princess. (For a minute, I actually thought that the cartoon itself was posted by a "feminist" as a funny expression of "look how we are viewed" – but I quickly realized that I was overestimating the feminists' sense of humor.) I am pretty sure that this wouldn't happen in the U.S. – or in other geographically Western countries, relatively to ours. In those countries, the cartoon could be decorated by threats complaining about the attack on all women in the world that would demand the person who posted that cartoon to be deleted from Facebook and permanently banned from any employment etc.
In the Czech context, you may encounter a dozen of "Czech approximations to a feminist" on that page. The worst comments of this type ask: "Is this how you view women?" Or: "I don't really see any joke there." Or: "The female physicists and astronauts are lucky not to see it." Or: "It's strange to post exactly this joke in the year of Donna Strickland." OK, I had to laugh when I saw the last one – a "year of Donna Strickland" is a rather comical exaggeration of what happened.
It's hard to say whether these "Czech approximations to a feminist" intrinsically see things differently than the radical U.S. feminists – or whether they are pushed by the atmosphere in the society to behave moderately. At any rate, the outcome is clear and cannot be overlooked. Just like the "very softcore feminists" behave moderately, they are being politely explained by others, both men and women, that humor is supposed to entertain and it's not right to filter humor according to ideological criteria. We are bombarded with cartoons and we consider some of them weak. But that doesn't mean that we spend days by complaining about jokes that we didn't find great, does it? Some wise women point out that indeed, they would prefer (and they would find it more productive) to spend days by vacuuming the carpets instead of writing nervous feminist commentaries under jokes!
Some of the complaints against the joke have probably disappeared. The message by P.V. indicates that Ms Kateřina Falk had the greatest problem with the cartoon. A year ago or so, I saw her name for the first time. She's a Czech laser physicist working for some teams in Germany – teams that are so large that the publication record is consistent with the hypothesis that she has contributed nothing and she has no clue about physics.
Whether it's true or not, she is much more visible because of some kind of feminist activism and interviews. I think that she doesn't really belong to the Czech mainstream – this kind of ladies and behavior is already being "imported" here from Germany and elsewhere. An e-mail indicated that a science funding/award agency "Neuron" supported this activity so I immediately unregistered from the e-mail listings sent by "Neuron". I actually think that "Neuron" – and many other organizations claiming to be helpful – are actively crippling the scientific process in many other situations that go well beyond Ms Falk. There are cliques of subpar researchers who support each other by nepotist methods – and I think that the "independent" agencies and sponsors that should fix these problems are actually making them worse.
At any rate, I am grateful to the history and the present that the nutty U.S.-style postmodern feminism is basically non-existent in Czechia. This fact partly boils down to the most ancient chapters of our national history, I believe.
Some Serbs were recently excited about the Chronicle of Dalimil (14th century), the oldest piece of literature that was written in Czech. One chapter is about Forefather Czech and starts as follows:
In the Serbian nation, there's a countryIt actually rhymes in the old Czech language. It's funny but as literature, it's probably rather amateurish, like a long childish poem. Such a long modern poem that works may look rather impressive. But you must understand that at that time, kings like Charles IV were already building Charles Universities and Charles Bridges and many Charles Otherthings. But Latin – and perhaps some German – was more typical for intelligent texts.
whose name Croatia is.
In that country, there was a lekh [the lowest aristocracy, a Polish-like name]
whose name was Czech.
He committed a murder
and that's why he lost his country.
The chapter about Forefather Czech continues to describe his journey – with his grandfathers on his chest – towards the (therefore) mythical Říp [rzeep] hill, a very easy-to-spot hill in an otherwise flat region North of Prague.
OK, so the founder of the Czech nation was a murderer, Dalimil argues. The U.S. were founded by similar folks, I think. ;-) The Serbs must have been excited that the Czech legends mention both Serbs and Croats and an interesting relationship between them. However, the Serbs were probably Sorbs – from East Germany, the Czech noun is the same – and White Croats, Slavs who also lived somewhere in Poland or Ukraine. So the original country from which Forefather Czech arrived wasn't Yugoslavia but Ukraine/Belarus, we believe. The names "Serb" and "Croat" exist at both places because those Slavic people probably were rather close relatives but they did migrate to different places.
One of the Old Czech Legends – as summarized and modernized by Alois Jirásek, a patriotic writer a century ago – was about Girls' War. After leader and Prophet Ms Libuše (who forecast Prague, the city whose fame reaches Heaven) died, the prestige of women dropped and they staged an uprising against men – with headquarters at the Vyšehrad Castle. They were successful for a while and used some clever tricks. Ms Šárka pretended to be bound to a tree but it wasn't the case and when men came to liberate her, she killed them.
But the legend ends with a happy end. The ladies were defeated. And I think that the legend has some checks and balances. If women suffer, a stone opens and saves them. Now, I present the war a little bit like a comedy but it's generally presented as a serious bloody war these days. However, this is just a twist made by some modern writers – Dalimil was the first one who described the war as bloody. If you go further, to the Chronica Boemorum (Chronicle of Kosmas written in Latin in 1119-1125 by a dean in Prague), you will see that the Girls' War actually was originally described as a farce, a play, or game ("ludus" – the same word appears in "Schola ludus" by John Amos Comenius) of a sort, so my light summary is appropriate. Femdom remakes of the Girls' War exist, too.
I think that the main reason why the anxious feminism or androgyny is basically dead in Czechia is that similar things have already been tried some 1300 years ago and they have failed. Men and women know that a system where women end up playing the same roles as men normally do doesn't work, at least not for extended periods of time. Basically everyone understands such a vision for the future to be a matter of extremism. For centuries, we have had some immunity against these deeply flawed ideas. The additional female rulers such as Marie Theresa, women's suffrage at a reasonable time, overemployment of women in communism, and then the general consensus that this tendency was an "overkill" probably directly followed from our cultural DNA that had been decided more than a millennium earlier.
Is the cartoon at the top funny? I find it reasonably funny and I guess that there are people who love it much more than I do and who love it much less than I do. Is the cartoon insulting? I don't think so. Vacuuming may be an important activity, even on the Moon. Even men could do it. But even if women are more likely to use a vacuum cleaner, is it such a catastrophe? I don't think so.
As another joke says, women got one more neuron relatively to goats for them not to eat the hose when they use the vacuum cleaner. ;-)
P.S. 1: I was shown many comments by Ms Kateřina Falk – which I couldn't see on the original page because she blocked me (despite the fact that we have never interacted, not even through the Internet, and I wasn't at the discussion) – she has blocked most other participants of that discussion, too. She is rather close to the radical postmodern U.S. feminists and she also claims to be their proud disciple.
P.S. 2: Women really are more about cleaning their environment. Yesterday, my half-sister became a hero of the French Riviera press after she complained to the mayor of Baulieu near Nice – an idiot, I am told – about the green mess (algae) on the beaches outside the main summer season. ;-) It is likely that my feelings wouldn't be identical to hers but I still feel some sort of pride. I think that this kind of press about the Czech nationals there is both authentic and showing some arguable superiority of ours. Bitching the poor mayor about algae is surely not a typical way how Algerians or even Russian women are described in the French press, is it?