Painted Ladies (a short sketch on gender equality)

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What do a group of male chauvinists do when they’re required to improve the gender ratio of their study section? TIR imagines the scene…

The members of the study section, all male, mostly elderly, assemble in a seminar room. After the usual rustling of papers and whispered hellos, the Chairman signals that business is about to begin.

 Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you for coming. We have a lot to get through today so I will jump to the first, and most perplexing, item on our agenda. It’s been brought to my attention that the funding agency bylaws say we have to have a certain number of women on the panel.

Prof. B: (querulously) But what are women?

(murmured assent of confusion from the other panel members)

Prof. C (cautiously) I have heard that they come from Venus.

Prof. B: Really? My goodness.

Chairman: Tell you what, let’s ask Charlie. Charlie!

Enter Charlie; young, smart, competent, female.

Chairman: Charlie, we need your help.

Charlie: That’s no surprise.

Chairman: Charlie, we’ve just found out that the bylaws say we need a certain number of women on this panel. Now, can you tell us what a woman is?

Charlie: Errr, well, I’m a woman.

Chairman: You are? How extraordinary! You, all this time a woman, and I never noticed.

Charlie: Well, some of your colleagues certainly noticed. In fact, with a lot of them I wish they hadn’t.

Chairman: All these years I’ve spent ordering you around…how many years is it, Charlie?

Charlie: I don’t know professor. It feels like forever.

Chairman: Anyway, all these years, and you’ve been a woman the whole time.

Charlie: But professor, your wife is a woman.

Chairman: Is she? Extraordinary. So these women are everywhere, in fact.

Charlie: 50% of the population, yes.

Chairman: 50%? My god, that’s more than the homosexuals and left-handers put together.

Prof. B: But then what on earth is the funding agency thinking of with this absurd quota? I wouldn’t want to have my wife on this panel.

(muttered sounds of agreement form the other panel members)

Prof. C: And after all, none of us are women and we’ve been doing a perfectly good job all these years.

(more muttered sounds of assent)

Charlie: But professor, Frances over there is a woman.

Chairman: What! You’re not serious. Frances, is this true?

Prof. F: Yes, professor.

Chairman: Remarkable. And there was me thinking you were one of these long-haired hippy types. Though that does explain why we never bumped into one another in the restrooms.

Prof. F: Yes, professor.

Chairman: A shame. I’ve had many valuable conversations over a urinal. Well Charlie, we already have a woman on the panel, so maybe that’s enough? Frances can just sit here as he, sorry she, always does…

Prof. F: I don’t just sit here. I talk all the time, but you never listen to me.

Chairman: Yes, yes. As I was saying, with Frances here we can carry on, business as usual.

Charlie: I’m afraid not professor. The regulations say we need 50% women on the study section.


Prof. B: This is intolerable! Where will we find all these women? There aren’t that many women professors.

Prof. C: I couldn’t agree more.

Chairman: Hmmm.

Prof. B: Hmmm.

Prof. C: Hmmm.

Prof. D: Professor, may I venture a suggestion?

Chairman: Of course.

Prof. D: If some of us were to dress up as women, perhaps that would satisfy the regulations?

Chairman: Brilliant! Brilliant! That’s why it’s so valuable having younger professors on the panel. I would never have thought of that. Right, so what do we need? What do women wear?

Prof. B: High heels!

Prof. C: Suspenders!

Prof. D: Miniskirts!

Prof. B: Push-up bras!

Prof. C: Gentlemen, excuse me please. I just had an accident in my trousers. Back in a moment.

(Exit Prof. C; the suggestions continue)

Prof. D: Thigh-high boots!

Prof. B: Red lipstick.

Prof. E: Rouge!

Prof. G: Mascara!

Prof. D: Feather boas.

Chairman: Well, I’m not surprised we have no women on the panel if this what they wear. I’ve never met a female scientist that looks like this.

Charlie: Nor have I, professor.

Chairman: Well, gentlemen, half of you go away and prepare. Don’t take too long powdering your noses.

(Charlie exits in disgust. Half the panel members go away, and return dressed according to the suggestions)

Chairman: Beautiful, beautiful. Well, let’s welcome the new panel members in the customary way.

(Squeezing of breasts and slapping of bottoms ensues, with titters of enjoyment on both sides)

Chairman: Excellent, and now down to business. So, what’s the first proposal we’re hearing to day?

Enter Charlie with two police officers.

Charlie: There they are, officers.

Chairman: What? What is the meaning of this? We were just about to get down to business.

Police Office 1: I don’t doubt it sir. Can you explain why you have all these prostitutes in the room?

Chairman: Prostitutes? These are women, you fool – can’t you see?

Police Officer 1: I don’t know what world you’re living in professor, but these look like no self-respecting women I’ve ever met. Why are they here?

Chairman: Why? Well, we invited them in. We were about to break up into groups and start working over proposals.

Police Officer 2: I see. So that’s solicitation, prostitution, and possibly (glances at Prof. D, resplendent in drag)…intent to corrupt a minor.

Prof. D: What? How dare you!

Police Officer 1: Take them away.

(Furious anger, remonstration)

Chairman: The Dean will protect us! He’ll rectify this outrage!

Charlie: I’m sure he will.


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