Sex Role Banter Over Half A Century

Vox Day, the always interesting self-described “Christian Libertarian” and sometimes sci-fi author has been having a running online feud with another sci-fi author named John Scalzi over the various aspects of women’s equality, “gender roles” and whatnot.

The verbiage has been heavily flowing for weeks now.  See here, for example.  And here.

The dust-up is also a prominent feature of another blog VD runs called “Alpha Game“, which on the whole explores, somewhat caustically, the mating habits of men and women in the 21st century.  Or perhaps its theme is a simple acknowledgment of how relations between the sexes can or will deteriorate as a society de-Christianizes and becomes essentially pagan.  Frankly I’m not sure what the point really is.

In any case there’s an old comedy movie dating from 1959 called “Operation Petticoat“.  It’s a fairly entertaining film about this rakish character (played by Tony Curtis) and his antics which include bringing a few women aboard a submarine for a brief period at the outbreak of WWII.

The combination of women and submarines (still, so far as I am aware, not permitted in the USN) was so anomalous to even think about at the time that it was, all by itself, deemed suitable recurring fodder for a full length comedy movie with a couple of marquis box office draws of the time in Curtis and Cary Grant.  The comedy aspect of it all could be sustained even in a rather serious setting – the outbreak of a terrible war – precisely because the idea seemed so fantastic to people in 1959 that it could not help but prompt laughter.

But there are more subtle gender role references as well, one of which is the values of a masculine culture – which would certainly be the norm on WWII submarines, or indeed in the military services in general – a culture which eschews the vaguely unmanly foppery so well portrayed by the Tony Curtis character.

The question that comes up is whether, 50 years later, anyone would even get the humor.  Especially the more subtle stuff.  Might make for a good experiment as a measure of how the roles of men and women have indeed changed radically over the last few decades.

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