Posted by: apritch1221 | October 28, 2012

RIDDLE: a gender trap i fell into…

So I was mindlessly wandering around the internet when i found a website of mindteasers and riddles.  I read this one and COMPLETELY fell into the gender trap.  See what you think…


Riddle: A man and his son are in a car crash. The father is killed and the child is taken to hospital gravely injured. When he gets there, the surgeon says, ‘I can’t operate on this boy – for he is my son!!!’ How can this possibly be?

Answer:The surgeon can not operate on her own son; she is his mother.


I don’t know about you, but I thought what I’m sure their intention was – surely the surgeon is a man.  Why do we think these things?  I watch Greys Anatomy where so many amazing surgeons are women, yet this one mind teaser comes up and I go back to thinking a hardcore hands on job belongs to a male.  Maybe something we can’t fully comprehend or discuss in class is that no matter what we believe, there are some inherent thoughts that we may always have simply because of the past.  I’ve always thought women were equal to men in every sense of the word until I took this class.  I began catching myself gendering things left and right without even realizing it.  What do yall think?


  1. I heard this riddle years ago and I was fascinated by the answers it gets. I’ve heard step-dad, grandfather, uncle, and every other male relative guessed before mother is even considered to be the answer. Many people are actually surprised by the answer or the fact that it was even possible for a surgeon to be a woman. The first time I heard this riddle it was eye-opening as to stereotypes ingrained in society. This class has made me realize to what extent these stereotypes have been ingrained in society and how guilty I am of gendering things myself. It’s almost instinctual to gender things because we see gendering happening every day in society and the media. After being in the class and watching Miss Representation I am much more aware of gendering in the media and how that plays into the continuation of these stereotypes.

  2. I agree with both of you. I never realized how much of my life is gendered before this class–and here I thought I was pretty gender neutral. I had also heard the joke before and for some reason thought it puzzling at first. It’s so interesting, and quite off-putting, that we’re even programmed to think in this way when it comes to something as simple as a joke.

  3. When I first saw that mindteaser I fell into the trap as well. It really caught me of guard because both of my parents are doctors. I think that it is sad that we have these ideas of gender roles so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even stop to think about it. Something needs to be done to change our associations. We need to stop categorizing things like jobs and behavior based on gender.

  4. Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad I’m not the only one. And Stephanie, it just reminds me of our conversation last class about “How do we just completely take away gender associations?” It’s so puzzling…

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