So, in any case, I've been working on a novel for, well, some time now. The title that I have (for right now) is Silver Demon and I would classify it as falling within the queer superhero genre.
Now, while doing research for Silver Demon, I happen to keep coming across little tidbits and things that I want to either share publicly or comment on, but up until now, have not bothered to do so. Which is why I'm making this post.
There is a scene in the story where one of the characters ends up being tested and has to answer several riddles in order to proceed. Naturally, I did some research to look for inspiration for riddles to use in this scene.
One riddle that I kept coming across goes as follows:
A man and his son are out driving when they are in a terrible car accident and both the father* and son are horribly injured. Both end up being rushed to different hospitals. When the Doctor at the E.R. sees the son, she turns and says, "I cannot treat this son, he is my son."
*Some versions have the father being killed instead of injured.
Naturally the answer that is always given is that the Doctor in question happens to the patients' mom. Ha, ha, didn't think of that you sexist misogynistic pigs!
The thing is, generally speaking, that riddles are supposed to have "tricks" to them. That is, the answers are not supposed to be obvious, otherwise they would not be riddles. The trick to this riddle is that people (apparently) do not generally consider the possibility that women can be doctors.
That issue aside however, there are a couple of points I want to raise about this riddle. We know the current gender of one parent. We know nothing about the gender of the other parent. This of course leaves open several possibilities. The son is being raised by a gay couple and therefore has two fathers or the doctor is transgender, intersex, or gender queer, or more generally falls outside the gender binary.
In any case. the point remains the same, the riddle is set up so as to mock sexism but merely ends up also reinforcing heternormativity.
A better joke in the same vein - for which the punchline is now ruined (sorry!) - is as follows:
There is a terrible car accident in which it is obvious that one of the occupants is badly injured. A man and a woman rush up to the car and arrive almost at the same time. The man roughly shoves the woman aside, saying, "Excuse me lady, I know first aid."
The woman steps back for a few moments, then walks up to the man and says to him, "when you get to the part about calling a doctor, I'm right here."