Looking forward to the end of the ‘firsts’

About a decade ago the university center at which I work hosted Elaine Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of the book Mindfulness, that discusses the benefits of concentrating on whatever we happen to be doing at the moment and avoiding the trap of falling into autopilot mode. As I introduced her to the audience, I said that she was the first woman to reach the rank of full professor in the psychology department at Harvard.

Later in a private conversation with her, I said that while her achievement was wonderful at a personal level and that she deserved congratulations fro breaking through a gender barrier, US society has to aim for the day when a woman reaching a pinnacle in her field is not considered particularly noteworthy. The same thing has to happen with minorities and other historically marginalized groups.

We have clearly not reached that stage yet, as these two clips from The Daily Show indicate.

(These clips aired on January 16, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)


  1. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    I think one important thing is to make sure we don’t go backwards and them “lasts” instead of “firsts” -- haven’t yet seen the clip so apologies if that was covered there.

    Off topic~ish I know what a fan you are of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, Mano Singham, so you might have already seen this :


    But if not, or if you want to see it again,enjoy. Thanks Youtube.

  2. says

    There is a quote — I don’t recall by whom — along the lines of:

    “Women have had a lot of first: first US senator, first astronaut, first CEO of a large company. What do we want now? Seconds.”

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