Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Sexist Poem Is No Longer Sexist!

Like everybody else, I loved "If" by Rudyard Kipling. But, as you all know, I'm radically committed to gender equality and a non-sexist society, so the final lines:

Yours is the earth-- and everything that's in it--
And what is more; you'll be a man, my son!

Bothered me A LOT.

First of all, it's redundant. If you're a man, then the earth and everything that's in it is ALREADY YOURS, because you benefit from patriarchy and male privilege. Kipling should have written, "And what's THE SAME, you'll be a man, by son."

But, more fundamentally, it's exclusionary. How can a woman read this poem and not feel Othered? It's going to Other the HECK out of any woman! (Apparently, it was Ayn Rand's favourite poem, but she was a fascist anyway.)

Today, though, I realised that this poem is no longer sexist because of...GENDER FLUIDITY!

Yes, in order to enjoy the final lines of the poem, you only have to "transition" into maleness and (if you want to) transition back. It only take a moment-- no surgery, HRT, or even wardrobe changes are necessary, these days.

A deep reading of the poem actually undermines gender norms! Kipling, one would have thought, was a believer in essentialist gender roles. But the very title of the poem is "If", and the last line suggests that gender is not fixed or essential. Wooohooo! Even big old fascist Kipling was queer underneath!

Mind you, Kipling is only right-wing from an English perspective. From an Irish perspective, he was progressive, because he was in favour of World War One....and celebrating World War One is progressive in Ireland...because Irish nationalists opposed World War One...and nationalism is bad....well, if you're Irish it's bad....well, in the last few decades it's been bad....being an Irish nationalist was good before that because it was anti-imperalist. I don't know how it all works. It's so confusing. Anyway, at least I feel better that I can enjoy "If" now, without guilt. And so can you!

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