Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Nursery Rhymes: An Exercise in Wanking

I have a B.A. with honours in English. Through my four and a half years of university majoring in this subject, I learned one important thing: brutalization through interpretation. The student of english is trained to take virtually any text and make it say exactly what we want it to say. We want Shakespeare to be gay? We can make it happen, just by idly glancing over his sonnets: "A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted /Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion" (Sonnet 20). If you can't see the homoeroticism there, you're blind.

The formula for interpretation is really quite simple, though it varies depending on what sort of interpretation you want to perform. For example:

Marxist Interpretation: make ample use of the words "proletariat", "bourgeoisie," and "oppression".

Psychoanalytic (Freudian) Interpretation: Make ample use of words like "penis", "vagina", "womb", "catharsis", "fixation", "mother" and "father"

Feminist Interpretation: Although I prefer Freudian, Feminism is probably the mode of interpretation I applied the most in my undergraduate career. This mode utilizes words like "vagina" (again) "gender norms" "gender rules" "gender" "empowerment" "oppression" " misogyny" "patriarchy" and "stereotypes".

So, to prove the point  that this sort of interpretation can be done with almost anything, I am going to perform a feminist interpretation of a number of well known nursery rhymes, revealing them for the EVIL TEXTS OF PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY that they are. In other words, I am going to wank.


Ring around  the rosie
Pockets full of posies
Husha Husha
We all fall down

This is a rhyme about the historic oppression of female sexuality.
Ring: a tool of physical and symbolic binding.
Rosie: Rose colored, a rose. The rose is the flower most often associated with the female genetalia.

So basically, we have a bound vagina. But there's more!

Pockets: More vaginas!
Posies: Little bouquets of flowers. There is something innocent about the posy, though really it can be made to represent whatever you want it to represent, according to what flowers you put in it.

So, we have vaginas that are filled with symbolism, given importance as representations of a woman's innocence and purity. In other words, this line speaks to the misogynist demand that a woman preserve her virginity until marriage. Her vagina is not hers to do with as she pleases, but is rather the property of her future husband.

Husha husha: Women are to be seen, not heard.
We all fall down: If women continue to mindlessly follow the stereotypes of their gender, adhering to the "husha husha" imposed by men, then eventually we will all succumb to the patriarchy "falling down", being bedded, and losing our own identities.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some
broth without any bread
whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

This rhyme centers on the dire consequences of female oppression. You will notice that in most cases, when this rhyme is illustrated, the shoe the woman is living in with her children is a man's workboot:

The woman lives within a symbol of masculine oppression! Not only that, but she has "so many children, she [doesn't] know what to do", that is, she has so thoroughly carried out her stereotypical gender role (producing and caring for children), that she feels she has lost herself.

Now, the symbolism of the children changes. They become not just children, but the products of the woman's mind. That is, her goals, aspirations, dreams, creative endeavours, etc. These things, the things the woman has the capability to produce, become impoverished, starved by her overadherance to gender norms. In the last line, she finally lets go of her goals and aspirations "whipping them soundly" and "putting them to bed".


Jack and Jill
Went up a hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down
and broke his crown
and Jill came tumbling after

Jack fucks up, and predictably, Jill follows him into oblivion. This one really doesn't need further interpretation.

4. And, to show an example of a rhyme that supports the feminist position:

Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon
The little dog laughed to see such sport
and the dish ran away with the spoon.

This rhyme is rich with female imagery. The cat, typically an animal with feminine connotations is playing the fiddle--that is, the female is showing artistic prowess. The cow (another female) is jumping over the moon (a symbol of femininity: she is achieving great things. The little dog (a man) laughed to see such sport: he did not take these female accomplishments seriously. But then the dish ran away with the spoon. Both of these are symbols of female genitalia, implying a breaking away from all things masculine, and the formation of a new, matriarchal society.

In other words, this is a rhyme about lesbians.

And you've just gotten the equivalent of a bachelors degree in english.

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