More on the traditions of monarchy…
My previous post asserted that a Head of State, the symbol of a country, should be chosen in a manner which reflects a country’s values. By blocking women from the Imperial Throne, Japan is effectively declaring that boys are better than girls.
Sexism is institutionalised in Japan at the highest and most symbolic level. However, It is up to the people of Japan to decide whether their national symbols adequately reflect their values. It may be that the Japanese decide that they still do believe in the primacy of men over women. Since understand very little of Japanese culture, I will not concern myself with their constituional crisis further.
Besides, it is unnecessary for me to pronounce on sexism in Japan. A similar sexism is practiced in the UK, where unequal primogeniture is entrenched in law. A male child of the monarch will inherit ahead of his sister, even if she is older than him. The last time this occurred was in 1901, when Edward VII succeeded ahead of his older sister Victoria. Interestingly, she was the mother of Kaizer Wilhelm II of Germany, who would have inherited the British throne had a fairer system prevailed… although had this been the law at the time, Victoria would probably not have married a german in the first place.
Since Princes Willam and Harry are male (and, we assume, will continue to be), the issue of the laws of succession remain ignored and irrelevant for another generation. Nevertheless, the law stands. Just like Japan, sexism is encoded into the fabric of our country. A distinction between men and women could be made when biology is concerned (for example, in custody battles). But since the choice of Head of State exists entirely in the political sphere, the current system is entirely inappropriate to our 21st Century values. It is also out of keeping with many other progressive European monarchies, such as Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands. If the British Royal family are to ‘get back in touch’ with their subjects, then its female members should be placed on the same legal plane as their male relatives. It is a shame that this was not enacted at the same time Universal Suffrage:
“What do we want?”
“When do want it?”
Why bother complaining? It is not as if it affects anyone in the population at large, and women do sometimes get to be queen. However, I beleive this is an important argument, because it highlights fatal problems with the idea of a monarchy itself. The law that allows males to leap-frog females therefore institutionalises misogyny. By the same argument, the idea of hereditary political positions institutionalises and endorses unearned privilege. The most symbolic person in our country is not chosen by a vote, nor appointed by a committee of citizens. They are not even voted in by a lottery, as King Auberon is in The Napoleon of Notting Hill. Instead, they are given the position just because their parents had it. Nepotism of the worst kind, and the other citizens of the country have no say in the matter whatsoever. Not only are they powerless, but they are obliged to pay for someone else’s privilege.
Never mind the fact that we have an elected Prime Minister. Never mind the fact that we vote for local public officials. Never mind the fact that we have a press that scrutinises at every turn. Never mind the fact that the rule of law is strong in this country. Never mind that HM the Queen has no practical power. Even with all these positive, progressive aspects of our political system, the very existence of the monarchy means our country is both sexist and nepotistic at heart. By endorsing the system, we cannot escape endorsing these traits, which should have been consigned to the shame of history, long, long ago.
No amount of democracy and accountability in the other apsects of government can excuse the following fact: The highly symbolic and visible pinnacle of our system is a morally barren wasteland. For a people who believe in equality, this is simply not good enough – We owe it to ourselves to devise something better…