Misogyny in the Monarchy: Volume II

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?”
“Cognatic Primogeniture!”
“When do want it?”
“Nineteen twenty-eight!”
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…

Misogyny in the Monarchy: Volume I

From Japan comes news that Princess Kiko, wife of second-in-line Prince Akishino, is pregnant. If a boy results, he will be the first born to the Japanese royal family in forty years. He will become third in line to the throne, leap-frogging two older sisters and his cousin Princess Aiko.
The issue of the Japanese succession has been labelled a constitutional ‘crisis’, with the public divided over whether a female should succeed to the Imperial Throne (The Chrysanthemum Throne). It has caused a personal crisis for the Crown Princess Masako, who is said to have become withdrawn due to the pressue inside the Imperial Court, to produce a male heir.
It should be stated that is is entirely incorrect and irrational to pressurise a woman (princess or otherwise) to produce a male heir. The sex of a baby is determined by whether the sperm that fertilizes it carries an X (female) or Y (male) chromosone. It is entirely random which of these genetic codes gets through… but if it were not, then only the testicles of the man who produced the sperm could be held responsible for a lack of Y’s in the bag.
That a group of people can be allowed to pressurise a woman in this manner is bad enough. Worse is the underlying desire for a male heir which causes such pressure. Clearly this attitude is one which runs deep through the entire society – opinion polls see the country divided on the issue of whether a female heir should be allowed, and fierce debates have surrounded the proposal by Junichiro Koizumi, that a woman be allowed to ascend to the throne. It was even suggested that the Crown Prince be allowed to adopt a boy to ensure that his daughter would not succeed!
The message to Princess Aiko is simple: We wish you were not a girl. And the message to the country: boys are better than girls.
We could list examples where the sexes are not equal. Mothers have a different bond with their children than fathers. Men are (usually) physically stronger. These inequalities are always rooted in biology, or psychologies on the most inate level. Many will also argue that the traditional nuclear family is the optimal social arrangment to promote human flourishing (whatever that may be). A family or tribal unit is something that may evolve, with the structure adapting over time and due to environmental considerations. We may not be conscious of it, and we may not be able to break out of the structure we find ourselves within. Misogyny may continue, and parents will still secretly wish that they have a son, and not a daughter.
Conversely, a State is an entirely political entity. It exists only in the conscious human mind – no more, no less. The idea behind a democratic state is that people consciously endorse (and usually codify) the way their political system – their mutal concerns – are arranged. It is about taking responsibility for how you live. Let no-one say that the political rules, handed down from previous generations, are not open to consideration. Let no-one say they cannot be changed.
In fact, breaking away from the tyranny of previous generations is part of the point of democracy. The nature of the system almost demands that laws be changed, for they must always reflect the views of the populous.
When a law becomes outdated, when it no longer reflects the values of the people it governs, it must be scrapped. As the news of this royal pregnancy reminds us, sexism is institutionalised in Japan at the highest and most symbolic level. The people of Japan must now decide whether they wish their Head of State to be determined by these values, or whether a new millenium should herald a change.
Volume II will be posted later today, in which we will (of course) return to Blighty.