I recently reread Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If—”. And it reminded me of an online encounter I had with some feminists. The beautiful poem ends with this:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
If those feminists could have their way, reprints of Kipling’s poem will be forced to add a few words to the last line: “And—which is more you’ll be a Man, my son, and a Woman, my daughter!”
Kipling had a son and a daughter, but “If—” was written as paternal advice to his son John. It was written in the Victorian era, which was a much more patriarchal society than today. And it might seem like an exaggeration that feminists today will want such a change made to a great work of literature, but may be it isn’t.
Even today many such feminists scoff at The Economist Style Guide‘s use of “he” over “he or she”. It says on political correctness:
If you believe it is “exclusionary” or insulting to women to use he in a general sense, you can rephrase some sentences in the plural. But…do not be ashamed of sometimes using man to include women, or making he do for she.
I have been on one occasion publicly asked to change “the common man” to a more gender neutral term “the people on the streets”. Something I didn’t really have any strong views about and was happy to oblige to making the change.
That incident did make me think that it’s important to pick your battles when fighting for a good cause. I care deeply about the rights of women, and as an Indian I feel ashamed at the monstrous acts committed against them every day in my country. In my personal life, I work consciously to keep my biases in check. This year I sat down with my extended family to talk about how much more an educated and well-off family like ours still needs to do to help the cause. But I wonder why some feminists make such trivial things their pet peeves. Aren’t there more important feminist issues to worry about than this?