One construction of feminism in the poem is female dominance over men. The Beast is shown as the weaker of the male culture due to his unappealing image “ugly as sin”. The Beast sees the narrators seeming interest in him as a miracle and is portrayed as desperate to keep her attention even it means living with her neglect. Here we see that the there is a reversal of gender stereotype as the Beast takes on the supportive female role and the narrator takes on the stereotypically-dominant male role.
The Beast is also described as submissive to the narrator, “fell to his knee’s at the door” which is stereotypically a female trait and shows the power Mrs Beast has over him. Traditionally men are known for being the most powerful in relationships as they are looked up to by women as the more protective, confident and in-control gender because are often known to be the sex that induces a relationship (asking to court/ asking for marriage). Another male trait shown by ‘Mrs Beast’ is the control she has over the Beast such as during sex, “The lady says Do this. Harder.
The lady says Do that. Faster. The lady says That’s not where I meant. ” The imperatives used show that Mrs Beast is the most dominant in their relationship which goes against gender stereotypes as men are traditional seen as the most powerful in a relationship. In the poem Mrs Beast shows that she controls when the couple have sex “The pig in my bed Was invited” which suggests that man has become a sexual object to Mrs Beast rather than a lover, as she shows no emotional attachment to him other than to use him to please her, which supports the feminist view of female dominance.
Men are also known to be the most confident in sex and it’s usually the submissive woman that is known to conform to pleasuring the man rather than vice versa. Second construction of feminism in the poem is where the women take on masculine characteristics and traits. Peukert wrote that Carol Ann Duffy shows a “reverse of the traditional hierarchical gender constructions, where the female is now presented as a superior and dominating figure” in her poem.
Many critics argue whether this reversal is seen as positive or negative as in some areas of her poem, the narrator seems to be losing her female traits and manifesting into the feminist viewpoint of a man. In the poem, Mrs Beast shows male characteristics such as where she uses contemporary taboo language when referring to ‘Princes’ as “bastards”. This is often a male trait because women are stereotypically known to be more well-spoken and polite than men. Another example of a male trait Mrs Beast portrays is when she boasts of her possessions and independence, “My own gold … My own black horse”.
This is often seen as a stereotypical male trait as men are considered my independent than women who often depend on men to provide for them and their family. Also, to boast about one’s possessions and power, shows competitiveness which is a common male characteristic also. Competiveness is also shown in the poker game between the “Serious ladies”, a game that is considered ‘a man’s game’. Traditionally, women playing poker/gambling was seen as improper because of its known bad influence to cause obsession which would be unacceptable as women were seen as pure/untouchable against all evil/illegal things such as drinking or smoking.
Duffy’s use of the semantic field of the poker game, “bluff”, “Aces” and “shuffle and deal” the women are now in roles of control which is a typical masculine trait. (The game could also show that the relationships are like a game. ) Gender role reversal is also shown in the way the Beast is described. When the Beast meets the narrator at the beginning, he is said to show “tears in his bloodshot eyes, That he knew he was blessed”. Showing emotion is not usually associated with men as the female gender are often stereotypically portrayed as the more emotionally gender and for men to show emotion is seen as a humiliating weakness.
An earlier example of this would be in Stokers novel, Dracula, when Holmwood breaks down in front of Mina, which many Victorian male readers would find shameful and weak. This could support Antony Rowland’s view that “men and masculinity are attacked constantly by more abrasive female narrators” throughout Duffys poems in ‘The Worlds Wife’. In the poem, Duffy exposes men for the ‘”bastards” that they are and mocks them in comparison to the ‘Beast’, “The sex is better”, “his erection ,Size of a mules – best”.
Here Duffy teases the men (‘Princes’) by comparing physical manhood which is stereotypically known as a ‘mans pride of pleasure’. Another construction of feminism is the discriminating or degrading of the male gender. The Beast in the poem is often compared to a “mongrel” and “a dog” all animals which are known for evolving from “wolfs” to household pets. This suggests that the Beast is mere property to Mrs Beast and perhaps at both times a comfort and a burden to have to keep, which links to the feminist theme that men are sexual objects and nothing more.
Dogs are known to have short-life span and are often replaced by another which again could be considered a stereotypically a masculine view, that women can be replaced after they’ve outdid their usage, as there are ‘plenty more fish in the sea’. Other animals the Beast is compared to is a “mule”, “donkey” and “horse” which are all animals that humans use for transport. We could suggest that this could be a sexual reference as Mrs Beast ‘rides’ the Beast and is control during sex, as a rider is in control of a horse.
There is also a phrase in the poem where animals mentioned seem to drop down in evolution, “An ape, a wolf … dragon, dinosaur. ” Humans are believed to have evolved from apes, so to describe the Beast as a ape and then a dinosaur could suggest that Carol Ann Duffy is implying that men are perhaps less evolved than women and that in the presence of a woman (Mrs Beast) men lose their humanity/ intelligence. Another construction of feminism in the poem is the theme of homosexuality. At the end of the poker, the “drop-dead gorgeous Bride of the Bearded Lesbian didn’t Bluff” and ends up winning the game.
Some critics believe that Duffy is intentionally putting out her support for homosexuality by letting the ‘Lesbian’ be the winner of the poker game. This could also be a biased consideration of the stereotypical viewpoint that most feminist are homosexual for example Duffy herself has been rumoured to have had a relationship with (Not sure how to develop?? ) Duffy lists, throughout the poem, various women both from history, “Marilyn Monroe”, “Bluebeard’s wives, Henry VIII’s”, “Diana, Princess of Wales” and from fairytales, “Little Mermaid”, “Rapunzel”, “Ashputtel”.
Here Mrs Beast and her acquaintances pay tribute to these women, of whom Duffy suggests, were mistreated by their “Prince” such as “Diana”. Her marriage to Prince Charles was frowned on by the Royal family and eventually came to an end when he husband was rumoured to have had an affair behind her back. From this reference, Duffy is implying that even the most presumed perfect man on the outside (Prince Charles both a member of the Royal family and a Catholic) can still be a “bastard” inside.
The reference to “Bluebeard’s wives” also shows the false image, shown by men who seem perfect. In the fairytale Bluebeard marries again, after a numerous times before, to a beautiful woman who in the ends find out that Bluebeards has killed his previous wife’s and hung them up in a room, she informs others and has him killed. Duffy refers to this fairytale because it negatively implies that men are destroyers of women and only seek to harm/manipulate them like Bluebeard who kills his wife’s and strings them up like trophies/ prizes of his conquests.
A additional reference to another “tragic girl” is “the tears of Mary” where Duffy personifies the beads of the rosary as the Virgin Mary’s tears. Here Duffy makes a controversial example of the suffering of Mary, whose vital suffering is considered insignificant in comparison to the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Although this is could be a exceptional argument supporting feminist we must consider the context because the discrimination is purely down to the culture during the time period the Bible was wrote; women were seen as the ‘weaker sex’.
Courtney from Study Moose
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