The Queen

The Queen had a birthday here in Australia yesterday. She had one a week earlier in New Zealand, which just goes to show that New Zealand’s queen must be older than Australia’s queen.

In ah… honour of the event, here’s a short piece I wrote for the New Zealand Republican Movement’s May newsletter.

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I’m veering between shaking my head in disbelief, anger, and simply laughing at the absurdity of it all. Despite overwhelming support for a change, the British Cabinet has decided to retain the law that makes women stand in line behind men when it comes to inheriting the throne.

Disbelief, because the second wave of the women’s movement is over fifty years old now, and still it seems that the blokes at the top have not got the message. Let me spell it out – men and women are equal. Men are not superior to women, men are not better than women, men do not make better rulers than women simply by virtue of being male. To be sure, some men are better than some women at some things, and vice versa. But there is nothing inherently different between men and women that means that men should have automatic preference for positions of power and influence. At the very least, men and women should have equal opportunities to attain those positions of power and influence.

That’s an old, old message, one that’s been around for decades, one that most people have listened to, and importantly, one that most people have bought into. But not, it seems, the British cabinet. That’s why I am shaking my head in disbelief. It’s as if feminism is something they have never even heard of.

And I’m angry too. They are sending a powerful message, that despite all the changes that have been wrought in our societies by the realisation that women are human beings too, at the end of the day, it’s being male that’s the important thing. They have dismissed half the human race as simply being not good enough, when there’s a man, any man, ahead in the line. That’s reason enough to be angry. However it’s the nature of the dismissal that makes raises my ire. It turns out that the reason they have shelved the problem is that it would take a lot of consequential law changes, and they would have to consult with the heads of Commonwealth countries first. But rather than making an in principle decision that the law should be changed, and starting a process to get the changes made, they’ve said that it’s all just too difficult, and really, they can’t be bothered. It’s yet another dismissal of women’s rights as something not to be taken seriously.

Yet it’s all so absurd. All that the “men first” decision shows is that the monarchy is hopelessly outdated, a relic of the days when kings rode to war, and women were diplomatic pawns to be traded in marriage. Retaining male primogeniture simply shows how disconnected and unreal the monarchy is. It’s one more signal that we should free ourselves from this ancient hierarchy.

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3 responses to “The Queen

  1. I guess if they change the monarchy, they’d have to consider changing the whole aristocracy.

    Coincidentally, my step daughter is the great grand-daughter of a baronet, it’s highly unlikely that her dad will have more kids, so the title will end with him (if his grandfather ever dies – he’s 103 & still going strong.)

  2. I’ll never understand the romanticism with regard to the Romanovs either – Nicky and Alexandra were the most unimpressive pair ever

  3. It’s absolutely typical of the way New Labour have approached constitutional reform in the UK though. The prior example of an embarrassing retreat from a pledge to get rid of something was the promise to get rid of the position of Lord Chancellor – which neatly conflated the 3 branches of the state in one person: head of the judiciary, speaker of the House of Lords, and a member of the Cabinet.

    In that case they also ran into the issue of consequential amendments – thousands of changes to other statutes were needed apparently – so they turned tail and scarpered. Some changes have now been made, but there is still a post of Lord Chancellor. I don’t think that job has ever been held by a woman either.