I feel dumber for having read this piece on Salon

…about “Matilda the Musical”:

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/27/the_dangerous_transphobia_of_roald_dahls_matilda/

“With a spoonful of sugar comes a transphobic message about the dangers of straying from traditional gender roles, a conservative parable about the “right” and the “wrong” kinds of women.”

:raises hand:

Couldn’t it just as easily be “an anti-woman or anti-feminist message about the dangers of straying from traditional gender roles, a conservative parable about the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ kinds of women?”

Or could Dahl, a non-traditional sort himself, have been using satire to encourage children to think more deeply about  what it means to be a girl or a boy? About adult villainy and hypocrisy? About how we ought to treat each other?

Or — and by far the most likely — could Dahl have simply written a children’s book, to appeal to children (who, after all, have a cruder sense of humor than adults? Sort of a starter set of humor, yes? Who’s got kids?)

“Dahl paints Miss Trunchbull as male inside and out. Her physique is ‘gigantic’ and ‘formidable,’ with ‘big shoulders,’ ‘thick arms’ and ‘powerful legs.’ She has a ‘deep and dangerous voice.’ Avoiding feminine dress, she wears breeches rather than a skirt, flats rather than heels, and in Warchus’ play, a coach’s whistle around her neck.”

OK, but does Miss Trunchbull have to be trans? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Miss Trunchbull, you do you!) but…might she just be a butch, or simply a woman who doesn’t fit the traditional trappings of femininity? My middle-school swim coach comes to mind here, but she never transitioned. We’re Facebook friends now and she seems quite happy being female.

“When they stray too far from the feminine path, they need to be put in their place.”

Hoo, that sounds familiar! Just ask my girlfriend, who is not actually even that butch! She’s more “butch-adjacent,” but she sure understands how this one goes! (Also, she is a Theatre Person and hates that Miss Trunchbull is played by a man in this production. She says it’s similar to casting a white actor in a specifically black role).

“One group of people will not miss Dahl’s underlying message, however. Little girls who love sports and not dresses, who are tall or muscular, who are boyish or even perhaps identify as boys, who long someday to possess authority. All of these children will see themselves in the Trunchbull, and they will watch closely as these aspects with which they identify are shamed.”

I guess that makes sense, but let’s be clear: Not all little girls who love sports and not dresses (or who love both!); who are tall or muscular, or who long someday to possess authority, “identify as boys.”

Also, I hate the word “boyish” to describe a little girl or her interests/behavior. Boys don’t own climbing trees or riding bikes or science/tech or being the boss someday. If a girl does these things, or grows up to do them, they’re girl/woman things.

You know?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by SheilaG on October 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    I can think of no more clever tactic in the litany of woman hatred than this story, or referring to girls as boyish. Girls don’t identify as boys, they want to be independent and have interests of our own. I never wanted to be a boy, I just wanted to play sports or carve wooden birds. This trans nonsense is an insult to butch girls, and all women who refuse to make ourselves into male pleasing fembots, which is what a lot of women settle for. Butch dykes have been around forever, we are forever transgressing step and fetchit-ism, forever standing up against the gender women’s oppression machine.

    So this story is a real insult to girls who want to climb mountains, girls who don’t want little boys picking on them, girls who want to learn karate to defend ourselves from the little pigs who sexually harass little girls. Trans is nothing more than co-optation by men, the male medical machine erasing butch lesbians, and now we have parents who are drugging their kids and blocking puberty. Anything to erase girls who are self-reliant and powerful. And the lesbian community, well I hardly ever see lifelong butch dykes celebrated as the ultimate resistence against male sexual colonization of women.

    We have always been resisters to patriarchy and gender straight jackets, but they sure as heck don’t write children’s books about us. I wonder why?

  2. My jaw dropped when I read, “who long someday to possess authority…” and realized it was being framed as a masculine trait.

  3. WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

  4. Posted by citizentaqueau on October 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Not the ones who are born female! Unless they repent…

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