09 April 2009

The Winnieagram: A note on Pooh and sexism

A Note on Pooh and Sexism

Some critics have accused the Pooh corpus of being incorrigibly sexist (see, for example, Germaine Bear’s Pooh and Patriarchy). However, in spite of the great erudition and scholarship shown by Ms Bear and her colleagues, I find their arguments unsatisfactory and essentially superficial, based as they are upon the predominance of the masculine pronoun in Milne’s books.

Against this it is sufficient to point out that, while formally addressed as males (excepting, of course, Kanga), all the characters are in fact soft toys. As is well known soft toys do not, as a rule, display sexual differentiation. They are, therefore, better thought of as androgynous and their social relations, as portrayed in the Pooh corpus, clearly transcend the sexual politics of patriarchy and matriarchy. This Ursinian androgyny again highlights the psychological significance of the Pooh corpus, anticipating as it does Jung’s insights into the androgynous nature of the fully individuated self (see, for example, his Mysterium Coniunctionis).

Another possible line of argument would be to accept the view of some radical feminists that men and women are essentially two different species. If this is granted, then sexism may be understood as a special case of speciesism. And, as Tyerman Williams has pointed out, a charge of speciesism cannot be sustained against Winnie the Pooh.

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