When one closely looks at literary culture, one finds several genres working together to contribute towards the enrichment of literature. However, one cannot ignore the hierarchy that exists within this subject: classical texts (written in verse) are considered to be superior to other forms of writing, like novels, travelogues, etc.
One may wonder about this position occupied by classical poetry. The genre of poetry was always established as a male domain, since one could find only male poets expressing the socio-political and economic condition of the times through poetry. However, when female poets eventually started entering this masculine tradition, the subject matter of poetry underwent a change; poetry was infused with feminine elements, experiences of oppression, the predicament of women, and so on.
However, if one sees the modern scenario in the world of literature, one cannot help but notice the overwhelming majority of men writing poetry, while women are expected to pen ‘lower’ forms like novels. This becomes very problematic not only because women’s interests and capabilities are being looked at through a prismatic vision of gender, but also because the novel as a genre is treated as ‘inferior’. This serves as a deliberate move on the part of both women and men to align themselves with ‘superior’ forms of writing while completely moving away from the ‘inferior’ ones like novels. Therefore, even people with superior literary skills who ‘want’ to write novels are looked down upon. Instead, they are eventually forced to write poetry or some piece of work of the mythical tradition.
As far as the relationship between poetry and patriarchy is concerned, it is proving to be toxic– because poetry has historically been a gendered subject, it has still not been able to break away from its ancient image. Therefore, while men are automatically expected to generate poetry pieces of political and economic condition of the times, women are automatically expected to do the opposite (focus on its emotional aspects). Further, this notion ultimately forces these two genders to adhere to social expectations lest they are rebuked and looked down upon. In today’s, times, even when women write powerful pieces of poetry which clearly relates to the socio-political situation of the world, or the country in discussion, they are immediately labeled as ‘radical’. The same is the plight of men who wish to talk about the sentiments, daily life hassles, the abstract ideas of love, hatred, agony, disgust, and so on. The criticism that they receive is also harsh, as they are labeled as ‘feminine’ while their poetry immediately perceived as ‘non-serious’.
Therefore, the idea of choice becomes extremely important in the present context, especially when the fact remains that there is a multitude of choices available in the current scenario to everybody. It is interesting to see how, even though people in the 21st century have the freedom to write in whatever form they wish, the intense labeling and bullying through which they suffer, renders the notion of choice as a facade. One cannot help but clearly see the stereotypes and prejudices that greatly affect the poetic work or any work of literature. Your work will not only be judged by its poetic or literary integrity, but also by factors like your birth, your class, your caste (if one talks about a country like India), your race (especially in USA), your education (whether you have received any formal university education or not), your gender, and so on. Therefore, politics sometimes overshadow one’s literary skills and gifts; artificial discrimination is still thriving in the 21st century.
Isn’t it time to do away with masculinity and femininity of genres? Isn’t it time to consider every piece of literature as an important work, which has its unique niche in society? Isn’t it time to do away with the hierarchy in a field which constantly questions it? Isn’t it time to de-gender literature and judge a piece of writing in its own capabilities, instead of waiting for the society to grow?
Picture Credits : nytimes