Civilized Girl Poem Analysis

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GENDER AND HUMAN RIGHTS “Cheap perfume Six inch heels Skin-tight pants Civilized girl Steel-wool hair Fuzzy and stiff Now soft as coconut husk Held by a dozen clips Charcoal-black skin Painted red Bushy eyebrows Plucked and pencilled Who am I? Melanesian Caucasian or Half-caste? Make up your mind Where am I going— Forward, backward, still? What do I call myself— Mrs Miss or Ms? Why do I do this? Imitation What’s wrong with it? Civilization” - ‘Civilized Girl’ by Sipolo (1986) Jully Sipolo, a Solomon Islander, wrote ‘Civilized Girl’ when she was a student at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. This poem reflects her ambivalence towards ‘civilization’ which meant adopting western beliefs and values, and, at the same time,…show more content…
Treating human rights as universal, makes the regime tacitly oblivious to the cultural diversity prevalent across the globe and the aim of creating the world as culturally homogeneous inherently flawed and controversial. By ignoring the varied historical experiences and multiplicity in culture witnessed by different countries, the human rights regime turns a blind eye to the disparities in the world and especially between the Asian and African countries on one hand and American and European, on the other. This formulation becomes excruciatingly problematic, when one deliberates on the question that who gets to set the standards of universality. The European states and the USA, who dominate and practically control the United Nations, the generator of human rights, pressurize the states of the South to accept their norms and rules as the ultimate…show more content…
While a sizeable number of feminists have criticized the universalizing and essentializing ideas of human rights, decrying them as Eurocentric, there are voices in support of this discourse who have embraced it as a tool in their political struggle. A strand of feminists have expressed clear opposition to the persistence of customs which symbolizes female inferiority and require women to publicly defer to men. Feminists such as Moller Okin argue that multiculturalism is ‘bad for women’ because it subordinates women’s individual rights to masculine privilege enshrined in group rights that are legitimatized by ‘culture’, ‘tradition’, and ‘religion’. Feminism has always questioned appeals to culture and tradition where these are used to legitimate female subjugation. The fact that roles and symbolism associated with femininity together with patriarchal authority and masculine privilege are often made into cultural signifiers, places women’s individual rights in conflict with those seeking to impose ‘traditional’, ‘authentic’, or ‘national’ customs on their people. So, while one should be skeptical in accepting the human rights as formally universal, one should also not place undue reliance on culture which has often placed the burden of tradition solely on the shoulders of women, subjecting to

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