Gender Views: Swift and Butler

From the two poems by Swift “A Beautiful Nymph Going to Bed,” and “The Lady’s Dressing Room” I realized that Swifts idea of gender are very different from the views of the people of his time. What I gained from “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” by Judith Butler is that Butler and Swift aren’t that different in their views. They both in some ways believe in social construct. The poems raise questions about the “natural” person, male or female.

Butler states that “I suffered for a long time, and I suspect many people have, from being told, explicitly or implicitly, that what I ‘am’ is a copy, an imitation, a derivative example, a shadow of the real.” (pg. 272).  Her view helps the reader understand the poems because it shows how you don’t have to listen to people through out your life tell you what you are. You can be your own person and stray away from what Swift says is the “natural woman” or “natural man”. This is where I see a lot of similarities between the two, they both don’t think people should just copy others that are the same gender they want people to be whoever they want to be.

In Swift’s poem “Lady’s Dressing Room” when a man finds out how much artificial and unnatural a woman’s beauty he leaves her after all she wanted to do was live up to the mans expectations. What she doesn’t know is his feeling on beauty is the opposite because he thinks that its what is on the inside and your natural self. It shows how Swift tries to show the reader how society has gender norms and believe in artificial beauty which obviously he believes is wrong. He shows how society puts down people who fall outside the gender norms which relates to Butlers ideas of gender.

His poem “A Beautiful Nymph Going to Bed” is all about the most beautiful prostitute in London. People say she is a “lovely Goddess” but when she comes back to her place at night to go to sleep she takes off all the accessories and things she used to look pretty. Under it all is an ugly lady that looked nothing like what she had before, showing how beauty can be made. It shows how our society sees beautiful in the most unnatural way. Again similar to the other poem artificial beauty is shown and the idea that it is wrong. Gender and natural beauty are the main themes in these poems and what people should strive for. But in both poems artificial beauty is what is trying to be obtained by the characters.

Butler explains how copying and mimicking is crucial to gender because instead of people shaping there gender themselves its created by the society around it. Butler thinks that gender isn’t about ones actual sex but about how they feel and think inside. Both the poems and Butler helped to shape the idea that gender should be natural to what you feel not the biological way you are born and that our society needs to be less artificial in the way we see beauty.



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