January 7 2013
Mr. Higgins' America
Have you ever wondered why a woman can’t be more like a man?
This is Mr. Higgins’ dilemma in the famed My Fair Lady musical that I had a chance to see over the weekend here in Washington.
Higgins has found himself in a dilemma. He’s a self-proclaimed bachelor who has suddenly begun to fall in love with his pupil – a common flower girl with a sharp English brogue. One of the most famous songs from the musical is actually a misogynistic rant Higgins goes on about how women are “nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!”
The English aristocrat tells his friend Col. Hugh Pickering, “Men are so pleasant, so easy to please; whenever you are with them, you’re always at ease.” Except, of course, when he finally meets a woman he loves.
While on so many accounts, My Fair Lady is a feminist’s worst nightmare, it's also very much a modern feminist ideal, in which there are no differences between men and women. While I loved the musical, I was left wondering if perhaps too many women today truly live in Mr. Higgins’ world – a world in which women have so often been urged to be the same as men that gender relations have all but dissolved.
While women have thankfully won tremendous freedom in the hundred years between Mr. Higgins’ society and today, these liberties have not come without a serious cost. Mr. Higgins’ brave new world in which women and men often are the same has become a society where courtship and marriage has been downgraded and replaced by a laissez-faire sexual culture and where romantic relationships are a thing of the past – only to be found in Broadway musicals!
Sadly for many women today, who find men more engaged in bromances than romances, Mr. Higgin’s final rant might ring all-too-familiar:
If I were hours late for dinner, would you bellow?
Of course not!
If I forgot your silly birthday, would you fuss?
Would you complain if I took out another fellow?
Well, why can't a woman be like us?