Thursday, April 30, 2015

A feminist* reading of Kate Rusby's "The Game of All Fours"

Kate Rusby is a folk singer whose music I enjoy. 

She bases many of her songs on medieval legend, romantic poetry, or minstrel-type ballads. "The Game of All Fours" is a sweet-sounding, lighthearted little tune with kind of a funny ending, where a guy goes walking with a whimsical girl, she beats him at cards, and so he decides to leave. His leaving so abruptly kind of throws the rest of the song into question, like maybe the guy was a bit of a jerk all along. 

Recently, there's been a renewed focus on relations between the sexes, and the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl seemed to fit the young woman pretty well, so the last time I heard the song I started to think about how a feminist* might have regarded the story. Give it a listen as you read along, but be warned: Kate's voice is haunting and you'll probably want to listen over and over and over and over and over and over again. 

As I was walking one midsummer's morning,

To hear the birds whistle and the nightingale play,
Was there that I met a beautiful maiden,
As I was a walking along the highway.

So this man was wandering around one day, enjoying all his privilege and dominance over lesser creatures, he saw a Womyn and thought "wow that is one hot chick lemme txt my bro how how this chick is durrr"....

Oh where are you going my fair pretty lady,

Where are you going so early this morn,
She answered, kind sir to visit my neighbours,
I'm going down to Lincoln the place I was born.

She wasn't with a man, so he figured She was obviously single, and fair game for some casual street harassment, so her accosted Her. As demurely as possible, out of fear of what he might do if She made him angry, the Womyn politely explained that She was just trying to go visit some friends in Her hometown...

Oh may I go with you my fair pretty lady,

May I go along in your sweet company,
She turned her head round and smiling all at me,
Said you may come with me kind sir if you please.

He began to follow Her down the street while attempting to be charming. He mistook Her simple politeness for an invitation, and kept following after Her.

We hadn't been walking a few miles together,

Before this young damsel began to show free,
She sat herself down saying sit down beside me,
The game we shall play will be one, two and three.

After he had followed Her for what seemed like forever, She began acting strangely to try and make him leave Her alone. Instead, he thought "wow, this is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl I've been searching for!", and asked demanded "you don't mind if I sit with you, right," to which She responded "it's a free country." To his privileged mind, that was the same as "yes, please!" She attempted to distract him from staring at Her chest by challenging him to a card game.

I said my dear lady if you're fond of the gaming,

There's one game I know I would like you to learn,
The game it is called The Game Of All Fours,
So I took out my pack and began the first turn.

A typical man, he only knew how to do things one way: his. So he decided to run some Game on Her. To throw Her off Her guard and make Her feel vulnerable, he started dealing out cards for some game She had never heard of or played. He figured this would make Her unable to resist his advances.

She cut the cards and I fell a dealing,

I dealt her a trump and myself the poor Jack,
She led off her ace and stole the Jack from me,
Saying Jack is the card I like best in your pack.

Despite never having played the game, She beat him using Her superior Womynly intelligence. She knew he'd be offended and maybe even angry, so She made a throwaway remark suggesting She had gotten lucky and didn't truly understand how the game was played. 

I dealt the last time, its your turn to shuffle,

My turn to show the best card in the pack,
Once more she'd the ace and stole the Jack from me,
Once more I lost when I laid down poor Jack.

"If you're so good, you go ahead and deal this time," he sulked. So She did, and beat him a second time in only a few moves.

So I took up my hat and I bid her good morning,

I said you're the best that I know at this game,
She answered, young man, come back tomorrow,
We'll play the game over and over and over and over and over again

He finally admitted to himself that this Womyn had actual skills and intelligence. Who knows, maybe She even had desires and dreams apart from being an object for the fulfillment of his pleasure! His warped notion of masculinity and gender roles couldn't handle the realization that She was not, in fact, his Manic Pixie Dream Girl. 

With a renewed confidence, the Womyn called "come on back when you learn how to play!" She then continued to Her friend's house so they could make a post about the incident on UpWorthy while the defeated man slunk off to an internet forum where so-called "Nice Guys" complain about Womyn who won't have sex with them. 

Hahahaha! Feminists, amirite?


*Obviously, this is not what I think feminists actually believe. This is satire you guys.

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