Human Evolution in Swastika Night
I continuously come back to the idea that there are fewer and fewer girls being born in Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night, and I think there is a very logical, biological explanation: for humans in the society within the book, women are not desirable, and as a result, both men and women have evolved. I think the implication would have to be that men are not producing as many X-chromosome gametes as they are Y-chromosome gametes, somehow. Naturally, should this society’s way of living continue, women will eventually die out or be killed, and men will be left to grow old and die out as well.
A disconcerting connection I also keep making is that there are societies today where girls are not desirable. China, for instance, is infamous for its female infanticide (there are several other countries that still do this as well). The lives of women and girls are simply not valuable enough. For some ridiculous reason, the lineage of a family is more important, so sons are precious. But why are women not more valuable, since they’re the only ones who can produce sons? You’d think that women would be just as important, since they’re kind of the reason that boys continue to be born.
Statistically, it doesn’t even make sense to have a world that is dominated by males and where females are in the minority, even if the society believes men are more important! Take a leaf out of Jonathan Swift’s (in-?)famous satire, “A Modest Proposal,” and you’ll find that if we just assigned four women to every man, there’s bound to be a good chance of more baby boys at some point!
I was reminded of a movie called Children of Men, where women just suddenly become infertile and the world is in chaos. Basically, everyone is just waiting to die, until a young woman is discovered to be miraculously pregnant! The movie itself is kind of about hope, and protecting this woman until she can get somewhere safe to deliver her baby, but it seems a good visual representation of what might eventually happen in the world of Swastika Night, as well.
The trailer can be found below:
Basically, what I’m getting at is the following, obvious theme that these things have in common: if there are no girls, if there are no women, then the human race will become extinct. Simple as that.
In the cases of Swastika Night and real-life female infanticide, society has more-or-less ensured its own destruction (of course, there are other factors at work with China, such as the child limit, for example, but I digress). It looks incredibly stupid to our eyes, but you can’t think of it on the big scale, as the societies in the book and in China think of it on the small scale. I mean that there are individual families who want their paternal line to follow down through the ages for literally forever, and to them, it might be reasonable to desire sons instead of daughters. But if you apply the philosophy that Britain did regarding its blackouts during WWII, it starts to make sense. One family doing the blackout in a city full of buildings with lights still on is not going to protect their block. In the same way, one family that commits female infanticide is not going to put a dent in the lowering of female citizens in China overall (as awful as it is). But if every family on the block has their lights out, and every family on every block in a particular city has their lights out, the idea was that the city would be more protected from air strikes than if they had any lights on. Likewise, the more families that commit female infanticide, the fewer baby girls and women China (or anywhere) has, which has the opposite effect of an intended blackout: destruction becomes imminent instead.
If the people in Swastika Night had thought about what they were doing to their women and girls and what life would be like for them if they kept up the abusive treatment of them, then perhaps the society wouldn’t have as big an issue. Personally, I feel like the end of the novel could go one of two ways: the more preferable way is that women start to be respected and treated right, and eventually, women are re-integrated into society and they are seen as equals. The other way, which is much darker, is that women stop having girls and eventually become infertile altogether since it is not evolutionarily positive for women to live in the society, so why would there be any need for reproduction at all? And then we get the society seen in Children of Men, where women are infertile and everyone is just waiting for either a miracle or to die.
Burdekin, Katharine. Swastika Night. New York: The Feminist Press, 1985. Print.