For Duck's Sake, Please Stop Gendering Mallard's Snail!


Sir Mallard Jones, a mallard duck, poses at home in a fancy room with gold and burgundy wallpaper. He is wearing a top hat and burgundy suit with matching tie. His snail sits on his shoulder.
Sir Mallard Jones, at home

Guest post by Sir Mallard Jones:


Dear Gendered Ducks and Humans,


It is I, Sir Mallard Jones, Duck's best frenemy. I'm truly grateful that Duck is allowing me to post on this lightly interesting electronic log.


[What the duck is "lightly" supposed to mean? —Duck]


Now look, I’m from England. We don’t have gender there. There’s class—oh yes! You can’t swing a heavily-smoked herring without someone calling you “classist.” But gender? Not since the Second World War. Even then, can you imagine my great, great, great grandmother queuing for her pondweed rations, her enormous, duck-sized handbag dangling at her side, while those around her question whether she fits the gender binary? In England, we have no use for that. Stiff upper lip! Gender, off you go!


[Readers, I am every bit as beak-smacked as you are. I'm half-English and have had a gender for years. —Duck]


In the United States, however, gender is rife, which leaves one with befuddling questions: If I am to fit the so-called binary, should I wear knickers or shorts? How about a kilt? Do kilts have a gender? And if they don’t, what will the neighbors say? Even “restrooms” have a gender in our part of Assachusetts! It’s ludicrous! And seeing as heteronormativity is so pervasive, why in the name of humbug do the men enter the men’s? (By the by, I'm actually rather fond of men entering men. As far as I’m concerned, we should all be entering each other.)


Also, if a duck decides to team a shaggy beard with a string of pearls, which room should they actually rest in? People in pearls deserve a rest as much as the next person. They’ve adorned their throat with something classy, haven’t they? Isn’t that what we’re ALL meant to be doing?


[Am I dreaming or is this a Kafka novel? —Duck]


This brings me to the matter of my pet snail, Fotherington. He’s an insect, for cod’s sake. If he does have a gender, he’s certainly never mentioned it. That’s not to say he’s ignorant of gender politics. We’ve spent many happy hours beside a roaring fire debating whether this fine nation would have been better off had Donald Trump experimented with gender-neutral pronouns and a lace-trimmed velvet bustier. [Now this does make sense to me! —Duck] Yes, my snail occasionally smokes a pipe and looks spiffing in a deerstalker, but that doesn’t mean he’s male, does it? If it does, then by a process of deduction, he’s probably Sherlock, too. That’s possible, but as for his gender, he’s a snail! Gender is not a snail-construct. He doesn’t care which restroom he uses! Heck, he’ll rest on the soil if he has to. Snails and gender? It’s enough to make one swallow one’s trombone.


So why does every Tom, Dickens, and Harriet want to gender my snail? Vets, mothers-in-law, small ducklings playing hopscotch in front of my garden wall all seem to have a thinly veiled, obsessive interest. “What gender is the snail?” they ask.


“He’s a snail,” I tell them.


“Oh, he’s a ‘he,’ is he? Then he’s clearly a man-snail.”


“How is it then,” I ask, “that he prefers a lightly-whipped strawberry mousse to a sirloin steak with mushrooms? Why does he shave his kippers? And why is his favorite designer Christian Louboutin?”


Of course, they have no answer. But honestly, once you start gendering each other, what actually does make sense? As Dame Judy Dench used to tell me, “Gender’s just a load of hooey. Better to spend your time working out whether to use the big fork or the small fork.”


[Quackduckery! I've never met Dame Judy Dench, but Riley tells me she teaches an online course called The Wisdom of Cutlery. —Duck]


Here’s the thing: I would ask my snail what he gender is, but it just isn’t done. Is it really any of my business? And what, in the name of quahogs, is the point? Even if my snail develops a penchant for croquet, I’ll not be asking any questions about which of us would lead if we waltzed. As for assumptions, fiddlesticks to that! I mean, if The Queen of England went around guessing everyone’s genders, she’d be making constant mistakes—and as it states quite clearly in the British National Anthem, her majesty NEVER MAKES MISTAKES. (Apart from the time she tried to cut a Victoria sponge with a parrot, but what pillock’s going to be mentioning that?)


Anyway, please stop asking. My snail has a right to privacy. If, on the other hand, he starts shaking his antennae vehemently while announcing his identity, I will publish a follow-up letter on this electronic log.


For Queen and Country,

Sir Mallard Jones


Dear ducks and chucks, if you're as confused as I am, please google stuff.

Loves ya, Duck