Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reclaiming the Enlightenment for Feminism & Challenging Masculine Aristocracy

Karen Offen incorporates many of the authors we have previously examined to form an argument for the feminist movement during the French Revolution and the enlightenment. Offen argues that it was during this time that the French realized that the sexes were not determined exclusively by nature but a socially structured behavior. In that aspect I placed this reading on my list for Gender. She also looked into the view of the French on marriage and how they were still so relient on men for all that they had or could claim. This reliance became a topic of discussion for women when men declared for themselves rights, excluding women from those rights. With the beginning of a separation of church and state the topic of marriage was again examied. Men worked to retain their control over the state and thereby, marriage, while women sought a break from the churches ideals of male dominated marriages. Offen also discusses the work that women did outside the home and how this was also slightly changing. Women were being asked to spend more time on their education but this was emphasized only for civil reasons not for individual betterment.

Overall I believe this reading fits under many categories, such as Gender, Employment and Work, Marriage and Family, Law, Education, and Citizenship, and because is was largely based in France and not spread until later times, Categories of Differene in region.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Freedom of the Heart: Men and Women Critique Marriage

The chapter from Desan clearly discusses the topic of marriage in Revolutionary France but within this it also addresses gender. As Desan talks about the various pro-divorce or anti celibacy arguments she draws gender lines. For instance, when she discusses those in favor of divorce she seems to present the husband’s(male) perspective and the wife’s(female) perspective. One pamphlet Desan sights tells the fictional story of a man who says that women are the only ones who can get divorce and therefore slaps his wife in public in attempt to get her to divorce him. She retaliates by hitting him with a wine bottle and refusing to get a divorce. (33-34) This presents the unhappily married man as someone who is tied to a controlling and nagging wife. The unhappily married woman has different reasons for seeking divorce. One pamphlet explains that the only way women could leave their husbands was for “the most outrageous defamation of character or the most severe beatings performed before witnesses.”(35). This shows how women were seeking divorce to get out of abusive situations. When the genders discuss marriage they also appear to have a different understanding of each gender role in the relationship. Dessan discusses what she calls the Rousseauian assumption that all women she bend and submit to the will of their husbands. This includes the idea that “A wife should be allowed to divorce for adultery, but never for incompatibility.” (37) This differs significantly from the women (or at least pamphleteers who claimed they were female) disagreed with and sought to “challenge female subservience as the basis for affectionate marriage.”(38). Overall, Desane provides different gender perspectives on marriage and divorce allowing us to look at the two different genders during the time period.
Another interesting aspect of this article is its focus on the written word. When contrasted to last week’s readings “The Perils of Eloquence,” which suggested that women were losing influence because print was replacing oral , Desan presents several examples of women who were writing eloquently. There were multiple pamphlets Desane sighted that were attributed to women. This seems to contradict Hesse’s assertion by suggesting that women maintained their influence by adapting to the written word. Although, Desan suggests that male authors could have written under female names, this still does not undermine the female influence since the male authors would not choose a female pseudonym if it did not provide more credibility to their work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spinning Out Capital: Women's Work in Preindustrial Europe, 1350-1750

This essay explores women's work from about 1350 to 1750 and shows all of the changes that the European economy went through. Merry Wiesner talked about rural women and urban women and how they sometimes would trade positions. Rural women would travel into town to sell their products or their labor, and urban women would go into the rural areas to buy products to sell or to work on parcels of land that were still owned by their families. It talked about how this made women an important part of the household economy. This would go under the theme of employment and work.
Another thing that was discussed was the difference between where the men and the woman made their objects that they sold. Men were able to carry out their work in workshops where women had to make their items in the domestic area. This really stopped women from being able to do many of the types of work that men were able to do even if they did know how to do things like shoemaking, etc. Merry Wiesner talked about how even widows who would continue to do the work of their husband did not have the same advantages of their competition. The men that were doing these same tasks had the opportunity to get newer equipment that would help them, but women could not have these same things because they had to continue to make their items in the domestic area. The only occupation that was truly looked at as noble for women was becoming a midwife. This changed though when men started to go to school to becom physicians. They made different types of reasoning of why women should be pushed out of the job of midwifery and they should let men take over. Women were never given the opportunity to learn the same things that the males were able to. Merry Wiesner believed that these things happened because men thought that they would give women to much power if they were allowed to do the same work that men were allowed to do.

Carla Hesse: "The Perils of Eloquence"

Carla Hesse's "The Perils of Eloquence" underscores how it was over the course of the French Revolution that French women began to see their status and respect as eloquent speakers diminish.  It was also at this time that the gap in literacy rates between men and women was at its widest.
Additionally, it was during the French Revolution that "the written and the printed word," associated with men as a masculine trait, "supplant the spoken word," associated with women as a female trait, "as the source of popular legitimacy" (30).  Hesse points out that as a result of the masculine, written word, gaining such power over the female, spoken word, "...women would have to find their way into literate culture or see their cultural and political power eclipsed...eloquence had become a perilous art indeed" (30).  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Having Her Own Smoke

This article outlines several of the most common employment opportunities available to singlewomen in Germany from 1400-1750. For this reason, I've placed this article in "Categories of Difference". Wiesner analyzes, specifically, Germany in a comparatively short span of time - these demographics anywhere else at any other time could very well have yielded completely different results.
In addition, Wiesner discusses the lifestyle differences between the employment opportunities. She describes the characteristics of singlewomen who were domestic servants, wage laborers, and those who participated in craft production and sales. While each of these lifestyles resulted in different freedoms and certain restraints for singlewomen, they were all held suspect in terms of their motivations for being single working women. Working women were subject to the stigma of being associated with lewdness and, in some cases, prostitution.

~Melissa Johnson

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Women in Early Modern Europe

This reading explored the difference between women of Europe and the women of the new world colonies. Women overall had more opportunities in the European colonies. Colonial women had more of a choice in marriage and tended to marry younger. In early Portuguese colonies there were very few women, so white women in the colonies were very prized. Within Brazil women had more opportunities, like holding on to their estates after their husband’s death. In Spanish colonies women were of a higher status then their Spanish counterparts. Women in the French colonies often married earlier then the women and France and tended to have larger families. In British colonies marriages had the ability to be dissolved. Women had the right to divorce a husband who was not able to provide.
In many ways the women of European colonies had more rights and opportunities then their European counterparts. However just as in any situations, there were some things that were better for European women. Within the article it is apparent that we can see Categories of Difference within the women from all over the colonies and all over Europe. Marriage and Family plays a role in the different marriage ages we see in Europe and the colonies and the different sizes in families. Employment and Work become important as women in the colonies tended to have more job opportunities available to them. Lastly, Law, Education and Citizenship can be seen in the role women played in all of these communities, as education became important and women were able to access legal help in some of the colonies like those of England.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Would you rather live in Salem or Montaillou?

After reading "The Women and Men of Montaillou and Salem Village: Patterns of Gender and Power" from Mary Hartman's The Household and the Making of History we discussed if we would prefer to live in seventeenth-century Salem or early modern Montaillou. The overwhelming choice of class members was Salem. I was so struck by the reasoning for this choice that I include the highlights here:
Reasons for choosing Salem:
Respect (mentioned three times)
Responsibility (mentioned three times) Overall quality of life for women (mentioned twice) Just legal system (mentioned twice) Lack of pressure to marry “someone extremely older than you” (mentioned twice)
More overlap with men and women’s roles (mentioned twice)
More power in daily life (mentioned twice)
Because women had it “a little easier than Montaillou” More equality (less machismo)

And then these quotes that neatly summarize the ambiguity of preferring Salem:

  • “In Salem the men more readily admitted their fears of women gaining social power”
    “I wouldn’t have wanted to live there [Salem] then, but before [the trials], I’d want to live in Salem. Probably.”
  • “Even though my chances of being raped, accused of witchcraft, and becoming a “spinster” would be greater, I would have more freedom in choice of work, gender roles would be less defined, and since women would outnumber men, it would be more acceptable for me to choose not to get married than it would be in Montaillou. (Where I probably wouldn’t have a choice.)"
  • “Despite Salem being more dangerous as far as the propensity to be a victim of violent assault, I feel Salem is more akin to the world I am acclimatized to. Today women aren’t considered witches and executed, but something that rhymes with witches and are sacrificed on the altar of public opinion.”

Reasons for choosing Montaillou:

  • “Who’s to say that the women didn’t retaliate with equally derogatory remarks that were not recorded?”
  • “Even though, perhaps, women on the whole were less revered than in Salem and more openly scorned they also had more autonomy in their own sphere”

Davis, "Arguing with God"

The section of Natalie Zemon Davis's book, "Arguing with God: Glikl Das Judah Leib" in the larger work Women on the Margins fits very nicely into "categories of difference" in regards to religion, as well as the category of "employment" . Davis points out the stark differences between Jewish and Christian women, tying their employment to their religion. The differences in how Jewish women and Christian women were able to support themselves and their families is striking; Jewish women were able to work in their husband's business, even if their husband passes away, as in Glikl's situation. Whereas for Christian women, while they still entered into small business adventures (Davis lists goldspinning and stockingmaking). But the real difference comes in the fact that she made short-range trades for large sums of money, and she did all her business in person. Christian women, on the other hand, did not take over their husband's business, or do much of anything without a male member of the family present, for the German Jews, women could do things on their own, without a chaperon.