Saturday, March 21, 2009
Abrams claims that the real impetus for First-Wave feminism was purely economic and political. I think she too strongly asserts this since each of these have more remote causes based in more fundamental areas such as culture, ideas and patterns of behavior. She actually seems to side with culture when later writing that "it was when 'the crust of patriarchy' began to crack from 1848 onwards" that organized feminism came about. Early feminists organized themselves through the release of statements (like the Quaker women's Declaration of Sentiment), political lobbying and protests. This process in turn assured greater women's rights as the women involved increased in oratory and written skill. They were successful in creating their own language and platform, from which they could activize on their own terms. Abrams also focuses on the relationship between socialism and First-Wave feminism, which was fruitful, but also split the feminist cause along class lines.
This chapter focuses on how conceptions of masculinity drove British imperialism in the period from 1880-1900. Professor Tosh asserts that "empire was man's business" in a literal sense. This is true in two ways. First, empire's "acquisition and control depended disproportionately on the energy and ruthlessness of me," and second, "its place in the popular imagination was mediated through literary and visual images which consistently emphasized positive male attributes." Since the chapter uses many examples of the effects of the man-making empire on labor patterns and also class considerations, I include this reading under the themes of gender, categories of difference (certain classes were more affected by the imperial propaganda program), and employment and work.
The author himself is not guilty of being caught up in the glorification of either empire or masculinity. He in fact seeks to undermine the role of increased masculinization by claiming that this last flourish of British ultra-masculinity was actually a symptom of weakness. While Britain--except between the years 1899-1902--was not at war during this period, they saw their international holdings as increasingly threatened by a hostile international environment. The saber-rattling and rhetoric about the need to defend the empire was therefore subsequent to fears about the instability of the empire.
I do not necessarily agree with Tosh on this point. The correlation of Britain's relative decline and increased masculine rhetoric is interesting, but it is difficult to establish causation here. During the allied bombings of Germany in WWII, German production in war materials actually doubled as the people became more resolved to survive, more angry, etc. For late 19th century British men, increased international competition from Germany, France and Belgium may well have initiated more "struggle, duty, action, will and 'character.'" Whether an increase in these traits results in greater masculinity is a matter of semantics.
Image: The Colonization of Africa. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://african-diaspora.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/colonial-africa.gif&imgrefurl=http://african-diaspora.com/2008/05/a-look-at-the-colonization-of-africa/&usg=__nivRd4Id-TxZ056hfPvJXwMa7Gc=&h=513&w=500&sz=51&hl=en&start=17&sig2=YAAqDGBNhy5x45tIG2UUmQ&tbnid=jJdUFX6pU0L0aM:&tbnh=131&tbnw=128&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dbritish%2Bcolonizer%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG&ei=LXLFSariIpK2sQOP1envBg
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"Middle-Class" Domesticity Goes Public: Gender, Class, and Politics from Queen Caroline to Queen Victoria
Dror Wahrman traces the political treatment of the middle class of England through the decades of the 1820s and 1830s. As the title denotes, the main development he is tracing is the incorporation of women and the domestic into the political conception of the middle class. The brunt of his argument is found in one of the concluding sentences of the article which reads: “The picture of the ‘middle class’ as the epitome of hearth and home, in sum, should be viewed not as a straightforward snapshot of essential social practice but, rather, as a charged and contingent historical invention.”
Wahrman’s article opens on comparing two statements made by novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The first statement, contained in an 1831 essay, establishes a clear dichotomy between public and private, leaving public opinion to men and fashion to women. However, two years after that statement was published Bulwer-Lytton again discussed public opinion and fashion but did not divide relegate the categories to men and women respectively; rather, the categories were relegated to the middle class and aristocracy, respectively. Wahrman suggests that the difference in texts is not coincidental but reflects that the categories “middle class,” “public,” “private,” “masculine” and “feminine,” “invoked changing ranges of meanings and . . . carried different stakes at different moments.”
The trial of public opinion surrounding the episode of Queen Caroline in the 1820s asserted the opinion of the “middle class” was altogether male. The instance of women engaging in the public discourse surrounding Queen Caroline contained in the article was an address to the queen which was printed in the Examiner and the women are excessively meek in their writing saying at one point, “We are unaccustomed to public acts.” However, Caroline was considered “a woman’s cause” as “women acted as defenders of familial values and communal morality.” Nevertheless, at this time women were not considered part of the middle class voice speaking out against the injustice facing Caroline.
The rhetoric used to discuss the middle class changed with the passage of The Reform Bill of 1832, although there is some debate as to whether or not some social change on a longue duree level had not occurred earlier. Nonetheless, the middle class began to be associated with familial values, particularly with religious devotion and soberness, all which placed increased emphasis on the domestic—traditionally the woman’s realm. Wahrman evokes Joan Scott in his discussion quoting from her “Gender: A Useful Category of Analysis” the following phrase: “the concept of class in the nineteenth century relied on gender for its articulation.” Wahrman’s article and his tracing of notions of what defines middle classness reflects the validity of Scott’s statement.
Thematic Categories: Categories of Difference (Middle Class vs. Aristocracy—something I didn’t mention much, but very explicit in the discussion of Queen Caroline), Gender, Marriage and Family, Feminism (discussion of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Thompson, among other feminist writers)
Monday, March 16, 2009
This raises questions about why "the woman question" was perceived as so dangerous to mid-century governments.
Offen also asserts that women's participation in and impact upon 1848 has been "incompletely understood." She states that one reason for this might be because "it seemed too disruptive to historians preoccupied by a male-centered political agenda" (Offen, 109). That is a very provocative statement. With which historiogoraphic tradition is Offen conversing? What is she suggesting about the history of 19th century politics?
Image: Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830 (from Web Gallery of Art)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
This association of women with low quality labor is complicated by Coffin's analysis of Dupin's ideas about woman's education. Dupin's theory was that women should be taught basic geometry and applied mechanics in a trade school because of the precision, regularity, and symmetry needed for women's industrial work. According to Dupin, since the female body was weak, the forces which they do possess must be cultivated and fully utilized, just as one would attempt to fully utilize any economic force. This thoery represents the types of questions about women and thier assorted capacities which the innovations and changes of the industrial era inspired.
Dupin goes on to discuss the developement of ready-made clothing and the subsequent immergence of departement stores; enterprises which marigalized the work of skilled tailors. These tailors added to the negative view of women during this period. As Dupin says, "as the tailors saw it, the decline of skills and ruinous competition were enseparable from feminization" because of the association, discussed earlier, of women with unskilled work.
Categories: Education, Employment, Gender
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Categories: Feminism, Categories of Difference, Citizenship, Labor.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Mary S. Hartman The Household and the Making of History (Cambridge, 2004), 242
Hartman suggests that the northwest European marriage pattern set up an entirely unique gender and family dynamic that in turn created the path of western history. Do you agree? Does Hartman's explanation for patriarchy and early modern gender also explain some of our contemporary attitudes about masculinity and femininity?