Monday, March 16, 2009

1848 and European Feminism

In the 1860s, according to Karen Offen, the "fissures in the crust of patriarchy" split open as the "molten lava of feminist protest against women's subordination" flowed outward. This volcanic change occurred despite the fact that during the 1850s "counterrevolutionary forces . . . brutally suppressed feminist activism in most societies" (European Feminisms, 109).

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)

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that this piece is provocative. I worry every time an activist (academic or political) makes claims about the need for radical change. Change is almost always marginal, so to say that THE history of the 19th century is wrong-headed is indeed making a big claim. I don't think she does a very good job of saying why the current histories are wrong, just that they might be wrong (b/c they were written by males).

    On the other hand, Tolstoy successfully calls for a new way of viewing history in War and Peace. But Offen is not Tolstoy.