Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Middle Class Domesticity Goes Public: Gender, Class, and Politics from Queen Caroline to Queen Victoria"

This article mainly falls under the categories of class and gender. Dror Wahrman argues that the rise of the middle class during the nineteenth century led to a collective self-consciousness that was founded upon virtues and public involvement that were defined as masculine. Thus, despite the social status of women, they still maintained a domestic role and relied upon men to protect them from being socially and politically abused. Discussing the public trial of Queen Caroline of England, Wahrman demonstrates how middle class men felt that it was their duty to protect her from greedy aristocrats. According to Davidoff and Hall, Caroline was viewed as a wronged woman and that, "The 'manly' and the 'courageous' must rise up and protect her (405)." The public opinion of the time reflected this idea that men should shelter and protect women from the evils of society. According to a pro-Caroline pamphleteer, "I would tremble for the fate of every woman in this country, if I did not see arrayed against this foul persecution, all the manly virtues of the land (405)." This gendered statement portrays men as the stronger sex that has political and ethical duties over weak and dependent women. However, Wahrman does a good job at demonstrating how women timidly participated in the formation of the public opinion, as many spoke out in favor of protecting familial values during the time of Caroline's trial. These women were able to justify this type of public involvement as they were essentially trying to promote and protect the family. This was the only time that public participation was deemed appropriate and acceptable for women.

The article goes into the concerns of the "Appeal of One-Half of the Human Race," commonly seen as the most important feminist document since Mary Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (413). In this paper, Thompson declares the gross inequality between men and women. "By shutting them out from all means of intellectual culture, and from the view of and participation in the real incidents of active life" they were "confined, like other domestic animals, to the house and its little details (413)." This statement reveals that women had been suppressed from active public and political participation and that some men began to question whether or not this was fair. Thompson went on to claim that the role of women was defined as domestic despite a woman's social status.

After reviewing the content of Wahrman's article, I have concluded that it falls under the categories of: class, gender, and feminism - although the feminist approach of the article relies mainly upon a male perspective as it cites articles authored by men about the roles of women in society. However, middle class men were the ones that formed the public opinion and were able to express their views in a way that would be recognized and potentially influential.

1 comment:

  1. This seems like it's the first time in which men have begun to speak out, across the culture, in favor of reframing women outside of sheer domesticity. I wonder what might have prompted this to happen; was it Caroline's trial? Other world events? Synchronous wide-spread domestic events in this particular culture? Interesting article.