Posts tagged ‘history’

November 3, 2010

Class Reflection: Sex in the Victorian Era

by feyruhan
Cover of "Tipping the Velvet: A Novel"

Cover of Tipping the Velvet: A Novel

Psychological Aspects of Human Sexuality

Class reflection: Sex in the Victorian Era.

There was *sex* in the *Victorian Era*?  Gasp!

I had heard of John Ruskin before, in a literature class at my previous college.  We were assigned an essay of his, I believe it was Lilies and Sesame Seeds, and I had a hard time getting through it because I found Ruskin’s message so infuriating.  Later, when we discussed the essay (and the essayist) in class, the professor (or maybe it was one of the students? Hm…) shared with us that poor old John had run away from his wife on their wedding night when he found, to his horror, that she had pubic hair.  It was bad enough that his wife had pubic hair, but the concept it implied was even worse: women, in general, had pubic hair.  Pubic hair was notably absent from all images of women he had ever seen, and the absence of it somehow epitomized to Ruskin the un-sexed nature of the “fairer sex.”  What could possibly be more mortifying to a man who so deeply perceived women as nonsexual, child-like in their simplicity, purity, and power of reasoning, than to discover—on his wedding night—that women, his simple play-thing, are in fact whole and sexual beings?

There was a lot of noise made, in the Victorian Era, about homosexuality: its wrongness, its rightness, its illness and its naturalness.  That is, the wrongness or rightness of male homosexuality.  Has anyone read or heard of Tipping the Velvet?  It’s a novel, a historical romance novel of some four-hundred and eighty pages, written and published in the last ten years—which should mean it has no relevance to this discussion, since it’s a work of fiction, right?  Wrong-o!  The book takes its title (Tipping the Velvet) from a term of the era in which it is set, the 1880’s—late Victorian times—a term referring to cunnilingus (oral sex performed on a woman); the term itself, which deceptively sounds like a boring aspect of millinery, was used by women of a sapphist persuasion.  That is to say, lesbians.  Victorian Era lesbians.  Yes, the Victorian Era had its lesbians, and they had their own hidden, under-the-radar, legally reprehensible but not legally recognized (that is to say, there were sodomy laws for homosexual men but no laws set out for homosexual women; Queen Victoria is supposed to have dismissed the possibility of female homosexuality when it was brought to her in legal concerns; “female homo-what?” was more or less her attitude), sub-culture.

The Victorians, thanks to England’s Queen Victoria and others, were known for a reserved attitude towards sex, sexuality, and all things involving the (female) body.  It’s interesting to notice that a (modern/contemporary) leading lingerie company—the opposite to a reserved attitude on sex, sexuality, and all things involving the female body—is named Victoria’s Secret.

August 26, 2010

Women’s Equality Day: 90 Years of American Women Voters

by subterfusex
19th Amendment

Image via Wikipedia

On August 26th, 1920 an amendment was made to the US Constitution. It read:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Two little sentences granting women the right to vote, and it took decades to make it happen.

In 1971, a resolution was passed to make today Women’s Equality Day, celebrating this hard-won achievement.

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July 25, 2010

Gasp, where is my pink plumber’s tape!?

by d

Active Woman Magazine // flickr user modashell

Check it out, The Thinking Housewife can be snarky!

Why Feminism Must Go Underground

LAST MONTH, in an interview with the ever-incisive Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem noted, while offering a philosophical overview of contemporary society and world history, that there are relatively few women plumbers. This insight struck me like a lightening bolt. It showed that Ms. Steinem continues to be a penetrating thinker. Now, I have never met a single woman who wanted to become a plumber, let alone a woman who wanted to become a plumber but was prevented from fulfilling her dreams, but Ms. Steinem is probably very plugged in to the feminine plumbing subculture. Almost everything that is humanly possible exists in this world and I don’t doubt there are one or two frustrated women who have unclogged drains since early childhoo

d and have longed, to no avail, to commit themselves to the lonely, back-breaking labor of the plumber’s life.

I am here to tell you that it is not just plumbing that remains a closed field to women.

Look at this New York Post photo of the crew that just completed a new subway tunnel in New York City. Does something seem amiss? You are right. There are no women in this picture. Where was Ms. Steinem when this photo was taken? Her presence was needed. Ladies, oppression is real. It is real and ongoing. From the bowels of the earth, men are ruling the world.

She mocks us. She mocks feminists, she mocks Steinem, she mocks women in trades. That’s ok, we mock her back, just as snarkily.

The thing is, I kind of want to thank her for bringing this up. I did a quick search for “women plumbers” and was fascinated by my findings.

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July 18, 2010

Little House on the Prairie Syndrome

by V

Not pictured: famine, starvation, disease, poverty, redundancy and death.

I’ve noticed a very interesting phenomenon among many women from conservative or very religious backgrounds — or both, as they often go hand-in-hand. I like to call it the “Little House on the Prairie Syndrome.”

Why call it that? These ladies long for the “good old days” when women were seen as having just two places in the world — the kitchen and the bedroom.

I don’t see what’s so great about that, but honestly if that’s what pops your cork, go for it. For the sufferers of this syndrome, however, this doesn’t seem to be enough. They know their ways are most natural — and any self-respecting, non-delusional woman would agree.

Fortunately for us, society has moved on. And these women can only complain about the evils of the feminist movement as the start of Armageddon. I’m being melodramatic, I hope. But it’s hard to come away from their blogs thinking differently, whether they express these views outright or not.

So why should we care? Women lived like this before feminism. Why can’t we go back to the past?

It’s because these women want something that doesn’t exist. Their go-tos on the past — movies, TV, and books — often glamorize history by leaving out the disgusting minutiae of a woman’s daily drudgery. There has never been an epoch in our history where women did not work. Women have always been professionals. Even the Proverbs woman helped her husband take goods to the market. Since prehistory, there have been female gossips, adulterers, virgins, sluts, geniuses and even rulers. Either this history was suppressed or forgotten, but it has not made it into the movies.

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July 6, 2010

A Tale of Two Female Devotees

by f

Lately, I’ve been reading poems by two famous historical poetesses — Rabi’a Al-Adawiyya and Mirabai.

Rabi’a Al-Adawiyya was born around 801 BC to very poor parents in Basra, Iraq. She later became a slave until, according to fable, she was emancipated by a master in awe of her intense devotion to God.

Mirabai, on the other hand, was Rajput royalty, born 1498 AD — seven centuries after her Iraqi counterpart.

Their backgrounds make for a fascinating study of contrasts: Rabi’a was a former slave and Mirabai spent the first twenty years of her life as a princess in one of the wealthiest city-states in the world. Life, however, eventually saw them as ascetics. Mirabai gave up her marriage to follow Krishna and Rabi’a became a Sufi holy woman, wandering through Iraq seeking solitude.

It’s amazing how much these two women from vastly different eras had such similar ideas about God.

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July 4, 2010

Independence Day

by subterfusex

Abigail Adams

Dear Abigail,

We are now some 230 years removed from your extraordinary doings, but your words have remained with us. Indeed, though you thought your correspondence with your much admir’d husband John ought to remain private, we hope you can understand the great gift it has become for us, your inheritors.

Your letters show that you and John had an enviable relationship, one of true partners in a time when women were still considered things more than people. You urged him to change this, proving for all time that American women have always wanted to be equal. Better yet, you did so in the most charming and firm manner, making clear your position and your seriousness.

“I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives.

“But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.” (May 7th, 1776)

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July 4, 2010

The Worst Poet in the World … actually a decent guy.

by f

Oh, no, it's that McGonagall man again!

William McGonagall, universally regarded as one of the worst poets ever to write in the English language, was also a decent guy.  On suffrage for women, he had views ahead of his time. Take time to absorb the message between your sharp gasps of laughter. Yes.  This stuff actually got published.

by William McGonagall

Fellow men! why should the lords try to despise
And prohibit women from having the benefit of the parliamentary Franchise ?
When they pay the same taxes as you and me,
I consider they ought to have the same liberty.

And I consider if they are not allowed the same liberty,
From taxation every one of them should be set free;
And if they are not, it is really very unfair,
And an act of injustice I most solemnly declare.

Women, farmers, have no protection as the law now stands;
And many of them have lost their property and lands,
And have been turned out of their beautiful farms
By the unjust laws of the land and the sheriffs’ alarms.

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