Monday, 7 December 2015

BOW DOWN TO your MEN.





BOW DOWN TO your MEN.
 
 
 

 
Power play and feminism are opposing matters that often, quite ironically coincide throughout Victorian history. Power play is when someone finds allure in being manipulative and a suppressive alpha figure. Feminism represents a mindset that strives for equality and is comfortable with defying societal stereotypes towards the sexes. As a feminist, I commonly associate sexual power to correlate with political power which makes Victorian mindsets incredibly interesting and somewhat infuriating as it is so different to modern conceptions of gender roles. Coming back to my title BOW DOWN TO your MEN, the determiner "your" is intentionally lower case in order to represent the inferior position of the Victorian woman. It also represents women rights during the Victorian era, more so their lack of. The "your" is ironic because in reality women had little to no ownership, whether this be through property,rights or marriage. Victorian women were born to exist beside a man, to serve and sacrifice for the owner. Now the word owner may make you flinch, however marriage during this century meant that husbands would own their wives, yes just like a puppy.

 

I admit I've always been drawn to sexually and politically confident women rather than men, purely because there's something so admirable about a strong, defiant woman in a society full of oppressors. Additionally society has always been presented with successful and strong men therefore the rise of powerful women was exceptionally alluring. Luckily I was introduced to a few powerful characters during Victorian Literature which I now have the pleasure of reintroducing to you.



Now there's one very controversial woman who I believe plays a revolutionary role in showing the distinct inequalities and power plays between the 1800-1900's, The Victorian Queen herself. I will explore a few quotes from Queen Victoria which are incredibly influental.Reading these quotes with a modern perspective allows me to explore her words through a different insight compared to the one at the time. Exploring these quotes with the knowledge that these words came from a woman who held the greatest power in England shows how serious and unmissable the inequality and division of sexes were during this era.

 
We all have our opinions and preconceived judgements about Queen Victoria, however there is an inevitable truth that she was in some ways a feminist and humanist icon through her abilty to fearlessly speak out. Her words were often unladylike which is substantial. A Queen, much like women in the Victorian era would have been expected to sound elegant and be passive in comparison to men. Therefore Queen Victoria symbolises strength and a more stern, modern woman whom before the 20th Century never had any appeal.



 

"Being pregnant is an occupational hazard of being a wife"

 

"A marriage is no amusement but a solemn act, and generally a sad one."


 
"Being married gives one one's position like nothing else can."

 

"I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all. "
 




 
These four quotes would make anyone fear for the life of the unborn Victorian girl. One can only imagine the heartbreak of bringing an innocent child into a society or corruption.It's very difficult to perceive marriage and maternity as a curse, however this was the reality for thousands of women during this era. Whether they were working-class or upper-class, women were faced with preconceived judgements, societal pressures, inequality and sexism. However I find the pride and strength in those women most enviable and I believe that the struggles of women during the 18th and 19th Century became the platform in which feminism was born. I also believe that Queen Victoria represents power play during the Victorian Period and how the minority of women who were more privileged suffered as badly as working class women, indicating the somewhat universal problem that is gender.

I believe that the moral issue during the Victorian era was the loss of identity and therefore the lack of respect women faced, purely because of their sex.Women only existed to be beside a man and for the needs of a man, to serve, domesticate and please, just like a slave. Women were not meant to live for themselves and were forced to express their lives through their male partner. This concept of inferior Victorian women is beautifully stated in The Daughters of England by Sarah Stickney Ellis. "As women, then, the first thing of importance is to be content to be inferior to men-inferior in mental power" this shows the psychological aspect of women having to readopt to the needs of men. This concept unfortunately is more than relatable. To this day women accommodate and handle moods of men by playing the inferior, passive role in order to please and satisfy the ego of the man. Although even stating this is far from feminist, it is the inevitable truth.






To my pleasant surprise I found 'The prostitute narrative" by Richard Newton. Before researching the Victorian era I shamefully didn't quite understand the importance of prostitutes in the 18th Century for the future of women rights and feminism. The disturbing fact is although prostitution was shamed and looked down on, those who we're in the privileged position to judge were those who refused to accept women for regular jobs. Ironic, yes. The message behind these pictures by Newton is that a woman's pride is what stops her from being a successful prostitute. Ironic.

 





Coming back to the inferiority of women, their domestic and marital expectations and duties. Women most importantly were forced by the lack of laws to be politically dependent on men which makes their position as an individual in society once again devalued and irrelevant in comparison to a man. Here's a little list of the rights we now have in comparison to women then. One can only try to imagine what it would be like to live without political rights because to this day we still struggle with inequality and the outcomes of power play.



 
  1. Women got the right to vote in 1918
  2. However these were only women who were 30 years old and above who owned a house
  3. Those over 21 got to vote 10 years later in 1928 (10 years is more than enough for a revolution)
  4. Marriage in our day means equality of life and property, then it ment that you yourself would become the property of your husband ( this actually shows that women were worth less than a house is today if one is to compare)
  5. One was not allowed to have sex outside marriage however men would be allowed to

       
Although we now have the right to vote, we can still relate through the movements now by the UN for equal pay and strive for paternity leave. Movements and historical era's like the Victorian help show how important the concept of humanism and feminism is and always will be. I find it interesting to trace how we've evolved and also remained ignorantly the same throughout time.

 





This idea of women and their pride is a recurring theme from Newton's images to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and her character Cathy whom embodies a much more modern woman in comparison to her times. One can interpret Wuthering Heights as a somewhat a feminist novel through the defiant and manipulative nature of Cathy despite the societal oppressions of men, ownership and status. It is also Cathy's female consciousness which makes her so influential throughout the text.

"I have no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightening, or frost from fire." (81)

Bronte gives Cathy the gift that many women were denied of during the Victorian era, a voice. A voice which was listened to and had influence. Although Cathy's voice is influential through her alluring effect on Heathcliff and Edgar which outlines a woman by her sexuality.(not quite so feminist). It also places her at a higher position where she manipulates and uses men to her advantage.This power play that takes place by a woman can be read as feminist. I personally began to like Cathy's egotistical selfish and quite erratic self here because she is a woman honest to herself who knows how to manipulate through the society which has oppressed her as a woman which is some form of survival in the Victorian era.

To conclude here's a very inspiring video that embodies the inequality that still remains today which we should help change. Not only for the Victorian women who fought oppression and prejudice but for the girls that haven't been born yet. I've come to the realisation through Victorian Literature that there is a beautiful connection between each individual in history, it sound funny but there is.Bronte wrote, women protested, we can continue to evolve together.



 







Works cited


Images cited
1-) https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/progress-of-a-woman-of-pleasure.jpg
2-) Queen Victoria Wearing the Small Imperial Crown to mark Her 66th Birthday. Historical archieves of Time Magasine.
3-)Woman's Rights by M.C.M.R. British Library,shelfmark 11621.h.1.(141.)
A woman campaigning for votes,restrained by men.http://mashable.com/2015/01/12/suffragettes-vs-police/
4-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkjW9PZBRfk

2 comments:

  1. Hi Julide,

    I love the topic you decided to write on and find it highly interesting. I also love how you related it to the present day and Emma Watson's UN speech.

    However I would like to know how this research into feminism (or lack of) in the Victorian era has affected your personal feminist views?

    Overall good job

    Eliza

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  2. Hello Julide,

    Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay and exploring the change in female rights with you. It is very apparent from your blog post that you hold strong feminist views which i feel enabled you to write your post eloquently.

    Well done!

    Aisha

    ReplyDelete