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Gender and Sexuality at the Fin-de-siècle Dr Chris Pearson.

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Presentation on theme: "Gender and Sexuality at the Fin-de-siècle Dr Chris Pearson."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gender and Sexuality at the Fin-de-siècle Dr Chris Pearson

2 Lecture outline Introduction to gender history Femininity and feminism in 19C France Masculinity in crisis (1870+)?

3 Gender history: An overview Associated with postmodernism Gender identities are fluid and historical – they change over time Against biological determinism: “nothing about the body determines univocally how social divisions will be shaped” Joan Scott, ‘Gender: a useful category of historical analysis,’ in Shoemaker and Vincent (eds.), Gender and History in Western Europe, (1998), 2

4 Histories of masculinity Unlike women’s historians, gender historians interested in masculinity Masculinities vary across space and time (unstable) Relationship between masculinity and femininity important – gender relational

5 ‘Masculinisme’ ‘ A pervasive masculinisme, underpinned by centuries of monarcho-clerical influence, had arisen to ensnare women in a complex web of legal, socioeconomic, and ideological constraints.’ Women excluded from the public sphere… …and subordinate to men at home. Patrick Kay Bidelman, Pariahs Stand Up! (1982)

6 ‘Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights.’ Olympe de Gouges

7 Law of 20 September 1792 on divorce Women allowed to control family property Law of 2 November 1792; ‘there are no more bastards’ But: ‘The husband owes his wife protection, the wife owes her husband obedience’ (Civil Code, 1804) Rights for women in revolutionary France?

8 The “cult of domesticity” in nineteenth century France Idea that women ‘angels of the hearth’ expressed across the political Ultra-royalist Louis de Bonald: ‘Women understand better than men how to run domestic affairs, which proves better than lengthy arguments that nature does not summon them to control public affairs.’

9 Republican views on women Republican men viewed themselves as rational, self-controlled, and citizens… and…stressed that the woman’s place was in the home, looking after her husband and family – ‘mother-educator’ ‘Every wife who is truly a wife has for a career the career of her husband.’ Ernest Legouvé, Histoire morale des femmes (1848)

10 ‘I demand rights for women because I am convinced that the ills of the world come from this forgetfulness and scorn that until now have been inflicted on the natural and imprescriptible rights of the female.’ Flora Tristan (1803- 1844)

11 Feminism during the 1848 revolution ‘The reign of brute force is past; the one of morality and intelligence is beginning. The reasons that led our fathers to exclude women from all participation in government no longer have any value today… Women must be called upon to participate in the great work of social regeneration that is preparing itself.’

12 George Sand (1804-76)

13 The “new women” The ‘new women was most commonly represented as a dangerous creature, masculinsed but man-hating, emancipated politically and sexually, a perversion of the natural order of things and a threat to morality and civilisation itself.’ James McMillan, France and Women, 1789-1914 (2000) 142


15 Mademoiselle Ly – a “new women” ‘As a women who fashioned her identity around her professional accomplishments and her call for women’s political and sexual emancipation, she subverted the traditional domestic image of the honorable woman.’ Andrea Mansker, ‘Mademoiselle Arria Ly Wants Blood!’ French Historical Studies 29:4 (2006), p.630

16 Women and the expansion of education Republican expansion of education in the 1880s e.g. Camille Sée’s law of 1880 introduces female secondary schools More and more women enter university; 2,772 French women enrolled at the universities by 1911-12, a twentyfold increase from the 1889-90 period. (Mansker, p. 639)

17 Professional women Teachers; 57,000 female teachers by 1906, almost 50% of the profession Office and clerical work for banks, railway companies etc By 1914, 30% of the female workforce were employed in offices and department stores McMillan, France and Women, 148-9

18 Toulouse Lautrec, A la Souris (1897)


20 Marie Deraismes (1828-1894)

21 Léon Richer (1824-1911)

22 Gradualist, liberal feminism ‘Feminism could best advance by making small dents in the hard wall that patriarchy had constructed against women’s claims. The feminist’s task was to locate the loose brick and hammer against it. It was a realpolitik.’ Claire Goldberg Moses, French Feminism in the Nineteenth Century (1984), 199

23 Richer on the family: ‘Since man alone was enfranchised he alone moved on. Woman, his daily companion, excluded from this benefit, stayed behind, and within the passing of half a century an enormous distance, an abyss, inexorably divided the two sexes. Out of this division was soon born, within the heart of families, irreparable dissatisfaction, ruptures that one had not suspected.’ Quoted in Moses, French Feminism in the Nineteenth Century, 201

24 Women not ready for the vote, according to Richer: ‘I believe that at the present time it would be dangerous – in France – to give women the political ballot. They are in great majority reactionaries and clericals. It they voted today, the Republic would not last six months.’ Quoted in James McMillan, Housewife or Harlot (1981), 84

25 Hurbertine Auclert (1848-1914)

26 Hurbertine Auclert, speaking in 1876: ‘In spite of the benefits that came from our revolution of 1789 […women] have no rights. As interested as we may be in the happiness of our country, we are pitilessly turned away from all meetings, whether elective or legislative... A stupid and profoundly ignorant man counts for more in France than the best educated woman. He can name his legislators; woman cannot. She is a creature apart who is born with many duties and no rights.’

27 Madeleine Pelletier


29 Maguerite Durand (1864-1936)

30 ‘For a feminist, the extreme care of one’s person and a studied sense of elegance are not always a diversion, a pleasure, but rather often excess work, a duty that she nevertheless must impose upon herself, if only to deprive shortsighted men of the argument that feminism is the enemy of beauty and a feminine aesthetic.’ Margerite Durand, quoted in M L Roberts‘Acting Up,’ French Historical Studies (1996), 1119


32 Achievements of French feminism by 1914 No vote for women but… Married women allowed to dispose of their own incomes (1908) Paternity suits allowed (1912) Raised issue of women’s rights

33 French masculinity under threat? Defeat to Prussia (1870) and the Commune shook the confidence of middle class Frenchmen French men ‘feared deep down that foreigners saw them as lacking in the honor and warriorlike virility still widely believed to embody masculinity itself.’ E Berenson, Trial of Madame Caillaux, p. 114

34 The First Empire’s women had been overwhelmed “by the intense and magnificent whirl of activity accomplished by men who returned home between two battles to get them with child, only to hasten back to the front having left behind the overpowering image of conquerors.’ Le Gaulois (1900), quoted in Berenson, Trial of Madame Cailloux (1993), 115

35 Male honour codes Hangover from the ancien régime In private, men must display sexual vigour and potency In public, they must be ready to defend their reputation and honour, hence the popularity of the duel See Robert Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (1993)


37 Sketch by Alfred Grévin (c.1880)

38 ‘Culture of force’ (1890s+) See Christopher Forth, The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood (2004)

39 The dangers of masturbation, according to the Livre sans titre (1830)

40 ‘The milieus in which we live are enervating; the air we breathe is charged with desires that stimulate our senses and create for us imperious needs that we neither want nor know how to struggle against. Pleasure is our only thought, enjoyment our supreme goal.’ Quoted in C Forth, The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood (2004), 118

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