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Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Feminist or Victorian?
I have to wonder sometimes why I have such a fascination or passion for the fashions of the Victorian Era when I am clearly a feminist (the ultimate feminist according to my son-in-law).
My inner self seems to be fighting with itself. Women's rights versus love of a time when women had, basically, no rights, but, wore the most beautiful dresses.
So, I thought that maybe I should investigate this further. What is it that draws me to the era when it is so contrary to my basic beliefs.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary feminism is "a doctrine that advocates or demands for women the same rights granted to men, as in political or economic status."
Feminists clearly believe in this, so therefore I clearly am a feminist (and PROUD of it to boot). In fact, make that VERY PROUD.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary a Victorian is defined as "Pertaining or belonging to the period of Queen Victoria's reign. Exhibiting qualities usually associated with the time of Queen Victoria, as moral severity or hypocrisy, middle-class stuffiness, and pompous conservationism. A person belonging to or exhibiting characteristics typical of the period of Queen Victoria."
Clearly, I am not Victorian.
Clearly, their attitudes towards women and society is for the BIRDS (maybe they don't even want to be associated with it).
Yet, I am drawn to their fashions. Drawn to their style. Why?
Why do I love to make Victorian dolls when I clearly am not Victorian? I am as perplexed as you are.
Perhaps, I should explore this further and delve a little more into the rights of women during the Victorian Era.
Maybe if I get so disgusted with their lack of rights I'll stop loving the Victorian Era and Victorian Fashion.
Maybe, I'll stop designing Victorian dolls? Maybe, I'll stop designing dolls all together. Maybe, I'll stop loving dolls. Maybe, I'll stop loving history and genealogy.
Maybe, I'll turn into a Victorian and start to believe their treatment of women was right. Yeah! Right!
In your dreams Queen Victoria!
When I think of a "Lady" either I picture someone like Audrey Hepburns' character in "My Fair Lady" or I picture a Victorian woman like the picture to the left. Someone refined and dignified. Someone who has good manners and who also just happens to be wearing a beautiful Victorian dress. I always seem to get back to the Victorian dresses, don't I? Must be an obsession. Yah think? In my mind, a "Lady" is the ultimate perfect female. But, is she really?
So, let's take a good look at what constitutes a "Lady." According to the American Heritage Dictionary a "Lady" is a woman having the refined habits, gentle manners, and sense of responsibility often associated with breeding, culture, and high station; the feminine equivalent of a gentleman.
Hmmm! That definition is too narrow minded and socially conscious. Not exactly the definition I had in mind. So, maybe we should take a look at the qualities of a "Lady" in her home and on the street as defined by the dictionary, Victorianstation.com and others:
1) A Lady should be quiet in her manners. Okay, easy enough. But, not to the point of being invisible.
2) A Lady should speak in a gentle tone of voice. Even when scolding your children? Hmmm! Or someone who is picking on someone else. Hmmm!
3) A Lady should be careful to wound no ones feelings. This is not always possible.
4) A Lady should give generously and freely from the treasures of her pure mind to her friends. Generously and freely, yes. Purely! I don't know about that.
5) A Lady should scorn no one openly. Sometimes this is exactly what is required.
6) A Lady should should feel gentle pity for the unfortunate, the inferior and the ignorant. A "Lady" should do everything she can to help others in need, but NOT to judge anyone as inferior or ignorant. That would be placing herself above others and smacks of a "caste" system.
7) A Lady should carry herself with an innocence and single heartiness which disarms ill nature, and wins respect and love from all. Couldn't agree more.
8) A true Lady walks the street, wrapped in a mantle of proper reserve, so impenetrable that insult and coarse familiarity shrink from her. Some would confuse this with being a snob and looking down one's nose at others.
9) A true Lady carries with her a congenial atmosphere which attracts all, and puts all at their ease. I think everyone should act this way, not just a "Lady."
10) A Lady walks quietly through the streets, seeing and hearing nothing that she ought not to. Not a good idea to walk through the city streets with blindfolds on. You need to be aware of everything that is going on around you. Also, who determines what a "Lady" should or should not see? Doesn't she have a mind of her own?
11) A Lady walks through the streets recognizing acquaintances with a courteous bow, and friends with words of greeting. Manners are always a good thing.
12) A Lady is always unobtrusive, never talks loudly, or laughs boisterously, or does anything to attract the attention of the passers-by. Don't draw attention to yourself. Come on? Is she never supposed to have a good laugh?
13) A Lady walks along in her own quiet, lady-like way, and by her preoccupation is secure from any annoyance. What do you want her to do scurry along the street like a mouse? Don't be noticed and definitely don't mingle with the "common" folk. They might annoy you.
14) A true lady in the street, as in the parlor is modest, discreet, kind and obliging. This rule was definitely made up by a "man" or should I say "Gentleman."
15) A Lady never speaks or acts in anger. Sometimes this can't be helped. Generally, it's not a good idea to speak or act when angry whether you're a male or a female.
16) A Lady learns to govern herself and to be gentle and patient. Self control, self discipline, and patience are good qualities.
17) A true Lady always remembers that, valuable as the gift of speech is, silence is often more valuable. A truly intelligent person knows this, not just a "Lady."
18) A true Lady does not neglect the little things as they can affect the comfort of others. We should always think of others first.
19) A true Lady learns to deny herself and prefers others. Not sure I agree.
Well, now we know what a true "Lady" is. Not exactly my idea of the ultimate female. I think the definition and qualities of a "Lady" if she is to be the ultimate female needs to be redefined to fit the modern woman of today.
I think a true "Lady" should be defined as someone who is confident in herself and her capabilities. Someone who has goals and aspirations and isn't afraid to pursue them. Someone who isn't afraid to speak her mind and reprimand someone when that is what is required. Someone who can lead and command respect. Someone who is loyal to her family and friends. Someone who inspires others to always strive for the best in themselves in in others. Someone who has the courage of her convictions. Someone who can use her authority when it is required. Someone who can caress and comfort anyone who is in distress. Someone who can laugh with children and lose herself in their imagination once in awhile. Someone who isn't afraid to get her hands "dirty." Someone with skills who is willing to try anything, at least once. Someone who loves and respects others and wants nothing but the best for them. Someone who tries to see the good in others. Someone who will try her best to help others succeed. Someone who will accept others with all their faults and love them just the same. Someone who always tries to put her best foot forward, but isn't afraid to fail. Someone who can see the beauty in life. Someone who doesn't judge others by their pocketbook or social standing. Someone who can stand tall and be dignified at the same time. Someone who allows herself to be "human." Someone who doesn't define herself by her gender and doesn't allow others to do so either. A "Lady" is someone who is proud to say "I am all that and more." Bring the Victorian dress on!!"
If you're been reading my BLOG for awhile then you know I love history, research, and that I'm a big advocate for women's rights. You also know that I love the Victorian period and love to design Victorian dolls.
So, I decided to do a little research on Women's Rights (or I should say lack of women's rights) in the Victorian Era and my fascination for that period. I quickly came to the conclusion that while I love the fashions of the Victorian period, I clearly could never have been a Victorian woman and here's why.
The following excerpts were taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "The Victorian Era (1837 to 1901) symbolized by the reign of British monarch Queen Victoria was a very difficult period for women, because of the vision of the "ideal women" shared by most in the society."
"The legal rights of married women were similar to those of children. They could not vote or sue or even own property. Also, they were seen as pure and clean. Because of this view, their bodies were seen as temples which should not be adorned with makeup nor should they be used for such pleasurable things as sex. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house. They could not hold jobs unless they were those of a teacher nor were they allowed to have their own checking accounts or savings accounts. In the end, they were to be treated as saints, but saints that had no legal rights. "
Does this sound like "women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen" or what? I can't see a modern day woman wanting to tolerate that. No voting, no suing, no property. Must remain pure and clean in body and soul. I don't think so.
"In the Victorian Era the law regarded a married couple as one person. The husband was responsible for his wife and bound by law to protect her. She was supposed to obey him and he had the right to enforce this. The personal property the wife brought into the marriage was then owned by the husband, even in case of a divorce. The income of the wife belonged completely to her husband and the custody of children belonged to the father as well. He was able to refuse any contact between the mother and her children. The wife was not able to conclude a contract on her own. She needed her husband’s agreement. In addition, the married woman could not be punished for certain offences, such as theft or burglary if she acted under the command of her husband. It was impossible to charge the wife for concealing her husband and for stealing from her husband as they were one person in law. "
I can't possibly imagine that any female in her right mind would think that this made sense. Is it any wonder that they wrote "obey" out of the marriage vows of today? Personal property of the wife became the husband's. Can you imagine a husband saying to his wife "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, too." And, the wife saying, "Yes, of course, dear!"
During this time women had no legal say in how many children they would have nor would they get custody of children if the marriage ended in divorce. You have to say to yourself, "Were they out of their minds!" No say in how many children you're going to have? I just shake my head.
"A very special connection existed between women and their brothers. Sisters had to treat their brothers as they would treat their future husbands. They were dependent on their male family members as the brother’s affection might secure their future in case their husband treated them badly or they did not get married at all. "
The Victorian men had the Victorian women trapped. If you didn't get married, basically, your brother owned you. If you did get married then your husband owned you.
At that time educated women working in academic jobs were considered abnormal and monstrous. ABNORMAL and MONSTROUS! I bet all the women professors of today would just love to hear this. The only jobs open to women were governess, servant, teacher at boarding school, nurse or author.
"The attitude towards women and education was that education of women needn't be the same as that of men. Women were supposed to know the things necessary to bring up their children and to keep house. That’s why subjects as history, geography and general literature were of extreme importance, whereas Latin and Greek were of little importance. Woman who wanted to study something like law, physics, engineering, science or art were satirized and dismissed. People thought that it was unnecessary for women to go to a university. It was even said that studying was against their nature and that it could make them ill. They should stay more or less an “Ornament of Society” and be subordinate to their husbands. Obedience was the only requirement. "
Studying was against their nature and could make them ill. I MUST be very sick then. Ornament of society - NEVER. No wonder the women revolted. No wonder the feminist movement was born out of this period?
But, best of all Victorian women had to be SUBORDINATE to their husbands. All I can say to that is, "You've got to be kidding! My husband would hate that."