Gender Roles and Societal Evolution in 19th Century Britain

1004 Words3 Pages

In the early nineteenth century, masculinity and femininity were in a state of transition. While the Romantic era 's male supremacy values were being replaced by Victorian gender equity conceptions; ideologies of 'natural ' characteristics of men and women, separate spheres, and disability emerged and have rested in the minds of people decades into the twenty-first century. In 1870s Britain, people knew where they belonged and law and social customs kept them there. Non-existent in the political realm, women were blockaded from the work force and denied many jobs outside the of domesticity –the work and knowledge within the realm of the household. Married women were denied any rights to property which included their own children. As …show more content…

I find this puzzling as femininity and masculinity seem to be in direct relation to one another. Meaning one can not exist without the other. This is a matter that scholar and author, John Tosh tackles in his book A Man 's Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England. However, it is Donaldson 's work I want to focus on for the time being. In her feminist perspective reading of Charlotte Bronte 's novel, Jane Eyre, Donaldson argues in her article, “The Corpus of the Madwoman: Towards a Feminist Disability Studies Theory of Embodiment and Mental Illness.” that the “romanticizing” of “madness” by feminist writers and critics, is “unhelpful” as it portrays mental illness as a metaphor to women 's rebellion. First, let us understand where Donaldson is coming from. Her argument stems from Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar 's, Madwoman in the Attic, “ a now classic text of early feminist criticism” as Donaldson puts it in the opening sentences of her article. According to Gilbert and Gubar, “maddened doubles” exist “in texts by nineteenth- and twentieth century women writers” and “function as “social surrogates,” “protecting women writer 's anxiety of authorship in a male-dominated literary tradition.” (Donaldson) Basically, women were claiming to be “mad” as ways to rebel from their husbands and the societal, hegemonic beliefs about domesticity. Both articles however focus on the aspect of disability and approach the gender roles through a feminist disability studies perspective. Disability studies is “an academic discipline that examines the meaning, nature, and consequences of disability as a social construct, according to Wikipedia. As Garland Thompson states in

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