Modern Civilization : The Nature Of These Things : Gender Is Not Immutable

Modern Civilization : The Nature Of These Things : Gender Is Not Immutable

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Change is in the Nature of These Things: Gender is not Immutable

In a 1789 letter, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, one more subject could be added to his argument: change. This world is subject to change. As the environment and its organisms evolve, so, too, does society and its people. Once upon a time, humanity was hunting mammoths and swine, huddling around a fire for warmth, and travelling by means of horse and carriage. Now, humanity’s hunting ground is the grocery store, central heating exists, and airplanes can transport people from one end of the world to the other in less than a day. Not only has technology in modern civilization changed dramatically over the last several centuries, but the values, traditions, and expectations which society embraces have evolved just as well. One of those values which society holds dear is the significance placed upon gender and its function in the everyday workings of life. Gender clouds every aspect of daily life but the ideals rooted in gender and the role gender plays have mutated over time just as much as human DNA has.
Gender plays a vital role in the societal expectations of men and women but that role has seen a shift in character, in value, over the last century. How one presently defines masculinity and femininity is not how someone from the early twentieth century would have. Manhood and womanhood are not fixed phenomena and one can determine that fact by examining historical artifacts. Focusing on the history of manhood and womanhood at the University of the South, one can witness the fluctuating nature of gender and everything that gender entails through the lens of the Cap and Gown—the S...


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...in, whether by means of donations, social affairs, or in academia. Women built the foundation of the University of the South: literally as in the case of Charlotte Morris Manigault—a woman who had no connection to Sewanee other than her meeting Bishop Quintard in England—who donated $25,000 to build St. Luke’s Hall ; and figuratively speaking seeing as how the men of Sewanee would not be who they are without the women who bore them, raised them, and wed them. Women’s role in this institution has seen a number of disappointing setbacks among a plethora of striking advancement, however, so it is curious to see how the ideals of femininity have morphed over the last 150 years, how femininity has had an impression of masculinity on campus, and how women have built their place in this institution in spite of and because of, respectively, their setbacks and advancements.

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