Thursday, September 15, 2022

Feminism at the League of Nations - Janice Fiamengo

The period between the First and Second World Wars, between the vehement agitation for the vote and the social convulsions of the 60s, is often thought to have been a time of relative quiet for organized feminism.

But the quiet is an illusion. In fact, the inter-war period was a time of intense activism, as feminist leaders inaugurated the pivotal next phase of the feminist movement, which involved the ideological capture of international and non-governmental organizations—none more so than the League of Nations.  

Feminism Between the Wars, The 1920s Lesbian Scene in Paris - Janice Fiamengo

The Roaring 20s was in many ways a dress rehearsal for the 1960s, inspired by economic prosperity and an intoxicating sense that traditional mores no longer applied, especially to women. Having achieved the more sober of the stated goals of the feminist movement—voting rights, professional opportunities—an unprecedented number of women decided to live openly as lesbians apart from men (though often supported by men’s money). Some of their statements prefigure the hateful lesbian separatist rhetoric that became popular a half century later.

Feminism Between the Wars: The Self Pity of Virginia Woolf - Janice Fiamengo

Feminist icon Virginia Woolf exemplified the direction that feminism would take in the decades after the First World War. No matter how many legal rights and professional opportunities women gained, feminists like Woolf continued to express condemnation of all men and conviction of oppression. In her landmark 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, Woolf turned to alleged psychological oppression to justify her deep sense of grievance.  

Sex Insanity Amongst Early Feminists - Janice Fiamengo

Dissident British feminist Wilma Meikle published a book in 1917 to warn against aspects of the contemporary feminist movement that she hoped would not become dominant in the years after the First World War. Although she was proved wrong in her hopes, her book provides a fascinating window onto the roots of feminist sex delirium.

Objectification or Adoration, Love Poems in the English Renaissance Tradition

If it were true that the history of the west were the history of men oppressing women, we would expect to find some significant evidence of such oppression—of male entitlement to women’s bodies, sexual violence, or indifference to women’s pain—in the literature that privileged men wrote.

We would expect that some of the most culturally influential men of their time would at least occasionally reveal their contempt for women and their pleasure in controlling them.

What we encounter instead is a massive body of love poetry stretching back through the centuries in which extended adoration of the woman and expressions of dedicated or hopeless yearning form a major component, and in which the commission of violence is presented as the height of mental malady, as in Robert Browning’s sinister dramatic monologue “My Last Duchess” (1842).