14 February 2007

Sexual Tension

I’ve been reading a lot about “the New Woman” of the turn of the twentieth century lately, and gender relations during that period baffle me.

Those wild suffragettes (to whom I owe so much happiness), those advocates of free love, the pushers of the Dry movements, the women who stepped up in wartime, the ones who fought hard for Puritanical traditions, and those who fought hard against them – all these women confound me. Between the 1880s and the 1920s, women made a right spectacle of themselves in Europe and America, with characters like Emma Goldman, Marie Curie, Carrie Nation, Emily Davidson and the Pankhurst women.

Really, what was a well-bred man to think?

The men in the lives of such women fascinate me, especially those who actively supported their wives, girlfriends, sisters, daughters and mothers. When writing and reading historical fiction, that sort of respect marks a real hero. His appreciation of her mind, his understanding of her needs, and his willingness to advance her cause, even when he’s faced with great social opposition---all that lends to great romance.

But I also know that in different cultures and different times, men and women have seen each other in an extremely different light; not always this changing, sometimes brash and militant glare, and not always in darkness. I know an embarrassingly small amount about world history, so I’m putting these questions to you for my own benefit:
  1. In “your” writing eras and places, were any social upheavals taking place that would have frustrated relationships between males and females?
  2. How did the sexes interact with one another?
  3. What were the rules of engagement (pun somewhat intended)?
  4. Have you ever used gender as conflict in your writing? If so, did you feel as if it was resolved in an appropriate, historically correct manner?
And for a Valentine's Day goodie: "The Kiss"
"They get ready to kiss, begin to kiss,
and kiss and kiss and kiss in a way that brings down the house every time."

John C. Rice and May Irwin
filmed by William Heise for Thomas Edison
This was one of the first movies shown to the public.
In 1896, the year of its debut, the film was scandalous.