Monday, May 28, 2007

Things They Don't Teach in High School

When the teachers and the books were talking about the connections between the Suffragettes and the banning of alcohol...

(which, is it just me, or does anyone else feel like the vast majority of the reasons given in high school for the passing of the 19th Amendment was chalked up to either "men as benevolent leaders" or "women as moralizing whiners"?)

...why, oh, why were we never told that better statutory rape laws were advocated for and passed due to the hard work of the Women's Temperance movement? And that the age of consent before then was 10.


No, I didn't learn this until today when I began reading The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg. Which I'm finding both frustrating (see below) and illuminating (see above).

Resolved, not to talk about myself or my feelings. To think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversation and actions. To not let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself in others more.

(from the diary of a 19 year old, 1892 - emphasis mine)

The one thing about the book so far that I really question is how the author keeps characterizing such statements as indicating that girls in the past cared less about appearance. This passage in particular seems to me to indicate that what has changed has been which part of themselves girls focus on cutting down to size, not that girls in the past were more focused on improving character than girls are now.

This may be true in the sense that there's less focus today on girls being good and on society being moral than there used to be, but when "improving character" is defined mainly as being selfless to the point of silence, it seems to me that the biggest change is the way in which girls are pressured to be objects, not in the reasons why girls do things.

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