In the land of quirky characters, this place I more cynically refer to as the 9th circuit of hell, we have a Victorian couple, very authentic and real, as in they actually live and dress their ideals. So she is always dressed like a proper lady, out and about the town, which is a bit of a paradox, because in this town, no proper lady would ever have been “out and about.”
We are a town of bars and bordellos and shanghaied sailors. The real story of the women in these parts was that so few of them were ever “proper” ladies at all. When we speak of “Victorian culture” and of women, we often forget the fish wives and the scullery maids, the Indian tribes, the Chinese laborers, and all the fallen women.
Kind of amusing, you want some authentic history from Victorian times, some of the first stories in our local newspaper had to do with trying to find a cutting edge doctor to come here and deal with all the female diseases. “Female diseases” in this case was most likely a euphemism for sexually transmitted. We also have the long forgotten wife and mother of five who simply hung herself one day. And all the ladies in and out of jail.
Proper ladies actually worked very hard to create a cloister around themselves and their families, to bring some civilization to the table in what was often hostile territory. Sometimes I think not much has changed.
So our quirky Victorian lady speaks of her husband having given her a corset one day and how that set her on a path of discovering her femininity and Victorian culture. I hope she writes a book, they’re interesting people and their lifestyle has actually created some controversy, revealed some interesting things about our culture. We are not always so tolerant and open-minded as we like to think we are.
Tongues wag sometimes and hens peck, and while basically we view these two with affection, something interesting to think about, there is also this odd juxtaposition, this cultural commentary going on. So she will pass by and someone will frown and say, “she’s setting women back 50 years.” I always have to resist the urge to quip, “I think it’s more like 150 years.” Also, as powerful and amazing as women are, one of us alone cannot actually send half the human race back in time. All in good humor, but if such a thing were possible, I assure you, half of you would be gone by now.
I am always observing culture, so what strikes me as fascinating is that she has begun to represent anti-feminism, at least in the minds of some. I was curious as to why, because here we have this couple living as they wish in this somewhat free country. It’s a bit like the epitome of female empowerment, so why the social condemnation? Femininity. She has embraced her feminine side which is now somewhat on public display, and some actually perceive that as offensive.
That’s a dreadful conclusion to come to, but I can find no other answer. Somewhere in our cultural progression, we’ve come to this place where the feminine must be rejected, where anything representative of a time where women where simply women is now perceived as somehow shameful, oppressive, regressive. Listen to the language we use, how we, “throw like a girl,” as if that were always bad thing. How we must reject anything pink or girly, how we must always assert ourselves as just as good as men, as if men were now the gold standard for our own personal worth.
But what of our own personal worth as women, what of the things we bring to the table outside the context of men? Do we or did we, not have worth and value of our own, in our own ways? What ever lead us to believe those things are somehow shameful or oppressive?
I really don’t have answers to all these questions, but I’m grateful for our Victorian couple who have certainly sparked the conversation.