The Victorian Feminine Ideal

The aim of this chapter is to present how the girl was seen in the Victorian period, the time of Queen Victoria's reign that lasted between 1837 and 1901, and to specify and discuss the Victorian ideal of femininity. A debate on this subject will reveal that girls had to posses certain attributes in order to fit the ideal of femininity. Based on the ideas and notions revealed in this chapter I will show in the next chapter why Marian Halcombe is not in the standards of Victorian femininity and will not signify the Victorian feminine ideal transgressing the norms of that period.

The thinking that there are natural and mental dissimilarities between men and women produced the theory that there should be a differentiation of gender jobs too and "a female being more delicate, fragile, reserved, yet virtuous, loving, and fairly was properly limited to the household sphere. " (Loeb 19) The Victorian society was made on the ideas that "woman was to wield her affect in the home sphere, while man exercised his electric power in the unsafe, hostile, public website. " (Pykett, 'Improper womanly' 12) According to the patriarchal Victorian modern culture women were incapable of performing many duties and activities outside their homes because that they had a delicate body and their soothing character made them easily impressed. Initially the frame of mind that men acquired towards women may seem a defensive one but in the long term it only added to the oppression of women.

The Victorian female ideal was symbolized by "the angel in the house", a term via Coventry Patmore's poem The Angel in the House, a poem dedicated to his perfect partner. The notion of "angel in the house" that was at the start from the girl from the middle-class but the situation transformed by 1850 because Queen Victoria "was affectionately portrayed as the ideal wife and mom" (Abrams 102) and it arrived to represent the perfect woman for all your social classes. Matching to Nina Auerbach the perfect girl in the Victorian culture was "an angel, submerging herself in family, existing only as a little girl, wife and mother. " (4) In a nutshell, the perfect woman was the local female, who dedicated her lifetime and resources to the wellbeing of others. She was likely to make an objective from satisfying others never expressing wants of her own which supposed that she got no ability over her own person or head.

Lyn Pykett after speaking about William Acton's " representation of respectable femininity" (16) provided in his book The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1857) claims in her publication The 'incorrect' Female: The Women's Experience Novel and the New Female Writing that the perfect of Victorian femininity was designed around "the concept of 'proper' feminine or respectable feminine. " (16) According to this concept of proper feminine a woman should be asexual, passionless, innocent, self-abnegating, committed to duty, self-sacrificing, based mostly, slave, sufferer (16) and the list can continue. These terms defined the Victorian female ideal nevertheless they only described it in the eye of men and women had to follow and make an effort to be what others, in cases like this men, wanted those to be. This occurred mostly because of the communal and historical circumstances. Women acquired very few protection under the law and regulations didn't protect them or provide them with vitality over their lives and it is only in 1857 that women had the to get a divorce and only trough the Married Women' Property acts of 1870 and 1882 they were in a position to have a property of their own. (Pykett 42)

However, in opposition with the proper feminine is what Pykett brands the 'poor female' (16). In the case of the 'poor' feminine the girl is seen among others as demon, a subversive danger to the family, intimidating intimate, pervaded by sense, knowing, self-assertive, chasing, seeking do it yourself- fulfillment and self identity, indie. (16) For the Victorians any female that transgressed from the original gender jobs or manifested any sign of rebellion in habit or dialect was inscribed in the category of the inappropriate femininity. It's important to mention that if women were aspiring to be located at the same level with men and also to be 3rd party and active they were regarded as a risk for the family and population. They were looking to undermined men's authority and they were immediately marginalized. In the next chapter of this thesis I shall show that Marian Halcombe is the kind of female that deviates from the traditional Victorian conventions of femininity and that she can well be the prototype of the group of women that comes under the umbrella of the idea of 'improper' feminine. However, I shall show that she actually is not marginalized because she actually is different but instead admired for her courage to do something independently.

If the Victorian feminine ideal is the submissive and local "angel inside your home" it is clear that this ideal is attainable only in the framework of a relationship and "the married talk about was certainly organized as the advisable norm for females. " (Abrams 89) Marriages in that period were almost never based on love and often women committed from cost-effective reasons and to accede to a larger social status. In addition, young women were compelled to marry old men by their family members and even if indeed they expected to obtain affection from their husbands they more then often did not. (Abrams 81) So, the matrimony was ways to confine women in the home sphere of the house and at exactly the same time it was seen as a method of depriving woman of love and her sense of sexuality and "her sexuality had to be suppressed and redeemed by firmly taking on the tasks of better half and mother. " (Abrams 157) Since the ideal of femininity was the domestic "angel inside your home", passionless and sexually passive the relationship was the perfect Victorian establishment that promised its lifestyle in Victorian England. Thus, being the perfect female in the Victorian period meant to be considered a good better half and mother and femininity had not been understood the way it is today, it was "modesty, persistence, self-sacrifice, piety, domesticity and motherhood. " (Abrams 40)

The Victorian woman was corseted both figuratively and actually. She was figuratively speaking corseted, captured because her life was defined by restrictions, constraints, ideals which were very often impossible to achieve, she had to give the best of her to please and help the others and also to fit the specifications imposed by a patriarchal society. On the other hand she was literally corseted since she had to wear a corset on a regular basis because to be the perfect of femininity implied also to dress in a certain way. So, apart from being "the angel in the house" and behaving accordingly ladies in that period also got to squeeze in some benchmarks of physical beauty too and clothing played out an important role in shaping the perfect body. The central little bit of a woman's costume was the corset that made her stomach look smaller than it certainly was and hidden the destinations of her body. (Thesander 51) In a way the corset can be seen as a way of neutralizing and concealing a woman's sexuality. Matching to Thesander "the corset was greater than a status mark: it was a complex of control and so this means system connected to women's 'iced' position in world; not surprisingly it was thus seen as a mark of women's oppression" (13) Her affirmation is justified because the corset made the girl adopt a rigid position of the body and and yes it restrained her from moving freely. It limited her range of actions and influenced her behavior. It deprived her of the freedom that otherwise men experienced because that they had convenient clothes. The corset can be the symbol of the slim view that Victorians experienced about women. Women possessed fixed gender roles which was mirrored in the manner they outfitted.

A woman's clothing was composed from several parts and that intended that women acquired to spend lots of time being dressed because for the reason that period women possessed maids who helped them get outfitted exactly from the very reason that they had lots of things to put up. Enough time lost before the mirror could have been used in woman's advantages but no it was used to help make the woman look in a certain way, just how enforced by the norms of her modern culture. By imposing a certain standard of womanly appearance men controlled woman's body and just why not her brain and spirit. They used all the means possible including clothing to make certain that women did not benefit for the flexibility to choose and also to act by and then for themselves Thus, unpleasant and impractical clothing and the responsibility to gratify the specifications of feminine appearance imposed by the Victorian world added to woman's oppression.

The Victorian feminine ideal was an integral part of the domestic ideology that was present in Victorian Britain and on the basis of gender differences women had well established gender roles that were discussed in the last paragraphs. These gender roles limited a woman's activity to the local sphere "most occupations beyond your home were finished to her. " (Loeb 33) and whoever adventured outside the house was considered a "fallen girl. " (Auerbach 9) Every good and good Victorian woman had to have and display the conventional features of femininity if she wished to be seen by her family and culture as the perfect woman. When Victorians made the decision that the woman who embodies the ideal of femininity is sexually unaggressive, subordinate to men, a dedicated wife and mom, virtuous, selfless, loving, gentle, real as an angel etc they only considered themselves and didn't worry if women wanted to be like that or not, they assumed a woman is similar to an angel by its nature. An ideal presupposes perfection and by its dynamics the individual is not perfect, and implicitly neither women can be perfect, so in reality this ideal of femininity was not attained by many women and the thought that they cannot raise to the requirements of that world only increased their feeling of insecurity and oppression. In fact this concept of ideal of femininity ensured the male dominance in Victorian England and it was used specifically against the ladies that were likely to embody it since it avoided them for a long time to attain their freedom.

On the other hand, around the center of the nineteenth hundred years there were women who started to question the set of values that these were expected to own and the perfect of femininity and who demanded legal rights and the likelihood of your life outside the home sphere. From that moment when women realized that they can and will be cared for as equals of men their situation better over time and already at the end of the nineteenth hundred years women had rights that gave them a few of the liberty they aspired to. It's important to state that the commercial revolution created an auspicious environment for woman's emancipation. There are numerous catalogs from the Victorian period that reflect woman's condition and situation in those days and who've as characters both the stereotypical "angel in the house" and the transgressive girl and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is one particular books. In the light of all the things mentioned in this chapter I will make in the second chapter an evaluation between Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie.

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