Women in The Victorian Era: How much was sexism rooted in the society?
In this article, we will explore the sociological situation of women in the Victorian era and how deeply ingrained sexism was in society. The Victorian Era began in 20 June 1837 and lasted to 22 January 1901 with the reign of Queen Alexandrina Victoria, this age is known by its great leads and its scientific and cultural inventions, which, in a way or another, shaped the world as we know today. At that time, Charles Darwin published his manuscript “On The Origin of Species”, correspondingly, the theory of evolution is the best known example of the scientific progress of the Victorian age.
Roots of Sexism
On the other side, The victorian Era was the age of hypocrisy, sexism and double standards; although the British Empire reached its peak under Queen Victoria’s reign, her subjects, and even she herself, believed in the inferiority of women, in fact, the Queen, like many of her contemporaries, believed that men were better leaders by nature, and she insisted that women were the weaker gender and she, as a woman, was too emotional to rule, Queen Victoria even called the women’s rights issues movement “Mad, wicked folly!”. Hence, upper class women had limited responsibilities because of this common opinion about women being the weaker sex; their job was restricted to organising dinner parties and accepting and paying visits. Because of their complete ignorance, women thought that those duties were more than enough for them.
Furthermore, things were more difficult for middle to lower class women; not only most of them worked in domestic service, but also, those women had to do all the household chores by themselves, thence, they had to take care of their husbands and children, which was so hard to manage, in other words, this was used as an evidence against working women, and how they don’t belong in the workplace, likewise, what made their situation worse, is that over 40% of the women in the Victorian Era had at least 7 babies, and the particularly fertile 15% had 10 or more, at that time, the average wife was either pregnant or breastfeeding. All of these responsibilities made the women’s work life either hard or nonexistent.
Marriage and Sexual Life of Women in The Victorian Era
It was normal and common for men to want and think about sex because it was considered as a central need for them; men had the ability and the forgiveness when it comes to cheating on their wives, for instance, it was even accepted that Kings like William the 4th and George the 4th might have extra affairs, whereas, Queens and regular women were supposed to only think about pleasing their husbands in the first place then reproducing. Additionally Women were proud of their ignorance about their own bodies and how little they knew about childbirth, as a matter of fact, they were taught at an early age to be more religious than men, who belonged to the public sphere, which meant being free and controlling every field in the society. Thus, Victorians believed that men and women were mentally and physically different; this stated that husbands controlled politics and hard working labor while wives had to stay at home and be submissive.
Owing to that, wives could not have their basic rights, such as voting, running businesses, or even making their will without their husbands’ permission, therefore, husbands owned the home and everything within it, including the wife.
Despite this inequality, women who refused to get married were accused of having “hysteria”; this disease had been associated with the uterus since Ancient Egypt, that being so, Victorians held the thought of finding a husband and having children was the best cure for those women, because they were convinced that this disease was caused by the lack of sex, furthermore, doctors tended to give pelvic messages to patients, these “messages” were considered as a physical therapy. This was because of the general thought back then that assumed the incapability of women to get satisfied sexually in the same way a man does.
Women in The Victorian Era from Men’s Perspective in Written Works
In his 1850’s poem “The Angel in The House”, Coventry Patmore, said that “Men must be pleased, but him to please is women’s pleasure”, the inferior view towards women did not differ in literature, many of the Victorians’ literary works had the same typical image of women. accordingly, this image, can be easily seen and captured in the writings of that era, as revealed by John A. Ruth (18) who says , in his Decorum: a practical Treatise on Etiquette and Dress of the Best American Society, that “A lady calling on a gentleman, It is not only ill-bred, but positively improper to do so”, yet, the same book states that “Gentlemen are permitted to call on married ladies at their own houses”
To be done with, women started to realise the pressure they were under, together with the year of 1928, Emmeline Pankhurst, the British activist of women’s rights helped women win the right to vote in local election. From this point forward, bigger numbers of women went ahead to fight for their rights in every other field, as things go, the first wave of feminism began to emerge.