One of the most magnificent speeches ever made in this or any other country

[Content warning: discussion of sexism and rape.]

Well, it’s been a while since I really posted anything here…I just got out of the habit while the blog was in maintenance, and now…I’m familiar with the phenomenon from my years on livejournal: the longer I don’t post, the more of a curious resistance I build up to posting. It’s partly that I start to feel like I can’t post unless I’ve got something really special to say, but mostly it’s just a mysterious reluctance that I can’t adequately explain.

HOWEVER I have been reading lots of great research books and have built up a huge backlog of interesting and/or funny quotes to share with you, and so, here is the first of them, from Dorice William Elliott’s The Angel out of the House: Philanthropy and Gender in Nineteenth-Century England

from an 1859 article in Fraser’s Magazine, titled “A Fear for the Future, That Women Will Cease to be Womanly,” talking about girls who are unsexed by their philanthropic work:

Any of my sons, I am quite sure, would as soon think of making love to Lord Brougham or the statue of Mr. Canning, as of uttering a word of anything sentimental to these ladies.

This is extra funny to me as I have a bit of a crush on Lord Brougham, a big-deal Whig politician and lawyer who, among other things, was Queen Caroline’s attorney at her adultery trial and made a two-full-day opening statement described by Thomas Denman as “one of the most powerful orations that ever proceeded from human lips,” by Charles Greville as the “most magnificent display of argument and oratory that has been heard in years[…E]ven his most violent opponents were struck with admiration and astonishment,” and by William Vizard as “one of the most magnificent speeches ever made in this or any other country.”

Henry Brougham, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, image courtesy of Wikipedia.

SUCH good eyebrows. And that nose! IJS probably that guy’s sons DID think equally of both but that doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking! The statue of Lord Canning would probably be more difficult. Hard to get to, for one thing. But it has an unquestionably alluring tilt to the hips, wouldn’t you say?

Photo by Runcorn at Wikipedia.

That “A Fear for the Future, That Women Will Cease to be Womanly,” gives me a thought about all those 60s and 70s science fiction stories about a dystopian future where people no longer have sex. Why on earth would society evolve to do away with sex?

It always struck me as a completely random cultural panic with no obvious cause–unlike, say, the fear of nuclear-radiation-caused monsters, the fear of a future run by powerful corporations, or the fear that machines will revolt and make war on their former masters, which all have a clear emotional logic. The best I could come up with was that it was some kind of fear of a return to 1950s repression…but that doesn’t quite mesh, does it? The dystopian futures portrayed rarely seem 50s-like (or Victorian, or puritanical, or religious, or…) at all: they’re far more likely to be ultra-sanitary minimalist monochrome futures with unisex-coverall-type fashion.

Yet despite its strangeness, it was such a popular trope that Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Stephen Fry parodied it in their “Crystal Cube” pilot.

Do you think it could actually be a disguised fear of feminism? The idea being that when men no longer have power over women, women will no longer be safe/passive sexual objects, and therefore will either no longer be attractive to men or will no longer be willing to “provide” sex for them?

It certainly brings the “necessary” rape in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House” (one of the most famous of the genre, not insignificantly originally published in “Playboy”) into sudden sharp symbolic focus…

Wow. Eureka. Well, that’s just depressing.

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