Friday, August 3, 2012

Convenient for Who? Gender Constructs

 Woman's jacket 1895,
Maison Laur origin France
 corset 1880, orign France (possibly)
Man's suit 1850 origin USA
All Photos courtesy of FIT great fashion archives website.

I am working on a script that pulls myths from their jackets, gives them a shake and spills their pocket contents. I believe this can help heal collective worldviews; really!. Once we understand how the old stories hinder possibilities, we will replace them with new, mature, evolved stories that point us in another, dare i say enlightened, (yes, of course) direction.

I think the male/female divide has a lot of strings attached to it and may be the origin (stem cell) of the pathology our species is experiencing. This powerfully emotional relationship paradox was constructed way before the written word and  makes this to be  both a research and intuitive process, I realize i have been working on this most of my life. As a child tests boundaries, i just continued, questioning the validity of the "truth."  i apologize to everyone i hurt, confused and angered on the way. I guess this is my give back, the gift i was meant to deliver.

So this is personal and more. If we can heal at passions front, then perhaps the damage we did under the influence can be faced and dealt with on the broad plains of our existence. We will stop the destruction once we understand why we smash things. We will be healers, menders and lovers instead. We will be "Heroes."

So in poking around the world of borders, rungs, divisions, territories and restraints i remembered a striking divisive example that was propagated through the mores and media of the 1800s.

This has to do with the Victorian policy that alluded to the separation of work and the domestic front. Separation allowed men to leave their consciences at home and enter the workplace as if readying for war. This furthered the "brotherhood of men" and seems to have left a legacy of loyalty i still encounter with chagrin. It is a path in its own right of wrong, but for now i will stick to the ladies and gents. (that brotherhood, patriots thing is a twisting root that will be dealt with later)

The Robber Baron era of tenements and poverty is a big part of this picture. Labor was culled cheaply from immigrants and the poor, to build the wealth of the few who had the means (money, connections and resources)  to actually extract the resources, start the factories, distribute the goods and create the big services (banks and insurance companies, etc). This was "reality" and was a hybrid of the monarchy hierarchical design.

The labor class had to be divided from the educated or mid class who in turn were separated from the owners. This way everybody knew who was who and what they were or soon to be, doing.  This kept everything tidy.This clarity helped to maintain order. Order made "men" feel in control and all was/is well.

To help maintain order it was best to be able to judge "books by the covers"  and voila, the business suit was born. The terms, white collar and blue collar became part of the language-attributed to Upton Sinclair-and are still in use. This aided clarity of course and marketing opportunites.  Fashion was expanded to embrace the "middle class" and helped inform "progress." Fashion grew and another old skool wet dream flourished.

The white collar workers created good buffer zone characters that protected the owners and the onerous wealth making practices they dictated. Buff zoners had more to gain by following the owners dictates than their own nagging conscience. Caring for one's family justified the decision and all was "well."

David Rockefeller is heard saying that family is all that matters, in the documentary Money as Debt. It also was a fave of the mobsters, well at least the ones that lived on screens, this is interesting, no?

Therefore the family was the heart and soul of the home but was best left in the dark when it came to "winning the bread." How can this work?

It can't, which is probably why the money makers card is skipped over in most history books. It is a tricky substance best left out of the "equality and justice for all" story.

The actual card gets played as the Joker, aka, as in the Horatio Alger stories about individuals who overcome the odds, misfortunes, poverty and pain to climb the ladder of success and rise to the "top." This makes for good stories and fullfills the "making it in America" propaganda that is necessary to keep the many toiling away for the benefit of the few.  It provides the merit version that sustains beliefs.

So now, back to the 19th century and the pall of coal sooted skies, where upper class men were engaged in businesses considered too harsh, tricky, tedious and/or unsettling for the sensibilities of the weaker sex.

To be fair, women were fainting due to tight corsets, slathering on arsenic laden creams and perhaps even swallowing a few tape worm pills, so the notion of fragility was somewhat true. Leaving ones business self at the office became a noble and decent gesture; it was meant to aid and heighten domestic bliss and keep the home fires burning.

This separation helped pave the way for even more gender role delusions and more cultural schizophrenia. It is a totally understandable, even well intended misstep. It is another link in the pathology of the western mindset.

If you've stayed with this unravel,  the strand that made women the spiritual, social and domestic rulers of home and hearth, is now visible. It is the juxtapose that provided the fodder that grew into the "woman behind the man" tales of modern lore. It was a convenient concept, a separate but equal think, for gender role assignation and was later conveniently adapted to gentrify racism. We humans love a good repeat. (machine thinkers pablum)

Now i must bring in a book i read years ago, about an original domestic goddess, Mrs. Astor, who ruled NYC, by calling the social shots. She could make or break a person's standing and that aided or constrained a families abilities to thrive. If you weren't invited to an Astor social it meant you were doomed to job loss, social ostracization and other calamities. Wealth was power and had naught to do with anything as laudable as merit. It was a catty, stylish pecking order ruled by a most famously coiffed peckerhead. (Nod to Michael Refuzer for this pun) .

PS -Oh right, this was of course the "upper class," Poverty was much more inclusive. The flower seller, classic ugly duckling to swan tale of My Fair Lady (from Pygmalian) and the gang of thieves in Dicken's London, Oliver Twist care less about the niceties of gender roles and focus on surviving the best one can. Note: The authors also took care to single out one from the many and glorify their rise in the social order. That made for a good "publishable" yarn.

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