Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Sisterhood of the Travelling Uterus": a viewpoint on gender misunderstandings.

For my last semester in college I am taking Literary Analysis and Survey of American Literature. I'm also taking zoology and humanities, but we can talk about those later.

Anyway, both of my English professors are best friends and totally in cahoots with each other. This was once more proven last week when first, in American Lit, we read "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It's a short story about a Victorian woman who believed she was sick, (she'd just had a baby) but her husband, who was a doctor and a man, thus right about everything, told her she was fine.

However, he decided to rent an old country house and kept her locked up in isolation in a dilapidated nursery with bars on the windows and chains on the walls and really messed up wallpaper. Naturally, this did not end well. I highly recommend reading it.

An illustration for the tale. Her hair is down. Clearly she has been overtaken by madness.

The story was inspired by the author's experience with a doctor who had prescribed what was called "the rest cure" for her "hysteria." She was to limit any intellectual stimulation, have few conversations with others and under no circumstances, pick up a book or a pen for the rest of her life. I almost cried when I read that.

Anyway, "hysteria" was believed to be a woman's malady. The term was first coined by Plato who believed the condition was caused by a woman's uterus wandering through her body. The cure was for her to have a man to put it back in place either physically (sex) or simply by controlling her. The ancient Greeks were freakin' terrified of women. I learned this in my last literature class.

Anyway, so next I went to my Literary Analysis class and the instructor had written "Sisterhood of the Travelling Uterus" on the discussion part of the board. So credit for the blog title is given to the lovely professor Michaud. ::waves::

Our current topic was psychoanalysis and we discussed Freudian psychology concerning hysteria, which turned out not to be any different from either Plato's or Victorian theories. We also discussed absentee mother issues in "King Lear" and other depressing things that happen from obsessions with erroneous concepts of gender roles.

Anyway, it occurred to me that the crazy beliefs regarding "hysteria" and other aspects of a woman's psyche were definitely still in place during the regency era, which is when my upcoming paranormal romance series takes place.

Seriously, think about this. From appx. 300 B.C.E. to the twentieth century, people believed that a woman's uterus wandered through her body and a man needed to control her to keep it in check. No wonder HEAs are rare in real life.

How will crazysauce concepts like this affect historical romance characters?       

No comments:

Post a Comment