Posted by: marycib | November 10, 2010

Munby’s Fetish

It is interesting to note that it was not just lower class women that fascinated Arthur Munby, but also the differences between lower and upper class women. The obvious distinction between a lower and upper class woman was in her appearance, specifically in her clothing and physique. Munby wanted to observe “…the women who did the filthiest, most sordid and most menial work: the scullery maids and milkwomen, the maids-of-all-work, the farm- and fisherwomen, the Wigan pit-brow women, the mudlarks, the prostitutes and the dustwomen” (McClintock 83). As McClintock observes, Munby’s fascination with the distinct contrast between the two classes was piqued by the variation in the roles of the two most important women in his life- his mother and his nurse. Munby wished to explore “…as spectacle- the visible contrast of female classes” (McClintock 84). One technique Munby employed to discern the differences between the two classes of women was the scrutiny of their hands because “hands were ‘infinitely suggestive’…because they visibly expressed the overdeterminations of sex, money, and work” (McClintock 99). If a woman’s hands were smooth and not calloused, it was apparent that her family could afford to hire individuals to perform manual labor and various household tasks. In contrast, if a woman’s hands were red or rough, it would be a sign that she was from the working-class. Munby was not intrigued by the women who attempted to be part of a class to which they did not belong; he was only interested in the distinctions between the upper and lower class women. In particular, Munby wished to study the lower class working women of Victorian England because these women were so altered by the work they had to perform. By taking on labor roles and having to provide for their families, these women took on a masculine physical appearance.

 


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