Posted by: jmacd32 | November 10, 2010

The “masculine” working-class woman

While reading the chapter “’Massa’ and Maids” in McClintock’s Imperial Leather I was reminded of the political cartoons we looked at in an earlier class. I was specifically reminded of the images of Britannia protecting Hibernia from the stereotyped Irishman in the “Irishman in Victorian Caricature” article. When McClintock described “Munby’s earliest class and gender identity” as taking shape “around two women,” one a “working-class woman” who was described as “powerful and commanding” and the other as a “physically delicate” woman from the upper class, I immediately associated the “commanding” working-class woman with the images of Britannia we discussed in class (79). During class many of us noticed how Britannia was represented in a masculine manner. Similarly, the readings for today, as some of the other posts have pointed out, highlight the way working-class women could be perceived as masculine or outside the conventions of the female gender. The image of the masculine Britannia from “Irishman in Victorian Caricature” makes me think about how the Victorian working-class woman is connected to imperialism. McClintock notes how many British males, like Munby, would associate their first ideas of gender and, therefore, womanhood with their nurses who often took care of them from the moment they were born. The depiction of Britannia as masculine then makes me think of how she may be connected to a British male view of the protective female who takes care of people much like their nurses may have done for them. I’m not sure this makes sense, but its what popped into my head when I was reading the section about Munby and his nurse.


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