During the Victorian era, women were often portrayed as delicate and primarily maternal rarely finding a need to leave the house. However, one woman blazed the trail by becoming the first salaried journalist in England and author of over 20 novels: Eliza Lynn Linton.
Before any feminists rejoice, it should be noted that many of her articles took an anti-feminist perspective. Her best-known piece was “The Girl of the Period” in which she attacks “The New Woman” as the educated and ambitious feminist. Linton pits “the girl of the period” against the traditional “fair young English girl.” The latter the definition of purity and dignity, the former the bane of a man’s existence. Linton explains that “the girl of the period does not please men,” and her article suggests that women started doing things for themselves such as dye their hair unnatural colors and wear makeup as a form of self-expression. Linton even said in her personal life, “I would rather have been the wife of a great man, or the mother of a hero, than what I am, famous in my own person.”
Eliza Lynn Linton condemns the modern woman for not conceding to her male counterpart and not taking on the docile visual representation allotted to her. Similarly, artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti created an idealized version of women throughout his works. Rossetti formulated a certain aestheticism in the women he painted: blonde, thin, white, and graceful. He viewed women as heavenly creatures who were visions of stateliness and chastity, much like Eliza Lynn Linton. As evident from his paintings, Rossetti’s women are all unnaturally beautiful and somehow chaste.
Though we claim to live in an ultra-feminist period, it is hard not to draw comparisons from the Victorian era to today. In fact, it is easy to pinpoint one woman who could be the pinnacle of “the girl of the period”: Kim Kardashian. Kim was relatively unknown before her sex tape was leaked without her permission. Her personal life was put out for the world to see and she was the one left to do damage control, not Ray J. However, she was able to turn a non-consensual event into a $53 million dollar fortune. It is easy to disapprove of her and her family’s televised life, but she has shown herself to be business-savvy (she made $85 million off her iPhone game.) Despite her intellectual capacity, we mostly see Kardashian on the covers of magazines such as Playboy and Rolling Stone. She has capitalized on her sexuality, shamelessly owning it. She transcends the backside expectations of chastity and is paving the way for a new type of girl: the one who can survive a humiliating burst into public and make herself more relevant than the guy who leaked it. Unlike Linton wanted, she is not famous for being the accessory of a great man. She is famous in her own person and how she defines that is her own choice.