Friday, 29 November 2013

Sexism and gendered child-rearing

Today’s related news story, surely a contender for the “statement-of-the-obvious of the year” award: “Sexism is daily reality for girls…”

Fortunately there are and have always been challenges to the dominant ideology in this context as others, as in the current campaign “Let Toys Be Toys” which has chalked up a number of successes. 

                                                               Sexterotyping : A Long History...

Among the texts denounced and attitudes demolished by MaryWollstonecraft (“Writers Who Have Rendered Women Objects of Pity”, ch.5 of  VRW*), is this from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, quoted on p.178 of the Penguin Classic edition: “Boys love sports of noise and activity; to beat the drum, to whip the top, and to drag about their little carts: girls, on the other hand, are fonder of things of show and ornament, such as mirrors, trinkets, and dolls: the doll is the peculiar amusement of the females; from whence we see their taste plainly adapted to their destination...” (Emile, 1762).

Mary, by contrast, contended that “a girl, whose spirits have not been damped by inactivity, or innocence tainted by false shame, will always be a romp.” She was clear about the tendency of Rousseau’s ideas: “To render [the person of a young woman] weak, and what some may call beautiful, the understanding is neglected, and girls forced to sit still, play with dolls, and listen to foolish conversations; - the effect of habit is insisted upon as an undoubted indication of nature.”.(p.179 in same).

* Mary Wollstonecraft:  A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, edited with an Introduction by Miriam Brody,Penguin Classics (1985) 1992. 

“The pernicious tendency of those books, in which the writers insidiously degrade the sex while they are prostrate before their personal charms, cannot be too often or too severely exposed.”  - VRW p.193 (Writers Who Have Rendered Women Objects of Pity).

Woolworths didn’t get where it is today without a bit of gender stereotyping!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Calum Smith 29th May 1912 – 12th November 2003

Calum Smith, author of  Around the Peat-fire, (Edinburgh, Birlinn, 2001 and 2010) and, as “M.S.”, of the  “As I See It:” column in the Stornoway Gazette, 1955-56 (see previous posts on this blog), died ten years ago today.

An obituary appeared in the West Highland Free Press (pdf here).  It was produced very quickly in response to the sad news and includes a couple of minor inaccuracies: Calum and Peggy had been married for 61 years (minus one week), not 51, and had at that time only one great-grandchild, although there are now four.
A longer obituary, with photographs, was later published in the Stornoway Gazette, 27 Nov. 2003:
7-year-old great-grandson of Calum with his model of a "tigh dubh" (black house) such as the one where Calum was born 

Peggy and Calum walking towards the Callanish stones. Isle of Lewis, 1989

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mary Wollstonecraft in London

Mary Wollstonecraft in London

(The flowers evoke the Suffragette colours)
Earlier this year an interesting piece of street art appeared outside Newington Green Unitarian Church, signed by street artist “Stewy” – see inter alia

Mary spent many key periods of her life in London, so there is plenty of scope for more of this sort of thing at other sites.

For example (Work-in-progress table):- 

MW's London
first home
Primrose St. (-> Liverpool St. Station)
from age 4
nr. Epping Forest
from age 6
nr. Barking
aged 16-17
Queen's Row, Hoxton
chez Blood, 1782-3
1 King's Row, Walham Green
Finsbury Sq. (Christies)
with Eliza
Hackney, with sister Eliza (Bess)
Hackney, with Eliza (Bess)
Islington, with Eliza
Newington Green
school, with sisters, Fanny Blood
small terrace house found for MW by JJ
49, George St., Blackfriars
George [-> Dolben] St.
J Johnson's printshop/rooms
72, St. Paul's Churchyard
Meets William Godwin chez J.J.
working on Analytical Review
early 1790s
Store St.
16 Finsbury Pl.
1 Cumming St.
16 Judd St. East
with Imlay
26 Charlotte St.
New Rd. (Euston Rd.) last meeting with Imlay
suicide attempt Oct. '95 & rescue
Putney Bridge
Duke's Head tavern, Fulham
Moves to Cummiing St.; WG.
25 Chalton St., Somers Town
with Godwin
Old St. Pancras church
29 Polygon, Somers Town (Werrington St.)
Mary Hays
30 Kirby St.
brother Ned & wife
1 St. Katharine's St.
home of Bloods
Newington Butts
 72 Qu. Anne St. East
Joel & Ruth Barlow
18 Gt. Titchfield St.

Biographies for more detail on the above by: Lyndall Gordon, Claire Tomalin, Janet Todd

Postscript, October 2019:
Dolben Street SE1, formerly George Street, has a blue plaque
London Borough of Southwark
Mary Wollstonecraft
Writer, teacher and 
champion of women's
Voted by the People

See also: