Victorian Gender Roles In The Victorian Era In England

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The most common way to characterize a society at a given time is to divide it into social classes and evaluate the differences between each group. However, the period known as the Victorian era in England, from 1837 to 1901, witnessed such polarized gender roles that it can also be analyzed according to the different functions assigned to men and women, more commonly known as the ideology of separate spheres. The separate spheres framework holds that “men possessed the capacity for reason, action, aggression, independence, and self-interest [thus belonging to the public sphere]. Women inhabited a separate, private sphere, one suitable for the so called inherent qualities of femininity: emotion, passivity, submission, dependence, and selflessness, all derived, it was claimed insistently, form women’s sexual and reproductive organization”. Following such principles allowed men, allegedly controlled by their mind or intellectual strength, to dominate society, to be the governing sex, given that they were viewed as rational, brave, and independent. Women, on the other hand, were dominated by their sexuality, and were expected to fall silently into the social mold crafted by men, since they were regarded as irrational, sensitive, and dutiful. As Susan Kent observes: “Women were so exclusively identified by their sexual functions that nineteenth-century society came to regard them as ‘the Sex’”1. This essay will examine the Victorian social institutions of marriage, motherhood,
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