- Series: Women in Culture and Society
- Paperback: 322 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (November 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226041395
- ISBN-13: 978-0226041391
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Women in Culture and Society) New edition Edition
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From Library Journal
Bederman (history, Notre Dame) has written a complex but intriguing account of the links between concepts of race, gender, and civilization in late 19th- and early 20th-century America. Focusing on shifting constructions of "manhood" and "civilization," she examines aspects of the lives and careers of Jack Johnson, Ida B. Wells, G. Stanley Hall, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Theodore Roosevelt, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, all of whom illustrate attempts to use these constructions as rhetorical weapons in the struggle to define basic race and gender roles. A densely packed analysis that will be appropriate primarily for scholars in the field of American cultural studies.
Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Manliness & Civilization is a cultural history of gender and race in the United States from 1880 through 1917. In Manliness & Civilization, Gail Bederman investigates the connection between powerful manhood and racial dominance as it was debated, promoted, and resisted during the decades around the turn of the century. Bederman traces a cultural reconfiguration of manhood in which Victorian ideals of self-restraint and moral manliness were challenged by new formulations of aggressive, sexualized masculinity. These new ideals celebrated both the unfettered virility of "racially" primitive men and the refined superiority of "civilized" white men, and Bederman shows how such seemingly contradictory notions came together in the larger discourse of "civilization". She illuminates this tactical interplay between ideologies and evolutionary civilization, racial dominance, and male primitivism by focusing on the lives and works of four very different Americans: G. Stanley Hall, Theodore Roosevelt, Ida B. Wells, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Beterman persuasively suggests that the historical connections between manliness and civilization retain their troubling power to this day. Manliness & Civilization is an important contribution to both American History and to Gender Studies reading lists. -- Midwest Book Review
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Like all discussions of race and gender in the U.S. academy, this piece takes pains to transparently preserve all of the meanings of race and gender that are valuable to white women in maintaining the jointly-shared racist status quo. And if the full truth were ever told, white women are as vested in the "Alpha white manhood project" as they are in white feminism, because it is this joint-project that they furtively cling to and piggyback on to gain a toe hold to their own glory though "feigned emancipation from it."
How can one say this? Because as far as one can discern, the "white woman model of gender," (the only "white women project") is just the "white man model" with a vagina in the driver's seat, full stop. [Why allow all of that accumulated illicit power to go to waste, or seep to the other side of the racial tracks, when it is all for the same illicit racist cause? What begins in the family, must always stay in the family, right?]
Somehow, in the most senseless fashion, this analysis jumps the historical and methodological tracks from a well-established racist society built up on a social-psychological cultural system rooted in black slavery, to a free-floating neutered concept of gender ideology, which to the extent it touches the ground at all, and makes any concrete sense at all, appears out of the ether, not just after the Civil War, but also after Reconstruction too? To do this in racist America is beyond criminal!
The pretext for the research design is as cockamamy and as contrived as the reason for selecting what is surely just an equally irrelevant time period. But more than that, the centerpiece of the study is Jack Johnson, the American "black boogyman" for all times? Why is there only a black boogyman in this study of white boogymen?
What parallel universe are the contributors to this volume living in? What manner of blindness prevents them from seeing what is patently obvious: that America's racist society is a joint family enterprise among white people on both sides of the gender divide; one that has, since before slavery, been a family project between white man and white women.
Now that white feminism has become fashionable, this book simply jumps the tracks, historically, racially and methodologically, and builds an embarrassingly contrived research design that ignores all of the important history that deals with both race and gender issues across one of the most troubled racial and sexist's cultures in the world. How can this be done with a straight face?
This book is so bad that there is not enough space to even begin a proper review of it. I am so disappointed but I am still a black man ain't I? One star.
Bederman argues that Wells, in working against lynching, “convinced nervous white Northerners that they needed to take lynch law seriously because it imperiled both American civilization and American manhood” (pg. 46). Wells had to counter the myth of the black male rapist, which whites used to reinforce their linking of controlled masculinity to definitions of civilization. Wells promoted her ideas in Britain and, “by enlisting ‘Anglo-Saxons’ as her allies, Wells recruited precisely the spokesmen most able to disrupt the linkages between manliness and whiteness which kept white Americans tolerant of lynching” (pg. 71).
G. Stanley Hall worked to reconcile fears of neurasthenia, a “disease” believed to weaken men as a result of civilizing forces. Bederman crafts a Foucauldian argument, writing, “As an educator, Hall felt he could remake manhood by making men – literally. For what was education but the process of making boys into men? By encouraging educators to recognize the ‘savagery’ in young boys, Hall believed he could find a way to allow boys to develop into adult men with the virility to withstand the effeminizing tendencies of advanced civilization” (pg. 79). According to Bederman, “By transforming young men’s sexual passions into a source of scare nervous energy, Hall was able both to mitigate the danger of neurasthenia and to reconstruct adolescent male sexuality in ways which did not stress self-restraint” (pg. 103). Specifically, the betterment of the white race.
In her third example, Bederman examines Charlotte Perkins Gilman arguing that “because Gilman’s feminist arguments frequently revolved around women’s relation to civilization, implicit assumptions about white racial supremacy were as central to her arguments as they were to Hall’s” (pg. 123). Accordingly, Bederman argues that the point of Gilman’s work “was to create an alternative ideology of civilization in which white women could take their rightful place beside white men as full participants in the past and future of civilization” (pg. 135).
In writing about Theodore Roosevelt, Bederman argues, “TR framed his political mission in terms of race and manhood, nationalism and civilization. Like G. Stanley Hall and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Roosevelt longed to lead evolution’s chosen race toward a perfect millennial future” (pg. 171). Though Roosevelt consciously crafted a rugged, masculine persona, Bederman argues, “his political ambitions ultimately served the purposes – not of his own selfish personal advancement – but of the millennial mission to advance his race and nation toward a more perfect civilization” (pg. 177). Bederman writes of Roosevelt’s politics, “America’s nationhood itself was the product of both racial superiority and virile manhood” (pg. 183). This idea later reinforced American imperialism.
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I really liked the detail and sophistication of the author treated the...Read more