Women Shaming Men to Political Action Discussion (March 1996)

Women Shaming Men To Political Action Discussion March, 1996

[Ed.Note:For Full Bibliography dealing with this topic go to H-Women's Web Page and click on "Bibliographies". Thanks!]


>From Margaret Power U37843@uicvm.uic.edu 05 May 1996

Do you know of any examples when women attempted to shame men into taking political action? I am researching women in Chile who encouraged the military to intervene against the government of Salvador Allende(1970-73) by ridiculing their passivity and calling them "sissies." Are there other examples where women used gender or sexuality to goad men into performing what the women considered men's political duties/responsibilities to be? Thank you.

---------------Editor's Note: There are examples of American women "encouraging" men to military action throughout American history. This seems particularly true of the American Civil War and WWI and II. While men needed little urging to volunteer for service during WWII, the same was not true of WWI. The US military used women recruiters during WWI because it seemed an effective way to appeal to men's sense of manhood.... In another case, the old story goes that Tennessee's ratification of the 19th amendment was accomplished when a state representative's mother urged her son to make the deciding vote. ...KL


>From Marian Neudel mnuedel@acfsysv.roosevelt.edu 06 March 1996

I was once told by a Black Panther activist in the late '60s that the women in the organization were instrumental in escalating the rhetoric and practice about arms and self-defense, because none of the men wanted to be "out-radicaled" by a woman.

>From Miriam Reumann Reumann@aol.com 06 March 1996

Political initiatives around lynching offer a fascinating example of this...according to Gail Bederman's discussion of Ida B. Wells -Barnett...Wells-Barnett used beliefs about white "civilization" and manly restraint to formulate a cultural critique of the "un-manly" barbarism of lynching. Much of her campaign took place from Britain, the putative home of white gentlemanliness.

>From Josette Wingo jdwingo@aol.com 08 March 1996

Just off the top of my head I seem to remember reading about British women during WWI walking around handing out white feathers(apparently drawn from cock-fighting where the cock who has lost his will to fight ruffled his feathers so the white showed--it was construed as a sign of cowardice.) They went around giving them out gratuitously to men in civilian clothes, willy-nilly--I seem to remember reading some complaints about it from fellows who had been demobbed after service in battles like Passenchaele or were certified heroes, were recovering from wounds or in intelligence. Can't think of the names of the books now...and I think it was in a production of Masterpiece Theatre once. ...Also, I have on my wall a reproduction of a WWI poster with a charming Gibson girl in a sailor's jumper and hat coquettishly stating "I WISH I WERE A MAN--I'D JOIN THE NAVY!" A second one has a girl drawn by Howard Chandler Christy in a nautical looking greatcoat with brass buttons and a chief's rating which states "I WANT YOU FOR THE NAVY!" Underlined. Both would seem to illustrate your point. The posters are available a lot of places.

Don't forget, unless I'm mistaken, that the Chilean women, different class, helped to bring about the downfall of Pinochet(after Allende) by taking to the streets with their pots and pans when their men felt helpless. I think we can find women egging the men on in Juno and the Paycock, too--and then, of course, there is Lady MacBeth. Maybe literature isn't want your research wants--but hopefully something will click for you. Best.

>From Joan Gunderson <jrgunder@coyote.csusm.edu> 11 March 1996

Robert Munford was a Virginia planter and playwright who had served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. His plays circulated in manuscript form at the time of the American Revolution. One of them is based on the plot line where women refuse to have anything to do with men who will not support the revolution. As I understand it, Munford used a real incident to then blow up larger than life in his play. at the very least it suggests that during the revolution Americans thought of this tactic and used it in propaganda.

>From Angie Dorman dormange@fs.isu.edu 11 March 1996

Drop me an e-mail. I have a very articulate American friend who was married to a Chilean and living in Chile during the period you are interested in.

>From Margaret Power U37843@uicvm.uic.edu 11 March 1996

Dear Josette:

Thanks for taking time to respond to my query. Your example of the women in England was particularly relevant and interesting. I am a big Masterpiece Theatre fan, but I don't remember the event. Either I missed it or it was before I was thinking along these lines.

It's true that Chilean women helped to bring down Pinochet, but I don't think they employed shame. Although they did use pots and pans which were a symbol used by anti-Allende women during the Popular Unity years. Anyway, the reason the feathers example is so relevant to me is because that's what the Chilean women used, although it seemed to have a different meaning-although it's very similar. Most interesting.

>From Cindy Kierner <ckierner@viking.tsl.uu.se> 12 March 1996

I can find evidence for at least three actual occasions resembling the Munford play in which American revolutionary women shunned men whose patriotism they found wanting. in 1776, a Charleston newspaper praised the women of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, for publicly declaring their refusal to socialize with men who avoided military service. The Williamsburg-based "Virginia Gazette" similarly applauded the "young ladies" of Amelia County, Virginia, for refusing to accept suitors who did not serve in the American army or militia. Some women in Rowan County, North Carolina, took a similar position.

Men reported and praised this version of feminine patriotism during the American Revolution. But it's worth noting that this version of patriotism was more passive than active. American women were engaging in other patriotic activities that men were less likely to acknowledge in public.

>From Shauna Lee Manning shauna@umbsky.cc.umb.edu 12 March 1996

I don't have the reference in front of me, but I do recall reading that just before and during the American Revolution women patriots withheld sexual favors until their men supported the Revolutionary cause. If anyone is interested I will double-check the title and get author's name.

>From Jane Beckman jane@swdc.stratus.com 12 March 1996

The feathers incident showed up in one of the "Upstairs, Downstairs" episodes dealing with WWI, on Masterpiece Theatre. Alistair Cooke, in his commentary on the episode, discussed the practice. Apparently, there was quite a scandal in Britain when one of the women gave a white feather to a young fellow on a train, who was a double-amputee from having stepped on a mine. She didn't notice there were no legs under the blanket on his lap.

>From Yvonne Klein yklein@runt.dawsoncollege.qc.ca 14 March 1996

I've been following this thread for some time. One instance that occurs to me is the Women's Battalion of Death, founded in Moscow by a woman named Backarova, which enlisted middle-class young women to fight because the Russian men were deserting the fields in droves. Emmeline Pankhurst was present at the blessing of their colors and called the event the most important historical occasion since Joan of Arc.

I've noticed that the preponderance of these events are politically retrogressive--women "shame" men or try to shame them into doing what might be called the "wrong" thing--in this case, going on with a hopelessly destructive war. Since, of course, the mechanism of shaming is essentially retrogressive, appealing as it does to concepts like "manhood," it is hardly surprising that the causes in which it is enlisted are frequently right-wing.

>From Marilyn Dell Brady jayhawk@infi.net 15 March 1996

Elisa Barkley Brown has done some interesting work on African-American womens political activism in the reconstruction south that might be relevant. I am not sure it has been published, but I believe she is still at Michigan University.

>From Donna Lively lively@library.uta.edu 18 March 1996

I cannot remember the exact source, however, in reading about Navajo culture, I ran across a description of a war council at which the women rose to exhort the Navajo men into committing even more aggressive acts against their enemies. It was mentioned that Navajo women were known for their bellicosity and often had names like "War Encircling."

>From Kimberly Jensen jenseki@fsa.wosc.osshe.edu 18 March 1996

Maria Botchkareva and members of the Women's Battalion of Death in WWI/Russian Revolution were lauded by US officials(such as Elihu Root) when they could be viewed as shaming men into fighting. But US officials and popular culture portrayed them as absolutely threatening when reporting their combat experiences. They embodied the "lesbian threat", esp. in photographs with heads shaved and in uniforms with trousers.

Women took up arms in the US through rifle and shooting clubs, some emulating the Battalion of Death. They did so to shame men, claiming they were not being protected from military or sexual aggression. Backlash against the Russian Women's Battalion of Death was part of backlash against these women and women who exceeded boundaries in WWI era....

----------------------------------Editor's Note: For Full Bibliography Dealing with Women Shaming Men into Action, go to the H-Women World Wide Web Page and click on Bibliographies. Since this thread was lengthy, I split it into "Discussion" and "Bibliography". Maria Elena Raymond