‘Rule Patriarcha ? Women in Britain since 1800: evolution, revolution, or plus ça change?’
First wave British feminists made various predictions about the kind of gendered social change that their struggles would usher in. Some imagined a complete overhaul of relations between the sexes, particularly once women could use their votes to transform every aspect of society. Others envisaged a more gradual progression, believing that with the passage of time equality between the sexes would become the new normal, a common unquestioned and systematic practice. All of them would probably have been surprised by the kinds of changes that have occurred, as well as the resilience and adaptability of gendered inequality and oppression. The political agenda of ‘women’s rights’ has existed in Britain for more than two centuries, and yet today women remain concentrated in the lowest paid forms of work, sex and gender-based violence persists, women’s bodies and identities remain the grounds upon which racist, imperialist and religious ideologies are frequently played out, and straight, white, wealthy men retain a firm grip on most positions of political and economic power.
This Special Issue of the Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique invites papers that engage with the question of gendered social change in Britain in any period since 1800. How has women’s role changed vis-à-vis that of men? To what extent has the imbalance of power between men and women shifted? What has driven that change, and how much importance should be attributed to feminist movements in this process? Should the transformation of what it means to be a woman and the deconstruction of binary gender roles, be understood within a framework of ‘progress’? Or is this inadequate to understanding the multiplicity of ways in which gendered oppression and exploitation has been able to take on new guises, and emancipatory gains have been captured and contained?
What theoretical models are best deployed to comprehend such developments and dead ends? In the 1970s, historians were at the centre of wider feminist debates on the utility of concepts such as patriarchy, and the question of whether analytical frameworks were capable of accounting for historical change was a key criteria for assessing their viability. To what degree do histories of women’s role in Britain over the last two centuries shed light on more recent discussions within political theory of feminism’s intersection with and appropriation by neoliberalism?
We invite specialists of 19th and 20th century and contemporary Britain to submit papers addressing any of the above issues. We are interested in case studies focusing on specific areas of women’s individual and collective experience (from domestic to working life, from leisure and consumption to political activism and artistic expression), as well as more historiographical/theoretical focused pieces.
Please send your abstracts of no more than 500 words to Marc.firstname.lastname@example.org by March 21st 2016.
We look forward to reading you!
Marc Calvini-Lefebvre (Aix-Marseille Université) & Laura Schwartz (University of Warwick)