Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

I don’t think I need to say much about the following excerpt taken from a Home Economics book published in 1880… it speaks about “the tyranny of fashion”. Have we moved forward since then? Have a read and discuss…

Excerpt taken from Home and Health: Home Economics: a cyclopedia of facts and hints for all departments of home life, health and domestic economy.  Written by C. H. Fowler and W.H. De Puy. Published by Phillips & Hunt, 1880. (Open the link to read the whole book, courtesy of University of Toronto – Gerstein Science Information Centre).

A lady of extensive and intelligent observation, tells the story of the tyranny of fashion, and of the evil results of fashionable dress: “Fashion kills more women than toil and sorrow. Obedience to fashion is a greater transgression of the laws of woman’s nature, a greater injury to her physical and mental constitution, than the hardships of poverty and neglect. The slave-woman at her task will live and grow old, and see two or three generations of her mistresses fade and pass away. The washer-woman, with scarce a ray of hope to cheer her in her toils, will live to see her fashionable sisters die all around her. The kitchen-maid is hearty and strong, when her lady has to be nursed like a sick baby. “It is a sad truth that fashion-pampered women are almost worthless for all the good ends of human life. They have but little force of character; they have still less power of moral will, and quite as little physical energy. They live for no great purpose in life; they accomplish no worthy ones. They are only doll-forms in the hands of milliners and servants, to be dressed and fed. They dress nobody, they feed nobody, they instruct nobody, they bless nobody. They write no books; they set no example of virtue and womanly life. They rear children, the latter are left to the care of servants and nurses. And when reared what are the children? What do they ever amount to but weak scions of the old stock? Who ever heard of a fashionable woman’s child exhibiting any virtue or power of mind for which it became eminent? Read the biographies of our great and good men. Not one of them had a fashionable mother. They nearly all sprang from strong-minded women, who had as little to do with fashion as the changing clouds.” (page 193)

469px-Summer_corset_1880Don’t forget – in 1880 – corsets were still the height of fashion… you should read the whole section they wrote about that… whoa!!!

Laughter, crying and singing were considered healthy pursuits. Sunshine and fresh air was prescribed for all sorts of aliments. I loved this book. I was amazed at how much they knew. Based on hundreds of years of scientific evidence, much of this Home Economics knowledge has become “common knowledge” in 21st century life… BUT we still seem to be ignoring the good advice!

Warning: ubiquitous use of a Christian belief system and the overt patriarchy may taint some readers against appreciating this book; evil and fear at every turn. Although the “Church Manners” section (page 46) was an eye opener and particularly funny to a non-church goer like me. It sounds like boredom was problematic. Happy reading! Would love to see a discussion happen! Perhaps contribute to the Miss Representation conversation?


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Reply to Culture is NOT Religion MJC Blog – Opinion written by Jay Deagon @ HomeEcConnect – 12 August 2012.

I believe that religion is a cultural artefact but I see where this blogger is coming from. Education about gender equality “starts with the parents” and abuse of women is often as a result of misrepresented culture and not religious traditions. Most religions honour the role of women – patriarchal culture often does not. What an insightful and welcome blog. Religion is a set of traditions but culture is a fluid and moveable thing. It is up to the individual how they interpret their religious traditions and enact them in their everyday lives. Religious traditions may not change but culture can be challenged and changed. Think of culture as rain pouring into a water tank that has had a closed and clogged tap or release valve. Human beings have the power to release the water. Maybe we all need to learn a little about plumbing – because our cultural water is going stagnant and poisonous with rotting debris and mosquito wrigglers. Let us do some constructive cultural plumbing and filter the water and unclog the tap. We can change the course of cultural by adding clarity. Clarity means education about quality and sustainable relationships that include respect for self, others, nature and other people’s religious and spiritual belief systems. Filter the water and open the tap to a more positive and constructive culturally defined identity for women built on mutual respect for human beings. Let the water from the tank run free and clear so we can nourish the dusty dry earth where women play a vital role in sustaining life. Key concept is respect for the Earth its land, air, water and creatures including our human family.

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