‘He-Notes’: Reconstructing Masculinity
What was the New Woman’s construction of masculinity? The question may provoke some seemingly obvious answers: ‘masculinity’, as the concept embracing the social, political and sexual behaviour of men, was what upheld the patriarchal hegemony against which the New Woman was rebelling. Her attack — in the 1890s at least — on the social and domestic constructs of marriage, the family, sexuality, constituted a subversion of the male power-base so fundamental as to produce, in the words of Gilbert and Gubar, a ‘crisis of masculinity’.1 It is this crisis, they argue, which is responsible for such fin-de-siècle texts of demonized or marginalized female figures as Haggard’s She, Stoker’s Dracula, Wilde’s Salome or MacDonald’s Lilith.
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