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Abstract

In her prize-winning essay for a contest held by the Congrès permanent de l’Humanité in 1901 on the subject of the “injustice of double morality,” teacher and political activist Marguerite Bodin offered a keen analysis of the French honor culture and its problematic implications for female citizenship under the Third Republic. Arguing that “current sexual morality” was “responsible for most of the injustices, scandals, and crimes committed in society,” Bodin linked the double sexual standard to the gendered divisions that the honor codes erected in French public and private life. She elaborated a common understanding of masculine honor when she suggested that an

honest man [honnête homme] is he who refrains from stealing, who does not insult his fellow man, who spills blood only in the duel or in war, and who completes all of the duties of his profession. In a word, he is the citizen respectful of the wellbeing of others, who lives in conformity with the laws of the Republic.

Bodin alluded to the contemporary obsession among French men for dueling, but she defined the male honor culture broadly as an informal model for public conduct whose unwritten rules the individual citizen internalized in service of the state. For men, honor functioned as a social complement to their political power, circumscribing their behavior in the civic realm and channeling their aggressive penchants into ritualized forms of state-sanctioned violence.

Keywords

Single Woman Civic Participation Double Sexual Standard Honor Code French Public 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Marguerite Bodin, “Toujours plus haut vers le mieux en aidant nos soeurs et nos frères de toutes nos forces,” in Noël Tolb, Camille and Hyacinthe Bélilon of the Congrès permanent de l’Humanité (eds), De l’Injustice des deux morales sexuelles (Bruxelles: Le Messager de Bruxelles, 1901), 42–44.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
    On this critique, see Alice Maur, “La Vertu des femmes,” La Fronde, December 10, 1902; Jeanne Deflou, Le Sexualisme: Critique de la prépondérance et de la mentalité du sexe fort (Paris: Jules Tallandier, 1906), 43–66, 289–324.Google Scholar
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    The most prominent works on revolutionary citizenship, gender, and feminism are Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988); Joan B. Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988); Lynn Hunt, The Family Romance of the French Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); “Femmes: Une Singularité française?” Le Débat 87 (November–December 1995), 117–46; Joan W. Scott, Only Paradoxes to Offer (London: Harvard University Press, 1996); Claire Goldberg Moses, French Feminism in the 19th Century (New York: SUNY Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    For this dominant historiographical view of the fin de siècle, see Robert A. Nye, Crime, Madness, and Politics in Modern France: The Medical Concept of National Decline (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984); Daniel Pick, Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c. 1848–1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Ruth Harris, Murders and Madness: Medicine, Law, and Society in the Fin de Siècle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989); Susanna Barrows, Distorting Mirrors: Visions of the Crowd in Late Nineteenth-Century France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981); Carl Schorske, Fin de Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York: Knopf, 1980). Scholars debate the extent to which France experienced the European-wide “crisis” of liberalism. Debora Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France: Politics, Psychology, and Style (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989) and Jerrold Seigel, Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830–1930 (New York: Penguin, 1985) have both emphasized the durability of French liberalism and the flexibility of its institutions in absorbing change and mediating conflict.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 9.
    Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), vii; Edward Berenson, Trial of Madame Caillaux (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 169–207. Other key studies on male honor in modern France include William M. Reddy, The Invisible Code: Honor and Sentiment in Postrevolutionary France, 1814–1848 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997) and Christopher E. Forth, The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). For other responses to the masculinity crisis, see Judith Surkis, Sexing the Citizen: Morality and Masculinity in France, 1870–1920 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006) and Annelise Maugue, L’Identité masculine en crise au tournant du siècle (Paris: Éditions Rivages, 1987).Google Scholar
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    One recent publication that examines working women’s negotiations of familial honor in the courtroom is Rachel Fuchs, Contested Paternity: Constructing Families in Modern France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), chapter 2. On women’s refashioning of artisanal honor, see Patricia Tilburg, Colette’s Republic: Work, Gender and Popular Culture in France, 1870–1914 (New York: Berghahn, 2009), chapter 4. Neither of these authors sustains a focus on codes of honor.Google Scholar
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    Garthine Walker, “Expanding the Boundaries of Female Honour in Early Modern England,” in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 235–45. A great deal of literature exists on female honor in early modern Europe. Walker’s article belongs to a special issue of the RHS on honor and reputation in early modern England. See also Laura Gowing, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words and Sex in Early Modern London (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Elizabeth S. Cohen, “Honor and Gender in the Streets of Early Modern Rome,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 22: 4 (Spring 1992), 597–625; Edward Muir and Guido Ruggiero (eds), Sex and Gender in Historical Perspective, trans. Margaret A. Gallucci (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990); David Garrioch, Neighborhood and Community in Paris, 1740–1790 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Arlette Farge, La Vie fragile: Violence, pouvoirs, et solidarités? Paris au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Hachette, 1986); Alain Lottin, La désunion du couple sous l’ancien régime: L’exemple du Nord (Paris: Éditions universitaires, 1975).Google Scholar
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    As Carlo Ginzburg maintains in The Cheese and the Worms, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), xxi, culture limits behavior, but it serves as a “flexible cage” within which the individual has room to construct unique identities and to effect change. My approach to the honor system is influenced by diverse methodologies that focus on the interactions between cultural discourse and social practice: Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990); Debora Silverman, “Weaving Paintings: Religious and Social Origins of Vincent van Gogh’s Pictorial Labor,” in Michael S. Roth (ed.), Rediscovering History: Culture, Politics, and the Psyche (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Schorske, Fin de Siècle Vienna; Suzanne Desan, The Family on Trial in Revolutionary France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); Nicoletta F. Gullace, “The Blood of Our Sons”: Men, Women, and the Renegotiation of British Citizenship during the Great War (New York: Palgrave, 2002).Google Scholar
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    Scott, Only Paradoxes to Offer, 1–18. For a recent reiteration of this argument, see Charles Sowerwine, “Revising the Sexual Contract: Women’s Citizenship and Republicanism in France, 1789–1944,” in Christopher Forth and Elinor Accampo (eds), Confronting Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle France: Bodies, Minds and Gender (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 19–42. See also note 7 above and Offen’s critique of Sowerwine in her “Is the ‘Woman Question’ Really the ‘Man Problem?’” in Confronting Modernity, 43–62.Google Scholar
  20. 35.
    Elinor Accampo, Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit: Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), Chapter 4; and Elinor Accampo, “Private Life, Public Image: Motherhood and Militancy in the Self-Construction of Nelly Roussel, 1900–22,” in Jo Burr Margadant (ed.), The New Biography: Performing Femininity in Nineteenth-Century France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 218–61.Google Scholar
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    Significant exceptions in the French historiography are Arlette Farge and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber (eds), Madame ou Mademoiselle? Itinéraires de la solitude féminine XVIIe–XXe siècle (Montalba, 1984), and Michelle Perrot, “De la vieille fille à la garçonne: La femme célibataire au XIXe siècle,” Autrement 32 (1981), 222–31. Important works on single women in post-World War I France include: Mary Louise Roberts, Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917–1927 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994); Christine Bard, Les garçonnes: modes et fantasmes des années folles (Paris: Flammarion, 1998); Anne-Marie Sohn, “La garçonne face à l’opinion publique: un type littéraire ou un type social des années 20?” Le Mouvement social 80 (July–September 1972), 3–27. For England, see special issue of Journal of Family History 9: 4 (1984) on “spinsters”; Martha Vicinus, Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women, 1850–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Laura Doan (ed.), Old Maids to Radical Spinsters: Unmarried Women in the Twentieth-Century Novel (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991); Katherine Holden, The Shadow of Marriage: Singleness in England, 1914–1960 (Manchester, 2007). For Germany, see Catherine L. Dollard, The Surplus Woman: Unmarried in Imperial Germany (New York: Berghahn, 2009); Barbel Kuhn, “‘Das Loos der Unverheiratheten Madchen’: Die ‘Singlefrage’ in der Burgerlichen Gesellschaft des 19. Jahrhunderts,” Comparativ 3: 5 (1993), 53–76.Google Scholar
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    Sheila Jeffreys, The Spinster and her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality, 1880–1930 (North Melbourne: Spinifex, 1997); Kent, Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 197–219, and other scholars focus on the centrality of feminists’ campaign against male sexuality to their struggle for suffrage. See Judith Walkowitz, “The Politics of Prostitution,” in Catherine R. Stimpson and Ethel Spector Person (eds), Women, Sex and Sexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980) and her City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Lucy Bland, Banishing the Beast: English Feminism and Sexual Morality, 1885–1914 (London: Penguin, 1995); Margaret Jackson, The Real Facts of Life: Feminism and the Politics of Sexuality, 1850–1940 (London: Taylor & Francis, 1994).Google Scholar
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    Karen Offen, “Reflections on National Specificities in Continental European Feminisms,” University College, Galway Women’s Studies Centre Review 3 (1995), 53–61 and European Feminisms, 1700–1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 14–15, 20–3. Claire Moses suggests that the dichotomy often made in feminist scholarship between an individualist Anglo-American and a relational French position is misguided and does not adequately express the complexity of French feminism. See her “Debating the Present, Writing the Past: ‘Feminism’ in French History and Historiography,” Radical History Review 52 (Winter 1992), 79–94.Google Scholar
  24. 40.
    Statistique générale de la France, Annuaire statistique, vol. 26 (59 vols, Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1906), 7. This figure of 4.1 million female célibataires included women from ages of 15 and up. If counted from their age of civil majority (21), French single women made up 2.6 million individuals in the total French female population of 19.5 million in 1901. See chapter 2.Google Scholar
  25. 41.
    J. Hajnal, “European Marriage Patterns in Perspective,” in D. V. Glass and D. E. C. Eversley (eds), Population in History: Essays in Historical Demography (London: Edward Arnold, 1965), 101–2. Hajnal indicates that, in 1900, the percentage of single women between the ages of 45 and 49 was 12 percent in France, compared to 15 percent in England. He groups all northwestern European countries together as part of a distinct “European pattern” of marriage, whose defining features were a late age of marriage for both sexes and a high proportion of individuals who never married.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Andrea Mansker 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Mansker
    • 1
  1. 1.Sewanee: The University of the SouthUSA

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