Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and by Gail Bederman

By Gail Bederman

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Additional resources for Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Women in Culture and Society Series)

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Evolution-and not middle-class cultural standards-had made white, middle-class women so delicate and domestic. Evolution-and not economic self-interest-had given white middle-class men the manly self-restraint which allowed them to become self-made men. The large proportion of immigrants in the work­ ing class lent credence to these ideas: one could hardly expect the Slavic or Mediterranean races to share the advanced, civilized tastes of Anglo-Saxons! In the light of "civilization," these class-based differences could be coded "racial.

It fell to African Americans like Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass to develop a version of civilization that denied the implicit connections between advancement and skin color, and depicted non-whites as the truest exemplars of civilization. All these versions of civilization linked assertions of millennia 1 progress to issues of race and gender; thus, they were recognizably the same discourse. Yet different people, with different political agendas, defined and deployed "civilization" differently.

1 41 And it did. Entitled The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the Worlds Columbian Exposition, the pamphlet inverted the White City's depic­ tion of "Negro Savagery" as the opposite of manly civilization. Instead, it sug­ gested that both manhood and civilization were more characteristic of black Americans than of white. What better example of the advancement of Amer­ ican civilization then the phenomenal progress African Americans had made R E MAKI N G MA N H O O D 39 after only twenty-five years of freedom?

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