Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And History Marches On...

A Bibliotheque Nationale picture of the historical pageant, during the 1908 Quebec Tercentenary. (I got it from Wikipedia, but it is said to be in the Public Domain.)These celebrations were a big military show of might. Were they preparing for war? Of course. An article I read in a 1910 Technical Review claims that there is a great deal of talk of the coming war with Germany.."In the leading newspapers and the great reviews of Europe the prospect and the probabilities of the coming war have taken the place of the weather as the regular topic of discussion." ..Racial Fertility and the War, June 1910

The future historian of the nineteenth century will find no more prominent or distinguishing feature stamped upon it than the enlarged opportunity of labor and usefulness afforded to women, and the marv'ellous march of woman to the front in almost every field of human activity. The century will pass into history particularly distinguished hy the enlargement of woman's sphere and the multiplication of her advantages. In all lands blest with the Light that rose in Judea nearly 1900 years ago, there has been, since the dawn of the present century, an almost complete revolution in the ideas once entertained as to woman's ability on the one hand, and her rights and duties on the other. To- day, whilst there are still advocates of woman's subjection, and of the limitation of her privileges and powers, the vast majority of all who desire to labor for the general good are disposed to look upon woman's enlarged freedom, increased advantages, and rapidly-widening labors, as among the most hopeful aspects of the age.

Woman:Her Character, Calling and Culture. 1894

Hmm. I'm an essayist and the more documents from the 1910 era I read, for my novel in progress Flo in the City based on the real life letters of the more parallels I see with today.

For example, during the Christmas holidays my sons came home. They played video games with their friends in order to decompress from their end of term exams. One evening, my husband came home to find a group of 20 somethings in the living room, using our big screen TV to play some multi-player shooter style game (very violent). Two young men were using the big screen and another had set up a lap top on the coffee table. Beside them a young woman was watching a movie on her dvd player and another young woman. my son's girlfriend, was in the adjacent room, typing away on her laptop, on Facebook.

"Modern life," my husband remarked.

Not too long after, I read an article in the Guardian in defence of these video games.(Why playing in the virtual world has an awful lot to teach children. Jan 10th) They provide players with 'real life' skills the article said.

Here's a quote: For perhaps the most remarkable thing about modern video games is the degree to which they offer not a sullen and silent unreality, but a realm that's thick with difficulties, obligations, judgments and allegiances. If we are to understand the 21st century and the generation who will inherit it, it's crucial that we learn to describe the dynamics of this gaming life: a place that's not so much about escaping the commitments and interactions that make friendships "real" as about a sophisticated set of satisfactions with their own increasingly urgent reality and challenges.

Now, I won't debate that point. But should this point be correct, then what does it mean about modern women and their future place as leaders in society?

My son, an accomplished cook, who competes full tilt with his girlfriend, when it comes to college work (and he has to work hard to keep up with her achievements) likes to tell me that 'plenty of old women (meaning in their 30's and 40's) play these games. He says he can hear them yell to their kids to shut up as they play him over the Net. (sic).

But these games are mostly war games and from what I see (or what my husband saw in our living room over the holidays) is that females don't like to play these games. They prefer the social networks. (Yea, yea, you're not killing humans per se, just it's OK, Mom. Chillax. Yea, I know that in wartime they dehumanize the enemy, but it's just a game and it's good for letting off steam.)

Young women today have achieved equality in matters academic, this is clear. One hundred years on, the dreams of the suffragists and religious temperance types (who wrote the passage at top)with regard to women's rights are mostly realized. (Funny, they believed the same thing in 1910! I ask again, HOW DID THE 50's EVER HAPPEN?) But what of it if success in tomorrow's real world is based on a violent military and sports paradigm, as per usual, if it is not about what you know, or how hard you work, or how many degrees you have, but how you play the game? What does that mean for women and social equality? Just asking.