Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Fun -even Romantic side- of the social evil

A still of Moulin Rouge Dancers on YouTube. Moulin Rouge 1902

It all seems so romantic: when I visit Paris in the Spring I will visit Montmartre. But Montmartre was a slum back in 1902, not a tourist destination. A commentator on YouTube for this short film (amazing real footage, supposedly) says this Can Can dance was a prostitute's dance..


So was belly-dancing, I guess.

So, in the December 1, 1910 Gazette I am deconstructing, there's a wire service story out of New York about the rising cost of living for women. Teachers, it is written, need larger salaries to live well and respectably in town.

Factory working women do not, says the article, as they are mostly girls earning a small wage but living at home.

Hmm. An exercise in rationalization. Marion made about 600 a year in Montreal and she had to pay about 40 a month for room and board. Do the math, there wasn't much extra to live on. So she lived at home in the summer. And thanks to her broad circle of acquaintances, respectable families, she had a life outside of school. Connections were very important in 1910. Women without connections were lost, especially in the city. (Is it so different today. We lived privatized existences, every family to itself, but, still, 'who you know' matters a great deal.)

And for factory workers, well, I have discussed Montreal's prostitution problem in 1910 (considered worse than New York's) and these low factory wages led to this prostitition problem. The girls did not make nearly enough to support themselves.

The Montreal Council of Women knew that it was important to raise women's wages to a point where they could support themselves and live an independent life.

Domestics of course were beholden to their employers for shelter. They had to work long hours, sometimes around the clock.

Working women should have their evenings to themselves, said the Council.

But still, the government believed that women had two vocations, either as homemakers or housekeepers.

Hmm. Today I read an essay on Salon.com, about the sex trade advert ban on Craigslist. A woman was saying how she was enticed by a Craigslist ad into becoming an escort. She did so for lack of money.

A while back, on a BBC Four programme, I heard it said that in the past decade use of prostitutes in London has doubled, for whatever reason.

So women have gained access to the earning professions and having sex is OK for unmarried women, and still prostitution happens. There's always a bank of needy women somewhere ready to fill that social need, or whatever.