By Ann Ardis
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Additional info for New women, new novels: feminism and early modernism
Jordan, in other words, can explain how Punch got the idea for its tomfoolery at the expense of the New Woman in the May 26, 1894 issue: THE NEW WOMAN ("OUIDA" says "the New Woman" is an unmitigated bore. ") There is a New Woman, and what do you think? She lives upon nothing but Foolscap and ink! 5 Jordan cannot, however, explain the plethora of highly charged rhetoric that predates Ouida's naming of the New Woman. Significantly, Page 12 such rhetoric was aimed not at characters in novels but at real women, women whose violations of the social code were viewed as a serious threat to bourgeois culture's hegemony.
What she misses, I think, is the New Woman's disruption of the symbol system analyzed so carefully in Woman and the Demon. " As Alys Smith argued, she "demands to belong to herself. . She asks . . for freedom to make out of her own life the highest that can be made, and to develop her own individuality as seems to her the wisest and the best. "40 On the one hand, the New Woman's program of self-actualization is completely in keeping with the bourgeois ideology of individualism. When Smith claims "only the ordinary rights of a human being" "to develop her own individuality," it is clear she thinks she is merely asking that the self-determination associated with citizenship in a liberal democracy be granted to a class of people previously denied it.
Typically, in fact, they were quite outspoken in arguing against extending suffrage beyond the ranks of the middle class. Like the suffragists, the antivivisectionists and the middle-class women who became involved in efforts to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts in the mid-1880s defied the Victorian social code by speaking out in public. Instead of exerting "influence" over their menfolkas John Ruskin would have them dothese women took to the streets to support animal rights and to protest the new laws requiring prostitutes to have regular physical examinations (thereby implicating prostitutes, not their male customers, for the increased incidence of sexual diseases).
New women, new novels: feminism and early modernism by Ann Ardis