By Declan Kiberd (auth.)
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Extra info for Men and Feminism in Modern Literature
The man with no self has no self to give, and so his love is doomed from the start. Yet he persists and marries three women, an aristocrat, a journalist and an actress. In each case, his intellect tells him that he must love this woman as a comrade, while his emotions cause him to dread the very freedoms which the radical intellect bestows. He begins as a critic of traditional marriage, but ends as the scourge of his feminist comrades. His plays are studies in a failed androgyny, accounts of characterless characters who reincarnate in themselves his own tenuous, if multiple, self.
If the double standard is right for men, then it is right for women; if it is wrong for women, then it is also wrong for men. Along with Shakespeare, Wilde was one of those writers whose work justifies Virginia WooIrs famous observation that 'it is one of the tokens of the fully developed mind that it does not think specially or separately of sex'. 68 The resistance of men to that doctrine was even more dogged than the rearguard action against the suffragettes. The rights to vote and to work on an equal footing had long been conceded by men, who continued to deny the more far-reaching New Woman, New Man 33 implications of the new androgyny.
67 In the varied history of fashion over the past four centuries, it was only in the Victorian age that men presented themselves with no trace of the 32 Men and Feminism in Modern Literature feminine. The Elizabethan gallant was admired for his shapely legs, starched ruff and ear-rings; the Restoration rake for his ribbons, muff and scent; the Romantics for their nipped-in waists, exotic perfumes and hour-glass shapes. ) Such details indicate that the androgyny of the male and female has rarely been fully suppressed and suggest that extreme homosexuality is more prevalent in those eras when men are not allowed to express a feminine dimension in direct and outgoing ways.