Carry on Understudies: Theatre and Sexual Politics by Michelene Wandor

By Michelene Wandor

`one hell of a seminal learn ... here's a e-book that grapples, with strength, ingenuity and fantastic highbrow rigour, with a bewildering wooded area of matters round gender and politics ... illuminating, insightful, perceptive.' - Women's evaluation

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Sample text

Because male friendship and association is more visible in all classes, late-Victorian moral stringency assumed that women did not associate with each other, but rather related to society only via men. Thus male homosexuality could be acknowledged while female homosexuality was denied; male homosexuality threatened the image of the virile heterosexual male—and by extension threatened the very backbone of the family. The constitutional attempt to repress homosexuality helped spur the campaigns of social and political radicals: from the 1880s to the 192,08 the most sympathetic supporters for sex reform in general and homosexual reform in particular had come from the left; and, as a corollary, most of the reformers were clearly men and women of the left.

Silenced and forced to CROSS-DRESSING, SEXUAL REPRESENTATION AND DIVISION OF LABOUR 23 cover their heads for greater modesty, excluded from the performance of any sacred office, and relegated to a properly subordinate position, there was no possibility of women taking part in religious plays, except when they were performed in the seclusion of their own world of the convents. , p. 46) For men it was thus still possible to perform in public, to give voice, either through religious service or through religious drama; but for women both were very clearly taboo.

Sensitivity and emotional expression (the feminine) can CROSS-DRESSING, SEXUAL REPRESENTATION AND DIVISION OF LABOUR 27 be combined with ambition and ruthlessness (the masculine)— in men: The artistic sphere has long been claimed by gay men as legitimate territory: in this area the male homosexual has found the means to pass by identifying himself as artistic/ romantic rather than simply gay. So the social rejection on the basis of sexuality is refocused by the justification of art. (Caroline Sheldon, Gays and Film, British Film Institute, 1977, p.

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