By Mary Louise Roberts

In the raucous decade following global conflict I, newly blurred limitations among female and male created fears one of the French that theirs used to be turning into a civilization with no sexes. This new gender confusion grew to become a relevant metaphor for the War's influence on French tradition and ended in a marked elevate in public debate pertaining to woman identification and woman's right function. Mary Louise Roberts examines how in those debates French society got here to grips with the catastrophic horrors of the good struggle. In resources as different as parliamentary documents, newspaper articles, novels, scientific texts, writings on sexology, and vocational literature, Roberts discovers a critical query: tips to come to phrases with speedy monetary, social, and cultural switch and articulate a brand new order of social relationships. She examines the position of French trauma about the battle in legislative efforts to prohibit propaganda for abortion and birth control, and explains anxieties in regards to the decline of maternity by means of a drawback in gender family that associated soldiery, virility, and paternity. via those debates, Roberts locates the seeds of tangible switch. She exhibits how the willingness to entertain, or just the necessity to condemn, nontraditional gender roles created an indecisiveness over woman identification that finally subverted even the main conservative efforts to come to standard gender roles and irrevocably altered the social association of gender in postwar France.

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Additional resources for Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917-1927

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Although Rageot initially portrays Fran~ois as energized by war work, as the war drags on, the latter's actions imply that his faith in science has been strained and even destroyed by the war. 95 But Fran90is's angst about the war finds expression only indirectly, in the obscure feeling that something is terribly wrong with his marriage. He cCfeels a heavy weight on his conscience, a constant constraint . . n 96 When he discovers the affair between his brother and his wife, he suffers a com- 36 · La Femme Moderne plete crisis, losing faith in his life:>s work as well as his love.

79 In memoirs of the war, novels, and trench journals, women's loyalty frequently allows the front soldier to recover some sense of himself as a husband, a lover, a fiance, or a son-in other words, as an individual and a man. Eulogies to women's efforts on the nation's behalf represented women as nurses or mothers whose devotion lifted the hearts of the nation. While these complimentary images of women served as propaganda, no evidence exists that the more negative portrayal of female wartime behavior, such as we have seen in trench journals, memoirs, and novels like Barbusse's Le Feu, was censored during the war.

The restaurants are crammed. " 25 In viewing the material contrasts between trench and civilian life, returning soldiers saw the homefront as a world of extravagence and luxury, whose pleasures they were largely denied. 26 No-man's-land entailed a daily battle with mud, rats, lice, and rain, as well as the German enemy. It was a cemetery of dismembered, unburied bodies, where life expectancy was often as short as three months. Surrounded by corpses, the front soldier expected and even desired death at any moment.

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