By Kerri Romeo
As a female who acts independently and is fearless of her own curiosity, Alice seems to better represent the modern-day image of a strong female than the princesses rescued by their princes from evil old hags that many of us grew up with in classic American children’s stories. But the reality for women at the time the story of Wonderland was written didn’t leave room for the autonomy and imagination that Alice was able to escape to in a dream (through the stories author Charles Lutwidge Dogson amused the Liddell sisters with).
While women today have more rights and freedoms than the Victorian woman, some similarities still seem ingrained within women and society today. What defines a strong woman? What is her place in society? How might that definition contribute to how women treat one another? How might it hold us all back? Why are women still fighting for the same issues: Equal pay, reproductive rights and positions in leadership? If women are hardwired for cooperation, compassion, and intuition why do our actions reflect competition, a lack of empathy and mind over heart?
“We women are not made for governing: and, if we are good women, we must dislike these masculine occupations!” ~ Queen Victoria (from a letter written in 1852 to her Uncle)
It is an interesting statement to come from the female leader of the English Empire in the 19th Century. Maybe she didn’t come to this powerful position by choice, but she benefited from it. The British Empire grew into a world power under her leadership. I wonder what she would think today: Six women ran for the presidency this campaign season; We recently lost the well-respected Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; And Amy Coney Barrett was just sworn in. You may agree with or disagree with some, all or none of these women. But is power different for a man versus a woman? Is a woman more likely to be accepted into our current political wonderland as long as she maintains it as a man’s world? While feminist movements have won women the right to vote, the right to own property and the right to pursue a career of her choice, have women lost touch with their femininity in the masculine drive to be heard and prove themselves? Are women just imitating men to be seen?
Who benefits most? From the witch trials in 17th Century England and America to Victorian England and the Industrial Revolution in America to today, class and the economy have played an important part for the worthiness of women. The accused “witches” were the “deplorables” (as our politicians today would refer to them) and were mostly women: The old, the poor, the orphan, the single, the widowed, the prostitutes who did not need to follow the etiquette of the upper class and provoked desire in men, and the healers who threatened the establishment of the male medical profession. Who were the accusers? The upper classes with women reporting women especially. No wonder women have a difficult time trusting one another.
Alice Liddell (the assumed muse for Alice in Wonderland) was groomed to follow the path of a traditional middle class Victorian woman. Like the character she may appear brave and brazen, but she still maintains proper etiquette and doesn’t stray from her expected and accepted destiny. As an adult, Alice married a suitable gentleman and had a family of her own. For many this was a practical way to a secure and often luxurious lifestyle; something the lower classes would never even be considered for. Would Alice be the elite of her generation? Can the elite celebrity of today relate to the mother who who lost her job during the pandemic or is working 3 jobs and still won’t make enough to pay her healthcare bill ?
As we witness the next generation of women’s voices, in all classes, races and spiritual beliefs, I hope we listen. Our evolution did not end in the 1980’s and 1990’s when manners and etiquette were replaced with cursing and dressing less conservatively as the big “girl power” movement, while we tucked away our trauma into the shadows and shamed other women for speaking up. At the end of the Victorian Era all classes recognized a shared goal as they stood up together for equality and the right to vote. Women supporting women is not antiquated; it is powerful.
Two of the most forward-thinking women chat about Coping with Anxiety on Conversations with Lorie
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Be wary of companies that use the pink ribbon as a marketing tool, but who actually sell products linked to the disease. Did you know women may choose not to get a mastectomy because they feel it would make them feel less of a woman? This is something I had witnessed first-hand with the most important woman in my life. The Grace Project (created by an amazing woman I met personally and trust) helps remove this stigma in the most beautiful way.
Kerri spends her days as an office administrator for a ballet barre manufacturer and her free time playing frisbee with her dog in NJ. Often at a loss for words in person, she writes to make sense of the world and connect with others. She wishes for more curiosity & kindness in the world.