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Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917-1927
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Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917-1927 (Women in Culture and Society)

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  60 ratings  ·  4 reviews
In the raucous decade following World War I, newly blurred boundaries between male and female created fears among the French that theirs was becoming a civilization without sexes. This new gender confusion became a central metaphor for the War's impact on French culture and led to a marked increase in public debate concerning female identity and woman's proper role. Mary L ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 3rd 1994 by University Of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 1994)
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In Civilization Without Sexes, Mary Louise Roberts examines a French culture seeking coherence after WWI. The book’s title is taken from a Drieu la Rochelle comment, one in which the blurring of gender “served as a primary referent for the ruin of civilization itself.” (4) In post-war France, changes in gender roles symbolized yet another loss for returning soldiers desperately desiring pre-war normalcy. Robert’s cultural history reveals that women became central to post-war French identity. Fre ...more
I enjoyed got me thinking about other times of conflict and the way societies try to deal with drastic changes. Roberts is arguing that post-WWI France became absolutely obsessed with gender categories. This was an attempt to hold on to some kind of ideological continuity in a time when the world seemed to have been radically altered. Roberts looks at all sorts of cultural sources - novels, ads, plays, etc - to show the kinds of ideas that were dominating French society at the time. Sh ...more
May 26, 2008 T.J. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pretentious grad students, critical thinkers, the angry womyn you know
Brilliant, nuanced read examining the fall out of World War I on French society, and its particular impact on French women. The idea of the traditional French woman was destroyed by the guns of the war, and in its place gender was another site to be reconstructed like the ruined countryside.

Women are divided into three categories--the mother, the single woman, and the modern woman--all of which are problematic, overlapping ideas for a new society struggling to orient itself.

An utterly engaging r
Päivi Brink
Women were given three narrow roles in the 1920s France: mother, lonely woman or modern woman. Well written and interesting research on gender roles after the WW1 in France.
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