Date of Graduation

Fall 2018

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Major

History

Research Sponsor

Kevin Kern

First Reader

Gina Martino

Second Reader

Gregory Wilson

Abstract

In the early decades of the 20th century, critics of the women’s suffrage movement commonly denounced their opponents’ perceived disregard for the gendered norms of the era. Given the clear delineation of rights provided to either sex at that time, any expansion of women’s liberties meant an incursion into what was seen as a predominantly masculine realm. Countless arguments put forth by anti-suffragists suggested a complete breakdown of what is today contextualized as a predominantly cisgender, heterosexual society. Simultaneously, the development of psychology and sexology as fields of study lent moralizing voices a highly pathologized foundation upon which to build their arguments. The anti-suffrage movement, whether by intention or not, integrated the frameworks of homosexuality and gender expression established by these fields of study into their media and public statements. The result was a campaign which effectively attacked not only the women’s movement, but all forms of gender variance. Further, the notion of androgyny put forth by the movement reflected a misogynistic hostility toward feminine expression, seen most notably in the popular caricature of the effeminate man. In spite of all this, these socially conservative voices provide a somewhat ironic counterpoint to modern critics of LGBTQ+ rights and gender theory. As the strict gender norms of the Victorian era began to break down, non-binary theory emerged as the primary method of understanding gender transgressions both large and small.

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