Edit : actually, the French language has evolved since then and back when the letter was written, "violenté" could indeed mean (sexually) violated, like our modern "violé". My bad.
Really, how can you resist this: "the boulevards are currently a veritable court of miracles planted in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah, and soon all promenades on them will be forbidden not only to honest women who have not been able to show themselves for a long time, but also for men who should not have to be at odds with rascals."
Sounds like sexual assault. The author's take:
> the unwilling participation in a public sexual culture threatened the urban experience as imagined by privileged male pedestrians.
…? Freedom from sexual assault is an "urban experience as imagined by privileged male pedestrians"?
Maybe I'm missing something but the author's several tangents about patriarchy come across as totally non-sequitur in this article. Sure, male privilege is a thing, but what does it have to do with not wanting to be insulted/assaulted while out walking for the evening? What is the author's point?
I'm sure there's a point to be made about "women have had to endure such indignities, look at how men react when they are forced to too" but if that's what the author is trying to say, they're sure doing it in a ham-handed manner.
EDIT: After re-reading a few times I think the point the author is trying to make is that even privileged males, who typically could control the public space, were forced to reckon with the change in culture?
> This is not to say that all women who appeared in public were assumed to be sexually available, nor that middle-class women were forbidden from the streets. The streets enabled a wide variety of encounters, dependent on the particular circumstances in which they occurred.
Given the author's lack of concern, I think they are very opaquely alluding that the man must have secretly enjoyed it, therefore not sexual assault.
That these encounters bothered him enough to write, that they stayed with him after he moved on, highlights the ways sexual solicitation created new feelings and emotions that were anything but momentary.
The author shouldn't be making up just-so stories about how people in history really think about social issues.
(Once upon a time I wouldn’t have needed to put a /s here.)
« The “violation” felt by these two men at the attention of female prostitutes disrupted their ability to move about the city as they so chose, but it did not necessarily put into question their status as potential clients. Insofar as these “assaults” may have elicited a sexual response, they may have heightened their awareness of their status as sexual beings even as it challenged their gender privilege. »
It sounds like "violation" includes being propositioned.
If you think this kind of writing is about making a single point, you won't get it. It's about putting you in a time and place and giving you something to think (for yourself) about not telling you what to think, and making an airtight case.
>As an employee within the Ministry of Finance, Langangne seemed to expect that the streets were in some ways “his.”
Ross' reaction is quite bizarre. If a woman wrote a letter complaining about being catcalled and verbally abused in public, would you accuse her of "expecting that the streets are in some way hers"?
Maybe the author is going for some sort of meta thing. Like, "let's apply feminist theory reductio ad absurdum to show that groping is OK!" If he is, I'm not smart enough to understand it.
He also says (without evidence) that the complainant is likely a customer of the male prostitutes rather than an observer, who happens to have had a bad encounter. I really don't know where he gets this from.
Right. I think it's the implication that not wanting to be groped in public is somehow unique to the morality of privileged males that confuses me. It's as if he's trying to make a point about hypocrisy but doesn't follow it up.
The whole article is such follow up including the outrage of privileged women.. The claim is that a flâneur may be trying to witness outrages to their norms between people of a lower social class and may have been outraged by virtually anything if it was directed at them, so it is hard to determine what precisely occurred from their testimony.
It’s as good as analysis of a single stand-alone 1850s letter gets. That is to say, it’s a narrative based on a massive string of assumptions and contextual clues.
Edit: there are some exceptions to this around paragraph 7. Anyway, discussing the finer points of the writing style doesn't seem worthwhile.
The author isn't quoting to reference that the words are verbatim (which they are often not eg ), but because he wants to identify as someone who disagrees with the subject's world view, to diminish and mock them.
I comment on the writing style because it is jarringly poor and detracts from the argument. I thinks we are allowed to make such observations, but you are free to refrain from spending your time on counter arguments.
Ugh rate limiting is killing me. Is it like 3 posts per hour or something?
>> The “violation” felt by thee two men at the attention of female prostitutes disrupted their ability to move about the city as they so chose, but it did not necessarily put into question their status as potential clients. Insofar as these “assaults” may have elicited a sexual response, they may have heightened their awareness of their status as sexual beings even as it challenged their gender privilege.
The author of the article has a PhD in history and is a professor of history at Loyola, which took less time to Google than commenting. Your comment feels like it crosses a line, your speculation doesn’t make your argument more right. Justifying your opinion with imagined reasons makes it less likely to be valid, and reflects poorly on you.
> I think we are allowed to make such observations, but you are free to refrain from spending your time on counter arguments.
You are equally free to refrain from posting negative, subjective, and somewhat off-topic opinion. You can also expect such opinions to find valid disagreement. Your suggestion that you are making “observations” suggests you believe your opinion to be true, and I don’t doubt you think you’re right, but from over here it looks to me like either the subject or the author’s style is bothering you, not that the writing has any quality problems.
While you are “allowed” to make any observations you like, others are allowed to disagree. The guidelines here at HN do ask that you stay on-topic, and more importantly ask commenters to not speculate or to make ad-hominem arguments against other people. So, your comment is not exactly following the suggestions of what should be allowed.
Here are the specific guidelines that I believe the first sentence of your above comment crosses:
Be kind. Don't be snarky. Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.
Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.
Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.
Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something.
This is literally a direct reference to the use of violenté and implications discussed in the immediately preceding paragraph.
> diminish and mock them
I didn't read it that way at all. Interesting to see how people bring their own interpretations though.
Oh my, another reverse sexist propaganda piece written by a sophomore at Wellesley.
> Andrew Israel Ross is an assistant professor of history at Loyola University Maryland and the author of Public City/Public Sex: Homosexuality, Prostitution, and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris.
In the case of that post, the submitter had emailed about it and we suggested that title as more informative than the original. Happy to hear feedback if we got that wrong!