Civilization Without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917-1927

TitleCivilization Without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917-1927
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsRoberts, Mary Louise
Number of Pages337
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
CityChicago, IL

In the 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, leading to a marked increase in public debate concerning female identity and women's proper role. Mary Louise Roberts examines how in these debates French society came to grips with the catastrophic horrors of the Great War. Roberts discovers a central question: how to come to terms with rapid economic, social, and cultural change and articulate a new order of social relationships. She examines the role of French trauma concerning the War in legislative efforts to ban propaganda for abortion and contraception, and explains anxieties about the decline of maternity by a crisis in gender relations that linked soldiery, virility, and paternity. Roberts also shows the indecisiveness over female identity that ultimately subverted even the most conservative efforts to return to traditional gender roles and irrevocably altered the social organization of gender in postwar France.

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