Free Essay About Kathy Peiss, Charity Girls AND City Pleasures
In 1880-1920s, the working young women lived in the society that subordinated them at work and in the family. In addition, they did not earn much money and worked mainly in the factories, shops, and department stores. The living wage was only enough for paying general expenses such as rent, meals and clothing. At the same time, young women, who were born or studied in the USA, distanced themselves from the immigrant roots and preferred to spend time in public dance halls, cinemas and other amusements where they could express themselves freely and communicate with the strangers. The new amusements offered many opportunities for the women who did not want to live under the strict parental control.
In order to have an independent social life, a woman had to have enough resources. Due to the low wages that was nearly impossible. To overcome this challenge, women communicated with the well-off men who could treat them. Another challenge for the young women was that the men would often expect the sexual favors from the women they were spending time with. It could be any kind of favor ranging from simple flirting and up to sexual intercourse. Therefore not all women wanted to have such a kind of relationship. As the result, sexual harassment became a wide-spread matter at work and in the private life.
Young women expressed their sexuality in many different ways. They started to wear vivid clothes, began to smoke and drink alcohol and be more easy-going. Because the dance floors were one of the best places for expressing sexuality, the new kinds of dances became less formal and women and men could interact more while dancing. So dancing became an important way of expressing sexuality. In addition, most women joked, flirted with strangers and sometimes used slang and vulgar language. They could also play the kissing games at their meetings with the men.
Charity girls were the young women who agreed to have a sexual intercourse with the men. Unlike the prostitutes, they did not receive any money from men. Instead they were treated with gifts, pleasure, amusements, etc. Charity girls were frequent visitors of the dance halls and places where they could meet the strangers. There is no statistics about the number and social background of the charity girls, but it is known that sometimes charity girls were young women who still lived with their families. Being a charity girl partly resolved a conflict of social participation of women and changed the traditional views on sexuality.
The article about young women who lived in 1880-1920s is quite informative and provides a large number of facts about the lifestyles of the people of that time. Judging from this article, there was a vast gender inequality and too many conservative traditions in the society. So those young women who lived in the emerging cities had to think of the ways how to make the grim life brighter and more satisfying. In the growing cities, including New York, there were many places where women could express their sexuality and attract strangers’ attention. The author provided the citations that described how women and men behaved in the dance halls, streets, etc. Now some features of such behavior are considered normal, but in the past they were criticized for vulgarity. What is more, the author showed how wide spread was the problem of sexual harassment at work and in the private lives of the women. Nowadays the situation is very different and the breakthrough in the issue of gender inequality in the XX century looks now really remarkable.