Objects of the Museu Valencià d’Etnologia

Corset

Gender and body

Gender and sexuality

Gender and clothing 

The corset, used in Europe from the 16th century in various forms (cors, bustier, etc.), was intended to stylize and mould the female figure, and was also occasionally worn by men. However, its use had terrible consequences for women’s bodies: it changed the position of the internal organs and caused numerous disorders, such as reduced pulmonary capacity and muscle atrophy. Women shed the corset in the early decades of the 20th century, but even today it continues to be associated with femininity, specifically, sexuality. The pin-up girls of the 1950s and celebrities like Lady Gaga in recent decades have made it a fetish piece and sexualized object.

Blanco y Negro Magazine

Gender roles

Gender identity

Gender and history

In contrast to the ideal of the domestic woman, in the early 20th century there emerged a new type of woman, referred to as a garçonne in France, a flapper in Great Britain and a machietta in Italy. The garçonne was a woman who did not passively remain shut up at home, but instead occupied public spaces, frequented cafés and smoked cigarettes. The ‘modern’ women also joined in the new fashion for sport, ‘masculinized’ their clothing with more loose-fitting garments, and stopped wearing impossible hairstyles, having their hair cut a la garçonne. Illustrated magazines such as Blanco y Negro, La Esfera, Nuevo Mundo, La Semana Gráfica de Valencia and the sport magazine Aire Libre reflected this modern woman on their covers. However, despite this, she was an ideal of womanhood only accessible to women from an urban environment and the upper or middle classes.

Passementerie loom with Jacquard machines 

Gender roles

Sexual division of labour 

Gender and social class

In the 19th century, the association between sewing and femininity was reinforced: the ideal woman, angel of the home, was supposed to know how to sew, not to engage in it professionally, but as a mere ‘female occupation’, one which is silent, submissive and repetitive. However, sewing and other jobs related to the textile industry not only formed part of this ideal of femininity as mere female ‘occupation’ or pastime, but they were also a form of financial support, a trade, for many women from the lower social classes. Textile workshops like Manuel Hurtado’s Pasamanería Valenciana hired numerous women who shared the tasks with their male co-workers. Single women usually worked full-time, while married women generally worked from home doing piecework. These women’s wages were essential to the financial subsistence their families, which could not be supported on the husband’s salary alone.

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Aixada de ganxo (two-prong hoe)

Sexual division of labour

Gender and social class

Gender stereotypes: male hunter / female gatherer

In rural environments, work was usually organized in family units of production, in which every member of the family did their bit. However, the only ones registered as workers were generally the man of the house and the male sons, with the female sex being excluded from the official records. The ganxo we highlight in the rereading was used by men to remove tubers such as potatoes and sweet potatoes from the ground, after which groups of women would collect the produce. Despite the fact that we still consider agricultural labour to be eminently male, the ganxo, photographs and other objects distributed around the gallery paint a picture of farmwork as an activity done by both men and women.

Clothes iron

Sexual division of labour

Gender and social class

Gender stereotypes: public / domestic

The display cases before us contain basic tools for household chores such as ironing. Until the mid-1950s, irons were made of cast iron and heated on top of the cooker. Traditionally, women had been responsible for all the chores related to maintaining the house and looking after its inhabitants. However, not all of them did so in the same way: those who could afford to, took charge of coordinating the household employees in their service; others not only took care of the household chores in their own home, at the very least, but also often worked in the homes of others, those who were more fortunate and could hire them to do so.

 

Televisor Emerson

Gender roles

Gender identity

 

Gender and history

Like other forms of mass media in the second half of the 20th century, television was a tool used by the Franco dictatorship to shape public opinion and the way of life of its citizenry. Generally, television programming aimed for entertainment and banalization, but the stereotypification of gender roles pervaded its competitions, magazine programmes and series. And although they did so much less explicitly, sexualities and genders which were considered a crime until 1979 also slipped through.The gender stereotypes accepted by Catholic and Francoist morality, the ideal of a man and the ideal of a woman, were clearly depicted in advertising, as in the case of the well-known commercial for Ruton vacuum cleaners, with its catchy tune ‘Salvada con Ruton’ (‘Saved by Ruton’). However, they also made an appearance on programmes such as the first reality show on Spanish television, Reina por un día (Queen for a Day), which satisfied the stereotypical dreams of comfort of Spanish women of the time. In contrast, homosexuality, bisexuality and genders outside the model of the traditional man and woman, completely unheard-of for the Franco regime, were reflected on television only through ambiguous situations and were left out of the main narrative.

Cut-throat razor with box

Gender and life cycle: marriage

Family and relationships

Gender roles

Until well into the 20th century, the cut-throat razor was a grooming item that was used, among other things, to enable men to attend the dances held in the town square with a clean shave. At those dances, we would find numerous couples dancing, but also a good number of bachelors, the town ‘unmarriageables’, who were traditionally second sons, as families preferred to marry their daughters to the first-born, the one who would inherit his father’s land.

However, the rural exodus over the course of the 20th century reversed this situation: younger sons left for nearby cities in search of work, and as a result, women began to prefer marriage to them, as they could offer a better quality of life in the city. Consequently, the first-born, tied to his land, was no longer sought after by society. With this, the bulk of the group of ‘unmarriageables’, the bachelors, came to be made up of these first sons, unlike in earlier decades. Beginning in 1914, and especially from the 1950s onward, these trends constituted a break with the model of matrimony that had been in operation in the Western world for centuries.

 

Social Service “Cartilla”

Gender roles

Gender and history

The Social Service was a sort of female ‘military service’, organized and run by the Women’s Section of the Falange political party. It was compulsory except for married women, widows, nuns and young women with eight single siblings. A certificate of completion for the service, signed and stamped by the corresponding provincial office, was essential to obtain a job in the public administration, a passport, a driving licence or any type of school diploma. During the Civil War, or in the words of the narrator of the NO-DO newsreel for 1 January 1965, ‘at the height of the crusade for freedom’.

Both the Military Service and the Social Service legitimized the roles which the patriarchal system assigned to men – strength, authority – and women – sensitivity, care. The Franco regime thus ensured that the entire population would serve ‘the Fatherland and the State’, offering up their ‘finest abilities’. At the same time, it consolidated and disseminated the 19th-century gender stereotypes which it sought to re-establish following the brief and inconclusive interruption represented by the Second Republic as regards the ideal of a woman.

Link to a NO-DO newsreel on the Social Service (1 Jan 1965): http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/revista-imagenes/servicio-social-mujer/2863518/