This is why more people don't follow their dreams:
September 9, 2015 9:18 AM   Subscribe

 
White people, man.
posted by bgal81 at 9:21 AM on September 9, 2015 [107 favorites]


/me shakes her tiny fist of internet rage.

You beat me by one minute! One!

Oh well, here's a link to Sarah's website. I found her article about how she gets treated in public really interesting, if slightly overwrought.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


White people, man.

Try living here in Port Townsend. *sigh*
posted by humboldt32 at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


The house was built in 1888, so it won't be too long before they'll be obligated to switch to electric lighting and other modern conveniences.

Unless, of course, they're pretending that a particular "period" existed in stasis for a long time. But that would be ridiculous.
posted by timdiggerm at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [37 favorites]


And yet, the article shows up on the internet.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [49 favorites]


This is why more people don't follow their dreams: They know the world is a cruel place for anyone who doesn't fit into the dominant culture. Most people fear the bullies so much that they knuckle under simply to be left alone. In the process, they crush their own dream

I take your point, author, and don't begrudge you your Victorian lifestyle, but at the same time, it's good you have the money to do this because holy cats.
posted by Kitteh at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [46 favorites]


"Everything in our daily life is connected to our period of study, from the technologies we use to the ways we interact with the world."

How did she write this, how did it get from being her elegant words written with a 100 year old pen filled with resurrected ink to digital form... ah, I get it, don't use modern technology, pay someone else to use it.. and then make money from it...
posted by HuronBob at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


"I can't lean the Ordinary against that," he said, indicating massive wads of sap oozing from the nearest tree trunk.

Heavens, no; that's what we in Victorian times call "wood cum"
posted by Greg Nog at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [39 favorites]


That's cute, kids. Can't wait for the first time you get sick and the leaches don't seem to be doing the trick.
posted by bondcliff at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2015 [25 favorites]


This seems like a relatively harmless way to live, and possibly an interesting historical experiment as well. If they enjoy it, I don't see anything wrong with it.


That being said, it has been over 30 degrees and 80% humidity here for the past five days, and if I had to wear that much linen and wool (not to mention whalebone) in this heat, I would probably overdose myself on laudanum.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2015 [48 favorites]


Heavens, no; that's what we in Victorian times call "wood cum"

wood cum, you say?
posted by majuju at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oh, I'm going to enjoy this...

*popcorn*
posted by humboldt32 at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I notice they don't mention the smell.
posted by griphus at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


To each their own I guess, but this one I can't figure out:

When we started using period illumination every day, we were amazed by how much brighter the light is from antique oil lamps than from modern reproductions.

So are modern reproduction oil lamps just badly made, or is there some old-timey secret to burning oil for light that has been lost to modern craftsmen?
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:31 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Those were the most exhausting opening 9 paragraphs I have ever read.
posted by Theta States at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2015 [27 favorites]


It seems like every day more outlets are following the NYT Style section model of innocently providing eccentrics with little self-awareness and too much money the opportunity to be snickered at by the masses.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2015 [47 favorites]


I heard Gwyneth Paltrow tried to live a Victorian lifestyle for a whole month and then died of consumption.
posted by elr at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


I wrote a SF short story about this, or rather when living in the Victorian Era isn't by choice OOC
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Also, no one in the Victorian era wore a corset "24/7". People took their stays off to sleep, and many women who were able to do so, would spend a day or two "indisposed" every once in a while, so they wouldn't have to dress.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [39 favorites]


An interesting presentation of folie à deux.

To quote Chuck Berry, "It's a free country. Live how you want to live, baby." The increased risk of a house fire seems like a thing worth bending one's commitment to anachronism a bit for, however.
posted by Diablevert at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh well, here's a link to Sarah's website.

does she write out the articles in longhand and mail them somewhere? or does she dictate them to a scrivener who then posts it online for her? how does she pay her web hosting fees? who is their shabbos goy of future technology and how is this person paid.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [117 favorites]


(With our current income inequality, aren't we all living in the Victorian age? Gilded Age 2.0 is kind of the entire Republican platform since the 80s)
posted by The Whelk at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [35 favorites]


Please tell me that the steampunk trend has saturated pop culture enough for us to be ready for a big budget The Diamond Age mini-series by now
posted by Apocryphon at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2015 [39 favorites]


Eh, it's a subcultural lifestyle, no different from being really into ICP or body modification or your Harley, until you get into the implicit politics.
posted by thetortoise at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


Also the history nerd in me is angry cause they're not actually recreating but living some 21st century fantasy. I mean I tend to dress like it's always 1939 but I also like iPads and being married to a guy and not having polio.
posted by The Whelk at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2015 [117 favorites]


At least there were no direct comparisons to being trans this time...
posted by kmz at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Fark discovered these folks a few years ago... the comments are brilliant...

And, for someone living as a victorian, this person has a bigger online presence than most Hollywood stars...
posted by HuronBob at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Do they live a life of idle wealth, though? Assumes facts not in evidence.

Although even if they are trust fund babies, wouldn't you much rather that they spend their trust fund doing something that amuses the masses in town and on these our interwebs? They could be doing so, so many more obnoxious things, ranging from the actively politically poisonous to the merely toxic and snobbish.

I am not sure that you learn quite as much about Victorian subjectivity from this type of experiment as is popularly believed, but I think that stuff like the "skirt radar" business is of real interest.
posted by Frowner at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2015 [23 favorites]


...or does she dictate them to a scrivener who then posts it online for her?

JOBS OF THE FUTURE
Webscribe for the Wealthy Weird
posted by griphus at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


wait

does she vote
posted by mightygodking at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2015 [163 favorites]


I was hoping the final photo would be a 1920s industrial-aged villain in a bowler hat, shoving them from behind.
posted by Theta States at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


I hope they're at least charging twopence a bag for all that troll feed they're providing.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


does she give the money she earns from her books right to her husband? when you fill out the contact form on the website does it go to some rube goldberg machine that operates a bellpull in the workshop of a nearby typesetter who then brings them the printed message?

when they go for evening velocipede rides are they followed by linkboys
posted by poffin boffin at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2015 [35 favorites]


I worked with a gent who was bringing back his apartment (in a building from the early 1900s) as close to its original timeframe as possible. This meant no air conditioning in Washington DC, and out of everything he did, that was what boggled me the most. He didn't dress the part, though.

I think it's fun and harmless. And Victorians mass-produced a lot of stuff, if you're even a little handy you can pick up lots of the things you'd need in flea markets and antique malls.
posted by PussKillian at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do they live a life of idle wealth, though?

I don't know, but the money has to come from somewhere, and I find it hard to believe that it's all funded by books about corsets.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2015


quick word searches for "servant" and "maid" reveal 0 in both cases.
posted by philip-random at 9:40 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


who is their shabbos goy of future technology and how is this person paid.

Our "man of the moderns" is a delightful young Irish-man named Patrick! I speak my piece, and Patrick types it carefully onto his people's electronic-newspaper, appropriately called a "Mac." But I mustn't speak too long, lest he become consumed with The Potato-Fury, the time in any Irish-man's day when he simply MUST eat a potato, or else have to fight another Hibernian, like in the Spock episode okay i'm tired of doing this horrifying colonialist conceit honestly can we just talk about pon farr that's what i would prefer
posted by Greg Nog at 9:40 AM on September 9, 2015 [110 favorites]


do either of them have consumption? do they heat their home with coal? do they have their dental work done at the barber?
posted by poffin boffin at 9:41 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


As I read her account, I could only imagine her speaking in a high, quavery voice.

Also, wow, they must be rich. Tailored clothing? Antique everything? I mean, yay for them. I just had to fight hard not to consider it less of an academic exercise and more of a life in the tweehouse of privilege.
posted by the sobsister at 9:41 AM on September 9, 2015 [26 favorites]


is there some old-timey secret to burning oil for light that has been lost to modern craftsmen?

I imagine they're burning whale oil. Probably hunted their own whales.

NYT Style section model of innocently providing eccentrics with little self-awareness and too much money the opportunity to be snickered at by the masses.

Eh. It's a profit model.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:41 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's weird that I don't find this obnoxious. I don't even, as a trans person, find the trans comparison particularly bad - she's not saying that society should aid her in "transitioning" or that she should be a protected class or anything, she's just using a metaphor in a rather lightweight way. I think it's a silly idea and twee phrasing, but it's just...not that bad?

I wouldn't want to wear all those clothes, though. That's what I'd like to know - just how hot does it get in the summer in all that clobber?

Also, again, I think that the visibly eccentric ornament a town and should basically be encouraged.
posted by Frowner at 9:41 AM on September 9, 2015 [39 favorites]


I think this is awesomely eccentric. And she's totally correct about how actually using old tools and gadgets and trying to actually recreated a way of living teaches and provides insights into why and how people thought way back when. Things that you wouldn't necessary pick up just by looking or reading about it.

I love the idea of victorian clothes and really enjoyed the time I did get to wear some but man, I could not do the corset thing authentically. I like modern corsets okay but holy hell an actual corseted Victorian style get-up would be brutal to have to live all the time in. I made it for an hour and it was all get me out of this FEMALE JAIL made of clothing. I learned enough in that hour, got all ragey and supremely grateful that I live now where I could chose to wear one only if I felt like it.
posted by Jalliah at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


Luke Burbank of TBTL interviewed her a while back, when he was living in Port Townsend. It's a fascinating conversation.

It's easy to mock her and her husband, but I can't help but admire their commitment to living in this very deliberate manner. And I guess you could nitpick how far they go with it -- do they use antibiotics? do they use a chamber pot? -- but I agree with ~PussKillian, it's fun and harmless; no need to freak out about it.

The comparison of her lifestyle to being trans in that xojane article was a bad move though
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Hysterical!

No, hysteria doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t seem like you need to import Victorian-era social values to do this kind of hardcore cosplay in the present day, even if it’s debatable whether or not Victorian society could have existed without those social values that kept everyone so dang uptight in public all the time. Still, it was a joke that had to be made.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]



...or does she dictate them to a scrivener who then posts it online for her?

JOBS OF THE FUTURE
Webscribe for the Wealthy Weird


Wait isn't this literally the Greenleaf commune that supplies the Neo-Victorians in The Diamond Age
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is just cosplay, and as such it's not my thing but they're not hurting anybody, so have at it, kids.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:45 AM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


i'm so upset that the entirety of their wholly unsatisfactory FAQ is dedicated to stupid corset questions.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:45 AM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


wait

does she vote


wait

does she tampon?
posted by NorthernLite at 9:45 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


I do get the snickering reactions in this thread, but at the same time, I look at these people who are a) not doing anyone any harm (get back to me on this if one of their oil lamps accidentally burns down their neighbourhood) and b) passionately enjoying something they're interested in and managing to make both a life and a living out of it and think "good for them". As an aesthetic choice, for me, it's got mid-century modern beat all to hell.

Everyone's gotta have a hobby.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2015 [33 favorites]


This is just cosplay

It's worse than that.

It's LARPing.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2015 [36 favorites]


So presumably Victorian medicine, dentistry and birth control (the details of which would give you the vapours)

Any servants? An urchin boy to sweep their chimney? (Who'll die of an early age from cancer with already crippled back)

She spending a solid two days a week doing the washing like they did on The 1900 House?

Have fun, cosplay, living history, whatever... but don't claim to be living in an era
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


when they have kids are they going to send them off to work in a factory at age 5? do they believe in evolution? oh god are they going to vaccinate their kids?
posted by poffin boffin at 9:47 AM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


oh god are they going to vaccinate their kids?

Louis Pasteur had invented modern vaccination by then so there's no reason they can't.

Antibiotics, on the other hand...
posted by mightygodking at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]




I found her article about how she gets treated in public really interesting, if slightly overwrought.

"Slightly" might be an understatement. No excuse for the groping -- no different to gross morons who will walk up and touch a black woman's natural hair because they "want to know how it feels" -- or the farmer's response, but when you go out making a museum-piece spectacle of yourself, you're going to attract bizarre behavior. She needs to write about it; people need to be reminded, generally, that "others," however they appear, are people too, but five thousand words of fainting-couch prose is a bit much.

Also yeah, not hurting anybody, except maybe with the stank, so rock on with your weird selves.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:50 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


...oh god are they going to vaccinate their kids?

With Dr. Reverend Hogarty Washbasin's Patent Vaccin-o-tonic And Cerebral Energizer

(Contents: ethanol, cocaine, mystic herbs from the Orient, colloidal silver, radium.)
posted by griphus at 9:50 AM on September 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


I wanted to appreciate what seem like good, interesting points about the awareness of consuming resources, but they make it extremely difficult for me. Like, I would love, I would prefer to sit here believing they're harmless and everybody is gonna do their own thing and let's take what seems useful from the article rather than pick holes in what they're doing but then I get to the end where she's like PEOPLE ARE MEAN TO US and I'm tipped off the raft of trying not to be annoyed into Lake Insufferable and I'm drowning.
posted by automatic cabinet at 9:50 AM on September 9, 2015 [27 favorites]


Does someone deliver their ice block?
posted by Theta States at 9:51 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


My problem with this is the idea that people don't follow their dreams because they're too weak to stand up to bullies and live how they want and not because they don't have the money to make ridiculous choices.

Live how you want to live, that's cool, but don't act like people who live your expensive lifestyle are morally superior.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:52 AM on September 9, 2015 [75 favorites]


It's easy for me to poke fun, but if I have to be honest: between not watching television, not using electric lights, and getting dressed in funny costumes, these people aren't really too far off from my own cats.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:53 AM on September 9, 2015 [107 favorites]


On the one hand, that piece about how awfully, awfully she's treated by other people seems overwritten to me, and she does the whole "if I were wearing a hijab, you wouldn't think it was okay if people grabbed me" bit, where actually of course if you are wearing hijab, lots of people think it's okay to grab at you and worse.

Her husband works at a bike shop, appropriately enough. It would be quite possible to have a financial scenario of an inheritance to buy the house, bike shop money, writing money and blogular donations - I'm not sure that this kind of life necessarily proves that they have that much more money than any other childless middle class eccentrics.

But really, all these people want to do is wear odd clothes and ride odd bikes, and it is illustrative of something Not Very Nice that they get so much physical and verbal hostility. (I mean, they're not even saying "if you were a better person, you too could live the kind of life I do" as so many of the rich and privileged tend to.) If they were - assuming that they have family money - the discreet kind of family-money-havers, they would come in for a lot less criticism. There are people on these very internets who are trust fund babies leading artsy lives and who get lots of props for their creativity/fashion/etc. I know a couple of people who are discreet trustfunders (with, admittedly, small trust funds), and no one says boo.
posted by Frowner at 9:53 AM on September 9, 2015 [33 favorites]


I'm mostly curious what it is about them that turns otherwise mature adults into a pack of sniping junior high dickheads.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:53 AM on September 9, 2015 [47 favorites]


Wow. This is an almost universally negative and snarky thread. Why? It's just a couple of kids playing dress-up. They're not hurting anybody; why the rage?

heightens our awareness of how much we're using, and makes us ask ourselves what we truly need

What's wrong with slowing down and being more aware? What's wrong with fixing rather than replacing?

Sure, they're a little pretentious, but so's pretty much everybody interesting at that age.
posted by goblinbox at 9:54 AM on September 9, 2015 [30 favorites]


You know, for a website that professes to be tolerant and open-minded, all y'all seem to enjoy judging how two people, who are not harming others, choose to live their lives.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:55 AM on September 9, 2015 [42 favorites]


It's not the trust fund so much, nor the charming excentricity, though that wears thin quickly, it's that these two come over as massive knobs.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:55 AM on September 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


I think that stuff like the "skirt radar" business is of real interest.

I thought the skirt acting as "cat whiskers" was interesting, too. It reminded me of a scene in Huck Finn when Huck tries to disguise himself by wearing a dress and pretending to be a girl. The old woman who he's trying to trick tosses something onto his lap, and he closes his legs to keep it from falling out of his lap onto the floor. That alerts the old woman that he must be a boy; she figures that a girl would have opened her legs to keep it in her lap, since a girl would be used to wearing a skirt.

Wow. This is an almost universally negative and snarky thread. Why? It's just a couple of kids playing dress-up. They're not hurting anybody; why the rage?

I find it off-putting that they love and apparently want to pretend they live in an infamously cruel and repressive era of history.
posted by rue72 at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2015 [30 favorites]


I bet the textiles they're wearing are also sourced from South Asian indentured laborers so, yeah... p. accurate all around.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2015


Does someone deliver their ice block?

And how is the ice made?
posted by griphus at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: shabbos goy of future technology
posted by ericbop at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


You know, for a website that professes to be tolerant and open-minded

I neither hate nor judge people based on gender, race, sexuality undsoweiter, but smug assholes are smug assholes even if they're harmless ones.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


Honestly if this article was about a man who wore a dress to work every day no one would be making these same comments.

Sheesh.
posted by GuyZero at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


smug assholes are smug assholes

Ain't that the truth.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:59 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Honestly if this article was about a man who wore a dress to work every day no one would be making these same comments.

Oh, good lord, that is just not even remotely the same thing and you know it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2015 [51 favorites]


Wow. This is an almost universally negative and snarky thread. Why? It's just a couple of kids playing dress-up. They're not hurting anybody; why the rage?

You know, for a website that professes to be tolerant and open-minded, all y'all seem to enjoy judging how two people, who are not harming others, choose to live their lives.


My previous comment was completely serious -- in some ways, I think this is awesome! They are doing something that makes them happy and that's great! Their actions are not hurting anyone so cool! I have no problem with them making this choice with their lives.

I DO have a problem with the idea, presented in the article, that making this kind of very expensive life decision, something that is only accessible to a very, very small number of people, is a morally superior option. It's not just that they have the privilege to do whatever they want, I feel like we are also then told that they are actually BETTER PEOPLE because they have this privilege and are choosing it to something fun and cool and silly and interesting .

The issue isn't the fun, cool, silly, interesting thing they're doing, it's that this is unachievable for the vast majority of people and it kind of sucks to tell everyone that they are weak and cowardly because they aren't doing something that is financially impossible for them.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2015 [34 favorites]


Honestly if this article was about a man who wore a dress to work every day no one would be making these same comments.

The blog entry actually reminded me a lot of when I wear a kilt! The reactions are usually: some touching, a bunch of questions, curious kids, middle-aged women whispering that they would love to see their husband in a kilt, invariably a question about whether my genitals are swaying in the breeze or covered in fabric, and -- occasionally -- someone trying to ascertain that for themselves

the most interesting time that happened was when a woman in a liquor store quietly slid underneath me to look straight up

"don't mind me," she said
posted by Greg Nog at 10:02 AM on September 9, 2015 [94 favorites]


There where two brothers in Brooklyn who did this, I don't know if it ever got online but a friend knew them cause he does a lot of antique restoration and now obsolete skills , they ended up using a lot of the Hasidim infrastructure in Brooklyn for things.
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


The house was built in 1888, so it won't be too long before they'll be obligated to switch to electric lighting and other modern conveniences.

Unless, of course, they're pretending that a particular "period" existed in stasis for a long time. But that would be ridiculous.


Gas lighting lingered into the 1920s in the US, and electrical lighting, sockets, and appliances wen through a long period of development before standardizing and becoming ubiquitous. I worked for a while in a house that was built in the 1880s and occupied by a single family until the 1950s, and other than piecemeal replacements of various fixtures (e.g. a 1920s bathroom sink) and jerry-rigged electric lighting (ceiling and wall fixtures, cords attached the the walls, appliances run off sockets on the fixtures), almost everything appeared as it did when the house was new. Even most of the uncomfortable, nearly indestructible mahogany/horsehair furniture was still in place.

When I worked as a used book buyer, I semi-routinely encountered "time capsule" type houses where very little had changed for decades. The social environment is obviously impossible to hold still, but change happens at very different rates for the physical environment - there are little time machines just out of public view all over the place.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:04 AM on September 9, 2015 [28 favorites]


Live how you want to live, that's cool, but don't act like people who live your expensive lifestyle are morally superior.

The Toast's Mallory Ortberg posed a question down this line on Twitter earlier, and it turns out that (at least on the kerosene front) it's significantly more expensive to use a kerosene lamp as opposed to an efficient LED system, like 30+ times more expensive (strictly on a fuel & wick cost basis) to say nothing of the deleterious effects that it has on the environment and safety.

The Vox article makes a stab at the sort of considerations that we should be making: people absolutely should think more consciously about where their electricity and other resources come from, and we'd benefit as a society if we did, in the same way that we should probably reconsider our approach to a lot of things that are just the 'way it is'. But as Mrs. Pterodactyl is pointing out, they seem slightly blind to the privilege they have to explore this way of living, and how she's positioning herself in the article accordingly.
posted by majuju at 10:04 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


why the rage?

I don't see a lot of rage in this thread, just a lot of eye rolling. I mean, they are blogging about living in the Victorian era, after all.
posted by bondcliff at 10:04 AM on September 9, 2015 [42 favorites]


My Dad always said "It takes all kinds!" when we saw someone weird looking walk by. And I WANT to be like that about couple. But they take it a little past "We like to dress up old-timey" and are so serious about. When someone is that serious about it I feel the desire to start talking about REALLY living like it is 1888.

You know who followed his dreams? That Batman impersonator guy. But he wasn't all weird and whiny about how tough it was and that people pick on him (and I know they did). He was just awesome and used his awesome weirdness for good and ignored the people that didn't get it.
posted by ReluctantViking at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


White people, man.

There's SO many FPP that I wanted to comment on with just that comment, and I haven't, because I didn't wanna be obvious. But in this case, holy hell yes, white people.
posted by numaner at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I, too, was born in the wrong historical period.

I know inside myself that I was actually meant to captain a Terror-class solar frigate in the royal squadron of His Galactic Majesty, Emperor Theofrax the Vertiginous (may His light shine upon the worlds known and unknown, may His justice be swift, and His vengeance be inexorable). I live my day-to-day life accordingly.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2015 [52 favorites]


Oh, good lord, that is just not even remotely the same thing and you know it.

Seriously I do not know it.

I DO have a problem with the idea, presented in the article, that making this kind of very expensive life decision, something that is only accessible to a very, very small number of people, is a morally superior option.

Maybe I missed that part? She seems to go into a lot of detail about all the little details but maybe I glossed over the part where she tells everyone else how bad they are.

The blog entry actually reminded me a lot of when I wear a kilt! The reactions are usually: some touching

WHO ARE THESE TOUCHING PEOPLE? THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WE SHOULD BE CASTIGATING.
posted by GuyZero at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Even before I met Gabriel, we both saw value in older ways of looking at the world. He had been homeschooled as a child

YOU DON'T SAY
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2015 [87 favorites]


I spent little to no time in junior high or any other year of school mocking students for their Victorian lifestyle, personally.

More seriously: it takes money and privilege to Live The Dream, whatever the dream is, and although they are not harming people in the sense that they're not crushing people beneath their period appropriate boot heels which they have donned of their own accord, and then the part at the end where they're complaining about their mistreatment in public puts some unpalatable icing on top of the ridiculous lifestyle cupcake. Embracing Victorian crap is not the same as a guy wearing a skirt -- it has no relevance to, for example, gender identity, the construction of masculinity, the politics of presentation -- and it's disingenuous to make that comparison.

Look, I'd like to like this. I too am interested in this kind of stuff and what daily life would be like -- I mean I should be the perfect audience for a blog all about this -- and I think they're well-meaning nerds doing an interesting thing, but instead, something about this (the tone? the framing? don't know) really rubs me the wrong way.
posted by automatic cabinet at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have stopped doing things like making fun of bad people for shallow things like their appearance because it's the right thing to do (see: Kim Davis)

I have stopped loudly mocking my fellow gay men whom I find annoying in their gayness for fear of seeming like I was mocking the idea of their gayness rather than them as individuals.

But I am drawing the line at mocking the Victorian-living couple out of some sort of anti-bullying stance. It would be one thing if they were just doing it without making some sort of grand judgement about lifestyle choices. But they aren't. And that opens them up to be judged as well. And choosing to live in historical costume without consideration of what that might imply is one of those judgements. This isn't the same thing as living on a recreation of an antebellum South plantation but it's not exactly the opposite either.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


I assume that they do something similar to the SCA folks (of which I was one, although not for very long) where there's a tacit acknowledgement of only recreating the fun parts. I may want to run around in a houppelande and do extensive research on blackwork embroidery but I do not wish to die of a fever brought on by drinking bad water.
posted by PussKillian at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have a visceral reaction to people who speak fondly of the Victorian times. Maybe it is fun times for them, but for someone that belonged to one of the many peoples that fought and were subjugated by the British crown, I can't help but reminded of how shitty times would be back then for me and a lot of the people I know.

Of course, The Diamond Age was a pretty cool book. So, maybe we'll also see some revival of other Imperial traditions from non-whites as well!
posted by FJT at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


Think about how obnoxious and blinkered and privileged 50s nostalgia is. Now apply it to an even more terrible time in history.
posted by kmz at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


The issue isn't the fun, cool, silly, interesting thing they're doing, it's that this is unachievable for the vast majority of people and it kind of sucks to tell everyone that they are weak and cowardly because they aren't doing something that is financially impossible for them.

I mean YOU CAN live like this on a very limited budget but you have to be Amish or Mennonite and that's not really an exciting enough lifestyle to be invited onto the View, is it.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


As to why it's smug: the repeated I, I, I pattern of course, so familiar from first person NYT Style section profiles, the complete lack of awareness that actually, the Victorian era wasn't all that wonderful, as well as any resemblence of thinking about the challenges of even a semi-accurate recreation of daily life that way other than in dropping brand names. Not to mention of course the main sin, the dishonesty in not acknowledging that living this way in this day and age is expensive and can only be done by people with both the money and time spare to indulge in this, especially when so many people are struggling to even get a halfway decent living in the 21st century.

There are plenty of people doing similar stuff without being knobs about it, so it's not that they want to cosplay a Victorian couple; it's the lack of awareness and feelings of superiority that ooze out of that post that set people off.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


also it was never clear if they where brothers or "brothers" to use the Victorian euphemism.
posted by The Whelk at 10:09 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, as a teenager, I went around town all in vintage clothes, so I do get the appeal. And eccentrics are cool. But in real life most of the people I've met like this were reactionaries under the butter-churning surface and given to rants about modesty and how gay people and brown people are destroying the modern world. So I hope they're different, is all I'm saying.
posted by thetortoise at 10:09 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Am I allowed to be nostalgic for the 2000s? (Not that I would.) Or is that problematic because we were a less advanced and tolerant society ten years ago than we are now? Am I allowed to wear a t-shirt I bought 20 years ago or, by wearing it, am I explicitly endorsing discrimination against gay people?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:13 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I DO have a problem with the idea, presented in the article, that making this kind of very expensive life decision, something that is only accessible to a very, very small number of people, is a morally superior option.

Maybe I missed that part? She seems to go into a lot of detail about all the little details but maybe I glossed over the part where she tells everyone else how bad they are.

From the article:
This is why more people don't follow their dreams: They know the world is a cruel place for anyone who doesn't fit into the dominant culture. Most people fear the bullies so much that they knuckle under simply to be left alone. In the process, they crush their own dreams.
Read this however you want but I am definitely reading it as "people are failing to live out their dreams, something morally inferior, because they are giving in to bullies, a sign of weakness" and not "people's dreams of doing zany shit are crushed largely by lacking the economic ability to commit to whatever crazy nonsense comes into their heads".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:13 AM on September 9, 2015 [34 favorites]


So having re-read the article I'm still not seeing where Chrisman says she's better than anyone else.
posted by GuyZero at 10:13 AM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't see any evidence that they're secretly horrible reactionaries but agree that there's something in the tone that reminds me of the Ladies Against Feminism forums and "Lady Lydia," of "I have infinite leisure time and wealth that allows me to play Victorian pioneer supergirl, but without the tuberculosis".
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Am I allowed to be nostalgic for the 2000s?

You're actually not even allowed to enjoy now.
posted by griphus at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2015 [71 favorites]


Maybe it is fun times for them, but for someone that belonged to one of the many peoples that fought and were subjugated by the British crown, I can't help but reminded of how shitty times would be back then for me and a lot of the people I know.

I agree with this completely, but I'm also struck by how by handmaking things like clothes and using antiques rather than modern made items they're actually less involved in the modern equivalent of people being subjugated by the British than I am.

I mean sure they seem smug and people telling me to "follow my dreams" mostly make me dream of punching them in the nose, but that struck me as something to consider.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:16 AM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Wait, does Gabriel refuse to service any bicycle with a derailleur shifter or a quick-release?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:16 AM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Okay, so sometimes I dream about a simpler life, without modern technology: A life that is quieter, slower, with fewer distractions. A life where I would write in notebooks instead of on my computer. And I can understand how people who are interested in a particular time period would enjoy living it, to a certain degree.

But what disturbs me about this is how they ignore the elephant in the room. They mention their attraction to Victorian "ideals" more than once, but those ideals were frequently terrible: deeply racist, sexist, and classist--the source of a lot of suffering for those considered inferior.

When you post an article romanticizing past ideals without addressing just how terrible some of those ideals were, it does raise questions. Are you so drawn to Victorian "ideals" because you romanticize white, male, moneyed, and Christian superiority as well? Or are you simply so steeped in a rose-tinted, privileged mindset that you don't think this part of the history is relevant to you?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:17 AM on September 9, 2015 [40 favorites]


You know, if you think about it, we live in an infamously cruel and repressive era right the hell now. Are Mefites of the future (or whatever passes for one) going to give grief to someone, say, a hundred years from now, for liking iPads, or wearing skinny jeans? I'm 100% sure they will, and they'll justify it with all sorts of name-calling and huffy political posturing and holier-than-thou-ing.

Really, it's sort of a comfort, to know that some things will never change.
posted by KHAAAN! at 10:18 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is cosplay to a silly extreme, but in a way I can admire their dedication to keeping the least harmless parts of the victorian era intact. It does provide some level of insight to how our modern world operates.

But holy hell her writing voice. Is that how ladies spoke back then?.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:19 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Read this however you want but I am definitely reading it as "people failing to live out their dreams, something is morally inferior, because they are giving in to bullies, a sign of weakness" and not "people's dreams of doing zany shit are crushed largely by lacking the economic ability to commit to whatever crazy nonsense comes into their heads".

To me this read as the trite suggestion to LIVE YOUR DREAMS just with more florid wording.

And reading more of the - I don't know how to characterize them - complaints? objections? Anyway, it seems like people are somehow mad that clearly she spends money on living this way and there are poor people out there. THis is the argument of greater privation isn't it? Or I should say the logical fallacy of greater privation. Is spending money on anything bad because there are poor people in the world? Exactly what is the point of this comment?
posted by GuyZero at 10:19 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yikes, this is a tough crowd.


If I could live in Port Townsend and spend my days dressed and acting in a 'Victorian' manner I would totally do it. When I lived in Port Townsend I lived in some lady's garage. (true story)
posted by gyusan at 10:20 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


When I lived in Port Townsend I lived in some lady's garage. (true story)

That's actually a fairly authentic way to live a Victorian lifestyle, just not the same social class as the one you might prefer.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:22 AM on September 9, 2015 [43 favorites]


I Love The Pre-Atreides Era of Arrakis. So I Became A Museum Fremen.
posted by griphus at 10:22 AM on September 9, 2015 [34 favorites]


Seriously I do not know it.

Then let me educate you: a man wearing a specific article of clothing that men in his time and place do not typically wear would not be living his life as an attempted recreation of any past time period (toga, maybe; dress, no), nor would it necessarily entail any privilege on his part to do so, other than perhaps white privilege to not get beat up for doing weird things. These people aren't just wearing different clothes. You are being purposefully obtuse.

I assume that they do something similar to the SCA folks (of which I was one, although not for very long) where there's a tacit acknowledgement of only recreating the fun parts.

In my experience, SCA folks are just NOWHERE NEAR so self-serious as these people. I mean, sure, you can find self-serious people everywhere, but there is no huge group of Victorian Livin' Reenactors to judge these people against.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:22 AM on September 9, 2015


Life is hell, and people who reject the shared experiences of the culture they're ostensibly a part of to live in some personal fantasy bubble rankle those of us whose dreams mostly consist of making sure we can cover our bills every month. Not much more to it than that, I think. If the personal fantasy bubble happens to draw from a time and place that was shaped by systemic racism, imperialism etc well that's just icing innit?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I joke but I do spend a lot of time relaxing with 1940s radio dramas after hanging up the vintage blazer that's a direct match for the one worn in L.A Confidential wondering if I could find away to make them play through the bakerlite radio I got so there but the grace of god go I
posted by The Whelk at 10:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm about 95% sure I've seen repros of Bakelite radios with either Bluetooth or an aux port.
posted by griphus at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


You know, if you think about it, we live in an infamously cruel and repressive era right the hell now. Are Mefites of the future (or whatever passes for one) going to give grief to someone, say, a hundred years from now, for liking iPads, or wearing skinny jeans?

But this isn't just a nostalgic love of the artifacts of the past, which is driven partially by fashion and aesthetics.

As someone above mentioned above, they admired "Victorian ideals" and behavior. Which weren't exactly the most enlightened back then.

And you're assuming that people 100 years from now are going to be more advanced than us. That's still kind of a leap. If 100 years from now, some Neo-Imperial revanchism arises, I would hope that some would look to the parts of a more enlightened past and take inspiration from it.
posted by FJT at 10:28 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


there is no huge group of Victorian Livin' Reenactors to judge these people against.

A good friend of mine came from a family that used to do Civil War Re-enactments when he was a kid! And apparently, there was a big philosophical divide among re-enactors who would stubbornly use ONLY stuff that was appropriate to the era (including even language, among some of them), and those who would use modern items and just saw the whole thing as a fun camping-retreat kind of thing.

The former referred to the latter as "farbs", if I recall correctly; the latter, of course, thought the former were uptight fucking weirdos

it was always kind of unclear to me whether or not that divide mapped onto blitheness about warring over slavery; when my friend was pressed, he would just kind of shake his head and be like "I dunno, I was just a kid, and my dad was from Virginia, he seemed to like it as a family thing"

but also he was pretty estranged from his dad by the time i met him so i never really pushed the issue lest he get really sad
posted by Greg Nog at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


The Whelk, I was going to suggest that you get an AM radio transmitter for your iPod (if that's what you listen to your radio dramas on), but upon research, they are apparently much more difficult to find than FM ones.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2015


That's actually a fairly authentic way to live a Victorian lifestyle, just not the same social class as the one you might prefer.

I first lived in a (different) lady's attic, then the forementioned garage, and finally, I spent a few months in my car. Perhaps I was closer than I thought.
posted by gyusan at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]



I'm about 95% sure I've seen repros of Bakelite radios with either Bluetooth or an aux port.


don't enable me you know how I am.
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I do some victorian cosplay during our historic neighborhood's Christmas house tour weekend but I can't wait to take off all that damn wool at the end of the day. Even in December that stuff is brutal. I can't imagine wearing all that every day.

On the other hand, I totally want that trike thing that she's riding.
posted by octothorpe at 10:31 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


listening to the wireless in your steve rogers uniform
posted by poffin boffin at 10:32 AM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


Even in December that stuff is brutal.


Although, in an actual Victorian house, you would not have had central heating, which might have made the wool a bit more practical in December.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:32 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm about 95% sure I've seen repros of Bakelite radios with either Bluetooth or an aux port.

I will admit a certain fondness for this, and for this.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


griphus: "You're actually not even allowed to enjoy now.
"

This reminds me, Apple's having a keynote for its new garbage today. I'll go not enjoy that and livescream about it.
posted by boo_radley at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


As someone above mentioned above, they admired "Victorian ideals" and behavior. Which weren't exactly the most enlightened back then.

In England during the Victorian era they introduced laws that allowed women to inherit property for the first time and allowed divorce without an act of parliament, over the objections of the Church of England. Literally 5 minutes of wikipedia research right there.

All of history is shit - I honestly wouldn't want to live in the 1970s. But it's not like there wasn't some handful of bright spots along the way. Progress didn't happen all at once in 1985 or something.
posted by GuyZero at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


It's never fun to play the "what would happen if I traveled back in time?" game and realize you would have been fucked.

Given my working-class background, I'd be doing pretty damn well for myself in the Victorian era if I was their house maid. Yeah, it's pretend but for some people it hits a sore sport. Downton Abbey is pretend but I still haven't been able to watch it since they beat Branson's political ideals down to make him a nice, respectable member of the family.
posted by bgal81 at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


listening to the wireless in your steve rogers uniform

why would he wear the uniform at home surely it would be a button down with some twill slacks and a house shoe

*eye twitches* I'm not the weirdo they're the weirdos. *twitch*
posted by The Whelk at 10:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yes, these folks do seem to have a rosy view of the past, but I don't think their lifestyle warrants the ugly opprobrium in this thread. It seems to be an evolving experiment, and I think it's presumptuous to think that we can read their minds and just KNOW that they're classist pricks looking to revise history.

They're learning as they go, it seems. What I'm hearing from this thread is that it's not okay to do something if you don't do it perfectly, and that your entire project is moot if it's lacking in certain areas. And that's a great way to stifle projects that have merit.
posted by delight at 10:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


I honestly wouldn't want to live in the 1970s.

You know it was like ten years of cocaine-fueled orgies, right?
posted by bondcliff at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


It's never fun to play the "what would happen if I traveled back in time?" game and realize you would have been fucked.

Do I detect a note of jealousy from someone who did NOT think to buy a copy of Gray's Sports Almanac for just such an occasion?
posted by Greg Nog at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2015 [31 favorites]


These contradictions that occurred to us after considering their way of life for five minutes have probably also occurred to the couple who live this way 24/7/365, and they might have some pretty interesting things to share on that subject if we asked them nicely instead of making fun of them.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


Have you seen refrigerators from the 70's? Staring into that humid, poorly lit, slightly cool pit of despair every day would only be bearable if you had no concept that the world could ever be better.
posted by GuyZero at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


As someone above mentioned above, they admired "Victorian ideals" and behavior. Which weren't exactly the most enlightened back then.

We all do this. Read a Wikipedia article about Howard Zinn sometime.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:38 AM on September 9, 2015


I'm just mad that they don't answer any useful questions about their twee lifestyle, literally their entire FAQ is devoted to questions about their underwear, the least interesting aspect of their lives. Entire forums exist with thousands upon thousands of members where you can ask questions about corset wearing. Meanwhile I want to know if this specific individual couple uses regular store bought toilet paper or old newspapers to wipe their butts.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:39 AM on September 9, 2015 [52 favorites]


Hell, I wasn't the most enlightened yesterday, yet I'm not going to hate on myself for not hating myself.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:39 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know, for a website that professes to be tolerant and open-minded

Where did you ever get that idea?
posted by blucevalo at 10:41 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


pretty sure if I traveled back to a time when I couldn't use a small electronic device in my pocket to read a comprehensive synopsis of any given episode of Everybody Loves Raymond I'd just lay down in the nearest ditch and die
posted by griphus at 10:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [40 favorites]


why would he wear the uniform at home surely it would be a button down with some twill slacks and a house shoe

Surely also a cardigan?
posted by Frowner at 10:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The 70's were a time of optimism! Solar energy, legal dope, and space colonies seemed just around the corner. It helped if you mainly read "OMNI" and "High Times", of course.
posted by thelonius at 10:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I honestly wouldn't want to live in the 1970s.

You know it was like ten years of cocaine-fueled orgies, right?


It was!! I still can't believe I got my homework done most days.
posted by JanetLand at 10:43 AM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]



Surely also a cardigan?


omg i have so many
posted by The Whelk at 10:43 AM on September 9, 2015


I started reading with hopes of a few details how they indulged in some Victorian kinks what with all that repression and heavy clothing. I left with the feeling it's pretty much "close your eyes and think of England."

I'm all for letting your freak flag fly but yeah, the sanctimonious smugness subtext just raises my hackles. The number of "yeah but how do they..." rack up like a pinball score when you read this piece. I'm writing from my man cave and I've got old Lord of the Rings stuff around, 70s music playing, a stick of nag champa burning but like the Whelk, you'll pry my iPad from my cold dead fingers.
posted by Ber at 10:44 AM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Victorians being repressed is our fault- that is, we hold an inaccurate misconception of them, when they were actually much more sex-positive than we give them credit for.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:46 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The 70's were a time of optimism!

Yes, truly! The last outbreak of the sweating sickness in England! things were looking up! even though elizabeth I got excommunicated it was still the early years of a new and thrilling era of learning and reason and art and beauty. ok yes and wide scale genocide, let's face it.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


I like the idea that people are both simultaneously bitching about how they're inauthentic (hurf durf ice, hurf durf tuberculosis) and striving for some imagined socio-political authenticity. Their unit of interest is the household; that probably (probably) exculpates them from some of the worst parts of Victorian English politics.
posted by boo_radley at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


you'll pry my iPad from my cold dead fingers

Wait until you see the new one: It's bigger, heavier, and has a stylus pencil!
posted by entropicamericana at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think I believe that what this person claims is true.
posted by cmoj at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


The part of the article that struck me the most was when she talked about how the Victorian era was actually very optimistic about the future and was a time of innovation, and how she's also trying to latch onto that optimism -- but by burying herself in the past and by constructing a static historical bubble to live within. That made me wonder whether she wasn't missing the forest for the trees when trying to understand the Victorian zeitgeist.
posted by rue72 at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


I joke but I do spend a lot of time relaxing with 1940s radio dramas after hanging up the vintage blazer that's a direct match for the one worn in L.A Confidential wondering if I could find away to make them play through the bakerlite radio I got so there but the grace of god go I

I am guilty of having an overly (and let's face it, weird) nostalgia for British time periods I'd love to live and replicate to some degree, but stop myself when I realize what a horror show it was for anyone not white.
posted by Kitteh at 10:49 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I started reading this post on the author's website and got distracted with imagining rich white people reenacting internment camps aaaaarrgh. Again, weirdness is cool, history is cool, but there's just something in the subtext.
posted by thetortoise at 10:49 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I surmise that these people probably don't have a clear fix on "Victorian values", since most people don't. (There were a whole heck of a lot of different values during that long period - Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Harriet Tubman, Magnus Hirschfeld, Oscar Wilde, Lucy Parsons and Karl Marx were all, chronologically speaking, Victorians. Hell, John Brown was a Victorian.)

Obviously, they aren't cosplaying Oscar Wilde.

I think it's a bit tricky to say that the Victorian era was especially, notoriously brutal - you've pretty much got all of modernity (even if we're just talking about the West) as competition. I might be inclined to go with about 1750 through the early 1800s, myself. But even in Europe, the Victorian era also included the revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune.
posted by Frowner at 10:49 AM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


The author just comes off as so smug and pretentious, constantly going on about how she does this or that, and it's all so much better than anything anyone else is doing..... not everything made in the Victorian era was the epitome of manufacturing perfection any more than everything manufactured now is, in her word, 'trash'.

Her extra-bright oil heaters and lamps are massive fire hazards, as is the way she uses her long skirts as 'cats' whiskers' --- one of the leading causes of women's deaths used to be fire: those skirts would brush against a table and knock off a candle, or one of those oil lamps & heaters would spill on her skirt, and whoosh! Another person burned to death.

Those corsets crushed women's internal organs; Victorian women didn't faint a lot because they were delicate flowers, they fainted because oh yeah: squished lungs.

If one of them gets sick, what happens? Do they demand their medical care conform to Victorian standards? Picture what happens of one of them has a bad appendix --- do they insist on unsterilized scalpels and no anesthetic but maybe ether? Gangrene is fun and historical!

And how about running water? Fine, she takes sponge baths or maybe luxuriates in her tin tub set on the kitchen floor, but do they get their water from a hand pump or a well? How about the toilet: big old pots under their bed and an outhouse in the back yard (bet that'd be popular with the neighbors.....) or do they cheat with modern plumbing?
posted by easily confused at 10:51 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


easily confused: "If one of them gets sick, what happens? Do they demand their medical care conform to Victorian standards? Picture what happens of one of them has a bad appendix --- do they insist on unsterilized scalpels and no anesthetic but maybe ether? Gangrene is fun and historical!"

UGH. If you're going to contribute to the smarmy criticism workshop, please be familiar with the existing comments, THANK YOU!
posted by boo_radley at 10:53 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


honestly my historical reenactment needs are all pretty well met via assassin's creed
posted by poffin boffin at 10:53 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Frowner: "Obviously, they aren't cosplaying Oscar Wilde."

Not even Oscar Wilde could cosplay Oscar Wilde, dear.

(huffs ether)
posted by boo_radley at 10:54 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


but i could definitely get down with cosplaying the dictatorship of the proletariat
posted by poffin boffin at 10:54 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I started reading this post on the author's website and got distracted with imagining rich white people reenacting internment camps aaaaarrgh. Again, weirdness is cool, history is cool, but there's just something in the subtext.

Must she say "presidents and prostitutes" so very constantly in that post?

Moreover must she gloss over the incredible, jaw-dropping injustice that was Japanese-American Internment in order to make her super-weird point about what is and is not preservable and what role private museums may have in preservation? I mean really, would it kill her to spare one sentence for it?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:54 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


yeah I mean "Victorian" also includes gay socialist aristocrats and radical anarchists.
posted by The Whelk at 10:54 AM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


But it's not like there wasn't some handful of bright spots along the way. Progress didn't happen all at once in 1985 or something.

Of course, but having to say the past was not total shit is kind of a given. We live in the present. We have the opportunity to take the elements of the past that we want (fashion or food or certain ideas) and discard the rest. We're not obligated to have to defend a whole era!
posted by FJT at 10:56 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like, if we're just talking about England (which most people tend to in this conversation) the Victorian era was a time of tremendous contention over values, and a time during which a set of mainstream ideas about change, progress and time were developed and promulgated. There was just so much going on.

I think you could say, plausibly, that the Victorian era was a time of optimism - for me, optimism about the possibility of socialism in particular.
posted by Frowner at 10:56 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


This review thread for one of their books on Amazon is a trip.
posted by kmz at 10:56 AM on September 9, 2015


I think people here are hating on them mostly because of an emotional reaction. Their lifestyle manages to combine enthusiasm for aspects of the Victorian Era, with Anglo white supremacy triumphant over the world (as opposed to American white supremacy, amirite); an enthusiasm for artisanal vintage bespoke that bespeaks to the modern hatred for the hipster; and class jealousy because who else but wealthy white folk can maintain this. But at the end of the day, that is purely emotional. While certainly Victoriana fetishism and steampunk have issues that are Problematic, I think most of the complaints against them are more about what this couple represents, than who they actually are and what they do.

So, maybe we'll also see some revival of other Imperial traditions from non-whites as well!

And that's why I can't hate on them too much. White people be doing this gives me hope that POC will follow as well, can't wait until Hanfu hits critical mass and then people can go strolling in the park decked out in silk robes while getting in trouble for carrying a sword in public and also raising qualms about the anti-Manchu themes and Han nationalism inherent to that movement. And the patriarchal nature of Confucianism.

People forget that much of the action in The Diamond Age took place in the Celestial Kingdom and not only in the Neo-Victorian clade, after all.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:57 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


poffin boffin: "honestly my historical reenactment needs are all pretty well met via assassin's creed"

Have you tried Shadow of Mordor? It's not historical, but it's the best Orcish Political Simulator and Throat Stabbing emulator I've ever played.
posted by boo_radley at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Came in to drop The 1900 House as well -- one of these two statements can not be true:
"Everything in our daily life is connected to our period of study, from the technologies we use to the ways we interact with the world.
and
"since reading is our favorite pastime, they fill a large percentage of our days."

Keeping the stove lit alone should take a good chunk of the day, laundry took more than a day, preparing food without any processing - even without an antique egg beater - is also one of the reasons the Victorian middle class still required servants.

I am trying to understand why this article makes me so angry, and I really think it comes down to feeling simultaneously lied to and smugly patronized. A person is not better because he/she makes ridiculous choices. The Amish have been doing a good chunk of what she describes for over a century, without a website or an attitude.
posted by Mchelly at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2015 [54 favorites]


This is all *about* getting attention (and $) for what they are doing, which is why I find it annoying. And yes, they aren't really living the way they claim, with the hints for so much time for reading and cycling. There would be a lot more hard housework to be done, at the very least.
posted by agregoli at 10:59 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wait until you see the new one: It's bigger, heavier, and has a stylus pencil!

You know what, companies are now charging $100 for a goddamn stylus, I think I'm ready to go back in time too.
posted by kmz at 11:02 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like the 1950s, the Victorian era gets a lot of shit because an especially revolutionary era came immediately after it. But was the Victorian era any worse for people of color or women than, say, the Regency period or the Enlightenment? (And -- setting aside the social upheaval that accompanied WWII -- were the 50s any worse than the late 40s or the 30s?) It was pretty damn oppressive, but just because it's become a byword for oppression doesn't mean that it was especially evil in comparison with the rest of the past. It doesn't make much sense to especially disapprove of Victorian nostalgia.

Also, the reflexive shitting on the past in this thread is probably exactly what they're trying to dispel. Yes, a lot of things are objectively better now: legal equality for people of color and women, antibiotics, effective birth control. And it sounds like they don't reject any of those things. That isn't hypocrisy, it's sanity.

But people in the past weren't idiots. A lot of the common-sensey-sounding problems people bring up did have (at least partial) solutions, back before the problem was obviated. Houses built before air conditioning were designed to stay cool in the summer through cross-breezes, retaining the cool of the night, etc, and depending on how well it was done it can be shockingly effective. Very few women laced their corsets tightly enough to reshape their bodies. And the skirts-on-fire thing is largely a myth -- it happened, but the fabrics used back then didn't go up in a giant fwoosh the way synthetics do.

And the smaller, day-to-day Victorian things that they actually do? Plenty of those things only changed because of changing fashions, globalization making things cheaper, or advertising. If washing your hair with Castile soap gets it clean, there's no advantage, either practical or moral, to using bottled shampoo with synthetic surfactants instead.

And a person who takes a sponge bath out of a bowl every morning and a tub bath once a week is not going to stink. Jeez.
posted by ostro at 11:03 AM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


Moreover must she gloss over the incredible, jaw-dropping injustice that was Japanese-American Internment in order to make her super-weird point about what is and is not preservable and what role private museums may have in preservation? I mean really, would it kill her to spare one sentence for it?

/me imagines a victorian era response...

"Must a proper victorian lady be forced to suffer the indignity of wanting for a vaaaze that she is told she cannot have because of a misfortune that befell the japanese? We of the British Empire, being of the enlightened society, should best be trusted to care for all these antiquities passing through the houses on Auction Row."

(Am I doing the victorian era attitude right?)
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:05 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


How about the toilet: big old pots under their bed and an outhouse in the back yard (bet that'd be popular with the neighbors.....) or do they cheat with modern plumbing?

Yeah, I don't see anyone volunteering to be a gong farmer. Where's the night soil ending up?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:06 AM on September 9, 2015


In England during the Victorian era they introduced laws that allowed women to inherit property for the first time and allowed divorce without an act of parliament, over the objections of the Church of England. Literally 5 minutes of wikipedia research right there.

I don't think anyone here thinks that the Victorian era was universally bad, so you're addressing a strawman.

It would be one thing if they said, "We admire the progressive ideals of the era and the spirit of widespread social change, and take these as inspiration in how we live our daily lives. Many widespread ideals in the Victorian era, even those held by progressives, are abhorrent to us, but we take the good, and leave the bad."

What they actually say is "We like Victorian ideals."

At best, it is a form of privileged blindness to be able to say that, and to pay absolutely no attention to just how terrible the Victorian world actually was to non-white, non-male, non-European, non-Christian person, due to those same Victorian ideals. How do they feel about the Scramble for Africa, for example? Do they feel positively toward it, or do they just not think about it at all?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:07 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Our heat comes from 19th-century gas heaters and from an antique kerosene space heater.

On a more serious note, I'd hope they'd make an exception and have a couple modern-day carbon monoxide detectors in the house.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:09 AM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


It's one thing to defend Victorians and talk about how much more complex that history is than is often acknowledged and want to complicate our sense of superiority to past cultures. But don't miss the semiotics of this; dressing up in clothing of a past era and using the language of that era and idealizing its values sends a very large message that you don't like some things about the world you reside in. It's anyone's guess what those things are.
posted by thetortoise at 11:10 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Cars?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:11 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


And a person who takes a sponge bath out of a bowl every morning and a tub bath once a week is not going to stink. Jeez.

You can't say either way, but if you're doing any kind of exercise at all that's just straight up not true, especially if you're eschewing modern deodorant, and the thing about living a Victorian lifestyle is that if you're actually serious about it and don't have an army of servants, it's a ton of manual labor compared to modern housekeeping. The author and her husband bicycle around everywhere, and while yes, a lot of period clothing isn't nearly as hot and stifling as it looks because of layering and air flow, it's not bike shorts and a tank top either.

At best, it is a form of privileged blindness to be able to say that, and to pay absolutely no attention to just how terrible the Victorian world actually was to non-white, non-male, non-European, non-Christian person, due to those same Victorian ideals.

It was really quite terrible to people who weren't at least middle class, too, even if they were white English men who were members of the CoE. I mean, it's not a coincidence she's playing at being the same class she is in real life.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Another cosplayer quandary: one critique of this lifestyle is these people are choosing to adopt the lifestyle of fairly upper crust members of Victorian Era Britons, and thus would have been the sort to profit from the immensely imperialistic, aggressive, and exploitative British Empire. While ignoring the present reality of all of us benefiting from a similar system (never mind a country, but the entire neoliberal globalist military-industrial-economic whole sort of general mish mash), then what sort of historical lifestyle would it be acceptable to reenact? They can go the other end of the spectrum and attempt to live like an aboriginal person in a hunter-gatherer, ecological friendly, primitivist-collectivist lifestyle, but then they'd just end up being called cultural-appropriating historically inaccurate dirty hippies, and insensitive about how their ancestors were complicit in the persecution of said peoples.

Maybe anime is the only appropriate lifestyle to adopt.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:13 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think it's interesting that even people here criticizing the conversation for being mean or snarky are still also referring to these adults as "kids."
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


More people don't follow their dreams because they gotta eat. Jeez.
posted by allthinky at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


when you go out making a museum-piece spectacle of yourself, you're going to attract bizarre behavior.

So, women who dress like Victorians are just asking to be harassed? Only themselves to blame for not wearing short skirts and displaying cleavage?
posted by Segundus at 11:15 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


White people be doing this gives me hope that POC will follow as well, can't wait until Hanfu hits critical mass and then people can go strolling in the park decked out in silk robes while getting in trouble for carrying a sword in public


Just keep your head on a swivel if you hear someone playing a hammer dulcimer.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:15 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Their unit of interest is the household; that probably (probably) exculpates them from some of the worst parts of Victorian English politics.

But a household doesn't exist independent of its larger culture! You cannot live in any "era" except the one you're in. This is a museum, not a lifestyle. Or maybe you could say they have a Victorian-inspired lifestyle, maybe, but they factually cannot have a Victorian lifestyle, because it isn't 1880. And the household was the way it was because of that larger cultural context, see also the history of feminism and domestic labor and women's work so no, I don't think the size of the unit in question matters one bit.

Gah. Since we're listing all the "what about"s I'd like to know whether they use carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, what with all that kerosene they're burning....
posted by epanalepsis at 11:17 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't think negative reactions to this mean it's unacceptable, exactly. Talking of anime, I was at a convention where there was a cosplayer in full SS regalia. I wasn't inclined to complain or kick the guy out (am Jewish) but it sure made me wonder what was going through his head.
posted by thetortoise at 11:18 AM on September 9, 2015


Someone should introduce her to Rob Rhinehart. They can argue about the benefits of a "period-appropriate icebox" versus no refrigeration at all, or oil lamps versus RGB LEDs. (At least they both agree that noisy fridge compressors and fluorescent lightbulbs are bad.)
posted by Rangi at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2015


To the what-abouts, I would add dental hygiene and other personal hygiene. But I also wouldn't think they're cheating or anything by being modern in those respects. I don't begrudge them doing this fun wacky thing if they're able and have the means to do it. It's the preaching about it that bugs.
posted by The World Famous at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Houses built before air conditioning were designed to stay cool in the summer through cross-breezes, retaining the cool of the night

On another note - I live in a house built in 1912 (don't worry, the walls are quite literally crumbling in many places, everything has twenty years of ingrained filth due to the aging and illness of the previous owners, and I despair of ever being able to afford to repair anything that I can't do with my own two hands)....and the plaster really does hold the cool of night. As long as the overnight lows get into the sixties and the highs aren't much more than about 85, you can open the house at 10pm and close it at about 7am, and it will stay tolerable during the day. (Of course, global warming means that summers have more and more days that are too hot for this to work well.)

We were able to find the records for our house, and it appears to have been owned by an actress and a telegraph operator. There's a servants' stair, but it's pretty clear from the house layout that any hired help came in by the day and didn't sleep over.

I cannot stress too much, though, what bad condition the house is in. Sometimes it terrifies me because so much is aging into brokenness.
posted by Frowner at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I used to live in a house built in 1890 and it was fine. Houses are money pits though and if you don't spend money keeping them maintained, they will all eventually go to shit.

The main floor was reasonably pleasant even on hot, muggy Toronto days in August. The top floor, well, not so much.
posted by GuyZero at 11:22 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought the Victorians were big on knowing one's place and fitting neatly into it. They're Doing All The Things that Victorians would have done to be respectable, except making unsanctioned spectacles of themselves in public. I'm no Victorian scholar, but coloring this far outside societal lines seems like it would have given the Victorians the absolute vapors.

Also, I'm amazed at some of the experiences she recounts. I read the post about their trip to the lavender farm, and how that random woman tried to lift up her cycling skirt to "see what [she] felt like". Then, the blogger was confronted by the farm's owner, who said that "If someone wants to feel you, you should let them.".

Uhm. No. But congratulations on saying the grossest thing that has ever been said on a lavender farm.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


These people seem a tad pretentious.
posted by clockzero at 11:24 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"he never espoused the strict segregation that now seems to exist between life and learning"

aka having to work to pay rent, what an ignorant ass thing to say.
posted by Carillon at 11:24 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


On a more serious note, I'd hope they'd make an exception and have a couple modern-day carbon monoxide detectors in the house.


I wonder if they decorate their Christmas trees with paper ornaments and lit candles?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:24 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


And a person who takes a sponge bath out of a bowl every morning and a tub bath once a week is not going to stink. Jeez.

You can't say either way, but if you're doing any kind of exercise at all that's just straight up not true


I can say. I lived for two years with no potable water in a modern house. The well went bad and we couldn't afford a new one right away.

It super sucked for a lot of reasons but once I became used to it washing and keeping clean wasn't one of them. You learn. And I'm super sure I didn't stink even though I was doing tons of manual labor outside and getting super sweaty. I would have been told if I did.

That's not to say that I wasn't super stoked when I could finally regularly have a shower and bath again. Absolute luxury!

(The worst thing about no potable water was washing the dishes. For that two years I adapted my food and cooking style based on how little mess it created. I became the queen of one pot meals.)
posted by Jalliah at 11:24 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Houses are money pits though and if you don't spend money keeping them maintained, they will all eventually go to shit.

Can I just recommend Wally's Plaster Magic? If you have an old house with plaster walls, it will fairly easily fix places where the plaster is just softened and pulled away from the lathe. Then you only have to patch the really bad spots, and you can usually do that with multiple layers of joint compound rather than the nightmare of cutting out sheetrock. I am pretty avoidant about fixing things, but I have actually fixed up three rooms now using this stuff. Three rooms over about 18 months, true.
posted by Frowner at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think it's a bit tricky to say that the Victorian era was especially, notoriously brutal - you've pretty much got all of modernity (even if we're just talking about the West) as competition. I might be inclined to go with about 1750 through the early 1800s, myself. But even in Europe, the Victorian era also included the revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune.

YMMV, but to me, it's an era that's defined primarily by exploitation. Not that it was defined solely by *complicity* with exploitation -- obviously there were many people who *weren't* OK with being exploited or with living in a society dependent on exploitation on an ever-growing scale. Afaik, it was a revolutionary time when many people specifically imagined and fought for a world where exploitation and oppression *weren't* facts of life. (By "many people," I'm thinking of suffragettes, abolitionists, socialists, etc). I think that the writer is correct when she says that it was an optimistic era. But it was optimistic and progressive in that it was an era when many people became very conscious of the exploitative and anti-egalitiarian aspects of their society and worked incredibly hard to fight against them (and imo, succeeded to a pretty impressive degree). I think that the way that those egalitarian philosophies/protests/etc gained traction just demonstrates further that exploitation was a central issue of the time, though.

That's also exactly why I think the writer seems to miss the forest for the trees; a project like hers is by definition conservative (in the Burkean sense, I mean, not in the Tea Party sense) and implicitly rejects all the genuinely optimistic and progressive parts of the Victorian zeitgeist. The way she apparently glosses over and avoids the Victorian obsession with the future/modernity and the era's optimistic, progressive, ambitious/innovative streak is a big part of what I find off-putting about her project and what also makes me roll my eyes at it a bit.

I don't find it off-putting at all for someone to study the Victorian era or even to immerse themselves in it -- I also think it was a fascinating time -- but I do find it off-putting and tbh anachronistic (for the Victorian era) for someone to specifically reject modernity while doing so.
posted by rue72 at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


I thought the Victorians were big on knowing one's place and fitting neatly into it. They're Doing All The Things that Victorians would have done to be respectable, except making unsanctioned spectacles of themselves in public. I'm no Victorian scholar, but coloring this far outside societal lines seems like it would have given the Victorians the absolute vapors.


A bit like if someone in 1890 was going around in full Georgian dress, wigs and all, bemoaning this squalid Industrial Age and wished for a return to the gentlemen farmers of yesteryear and oh wait I just described an Oscar Wilde character and possibly some of the Pre-Raphaelites
posted by The Whelk at 11:28 AM on September 9, 2015 [21 favorites]


For commenters from the UK, by the way -- keep in mind that for various reasons, labor-saving household devices replaced servants much, much more quickly in the USA. I don't know what these specific people have, but gas ranges and electric vacuum cleaners, washing machines and irons were fairly widespread at least by the Edwardian period.
posted by ostro at 11:28 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I an reminded of Jerome K Jerome, in Three Men in a Boat. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and it feels a little like they don't really appreciate its effect, when they place such value on Victorian sturdiness and energy while seeming to disparage the wonders of our own age.
Will the prized treasures of to-day always be the cheap trifles of the day before? Will rows of our willow- pattern dinner-plates be ranged above the chimneypieces of the great in the years 2000 and odd? Will the white cups with the gold rim and the beautiful gold flower inside (species unknown), that our Sarah Janes now break in sheer light-heartedness of spirit, be carefully mended, and stood upon a bracket, and dusted only by the lady of the house?

That china dog that ornaments the bedroom of my furnished lodgings. It is a white dog. Its eyes blue. Its nose is a delicate red, with spots. Its head is painfully erect, its expression is amiability carried to verge of imbecility. I do not admire it myself. Considered as a work of art, I may say it irritates me. Thoughtless friends jeer at it, and even my landlady herself has no admiration for it, and excuses its presence by the circumstance that her aunt gave it to her.

But in 200 years’ time it is more than probable that that dog will be dug up from somewhere or other, minus its legs, and with its tail broken, and will be sold for old china, and put in a glass cabinet. And people will pass it round, and admire it. They will be struck by the wonderful depth of the colour on the nose, and speculate as to how beautiful the bit of the tail that is lost no doubt was.

We, in this age, do not see the beauty of that dog. We are too familiar with it. It is like the sunset and the stars: we are not awed by their loveliness because they are common to our eyes. So it is with that china dog. In 2288 people will gush over it. The making of such dogs will have become a lost art. Our descendants will wonder how we did it, and say how clever we were. We shall be referred to lovingly as “those grand old artists that flourished in the nineteenth century, and produced those china dogs.”

The “sampler” that the eldest daughter did at school will be spoken of as “tapestry of the Victorian era,” and be almost priceless. The blue-and- white mugs of the present-day roadside inn will be hunted up, all cracked and chipped, and sold for their weight in gold, and rich people will use them for claret cups; and travellers from Japan will buy up all the “Presents from Ramsgate,” and “Souvenirs of Margate,” that may have escaped destruction, and take them back to Jedo as ancient English curios.
posted by howfar at 11:28 AM on September 9, 2015 [46 favorites]


it's an era that's defined primarily by exploitation.

Please name me a post-Holocene era that is not.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:29 AM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think it's a bit tricky to say that the Victorian era was especially, notoriously brutal


Ask someone in the Belgian Congo.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:31 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger: " unsanctioned spectacles of themselves in public"

What a weird turn of phrase. "Oh, I thought it was licensed japery but it turned out to be UNSANCTIONED SPECTACLES with UNCONVENTIONAL BICYCLING. Somebody should call a gendarme."
posted by boo_radley at 11:32 AM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I used to live in a house built in 1890 and it was fine. Houses are money pits though and if you don't spend money keeping them maintained, they will all eventually go to shit.

The main floor was reasonably pleasant even on hot, muggy Toronto days in August. The top floor, well, not so much.


Hey, me too! The original plaster-and lath walls, even though they're behind double brick, don't have any R value, though. And couple that with electric baseboard heat and the original sash windows from 1890, and you have yourself one hell of a hydro bill that's nearly as much as your rent.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, it is cos-play - but it is also that really weird 21st C thing of nostalgia cosplay. A quest for authenticity that can only be accomplished by seeking to live in the style & manner of another time and place deemed more authentic. Or should I say "authentic"? I've been working a lot on cultural authenticity & the notion of cultural traditions lately, and it seems to me that we have this very odd 21st C phenomenon of pomo gone all artisan-authentic. It's fascinating.
posted by kariebookish at 11:39 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Please name me a post-Holocene era that is not.

I think the 1990s were defined primarily by globalization. I think the Renaissance was defined primarily by advances in education and communication. Etc. I don't think every single era in the history of the world since the Holocene was defined primary by exploitation. But you do you.
posted by rue72 at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2015


I've been dressing like, living as and re-typing the manuscripts of Jean Baudrillard, AMA.
posted by griphus at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Y'all are haters and should feel bad. Yeah, the Victorian era is extremely problematic, often whitewashed and viewed myopically through a heavy tint - but so is today, right here and now.

Your cars, your electricity, your global factory farming and your Amazon Prime delivering insanely cheaply produced goods shipped direct to your doorstep from overseas are all daily modern conveniences made possible by economic imperialism and de facto human slavery and no small amount of misery so you can idle away your luxurious amounts of free time playing angry flappy cookie fruit ninja or whatever on your shiny new phabet or whatever.

And you want to throw stones at these people because they're a bit twee and want to dress funny, like you're making an astute political judgment about what they must believe in just because they want pretend it's 1888?

I've seen them biking around town, and they aren't even the weirdest thing about Port Townsend. Victorian history is huge, here, so they just kind of literally blend into the woodwork in a town full of old Victorian buildings and people on unique (if more modern) bicycles.

There's at least three blue people from collodial-silver-overdoses that I've seen here, and even they aren't the weirdest thing in town.

Hell, I'm not even the weirdest thing in town, and that's saying a whole lot.
posted by loquacious at 11:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [71 favorites]


Your cars, your electricity, your global factory farming and your Amazon Prime delivering insanely cheaply produced goods shipped direct to your doorstep from overseas are all daily modern conveniences made possible by economic imperialism and de facto human slavery and no small amount of misery so you can idle away your luxurious amounts of free time playing angry flappy cookie fruit ninja or whatever on your shiny new phabet or whatever.

QFMFT.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:46 AM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Your cars, your electricity, your global factory farming and your Amazon Prime delivering insanely cheaply produced goods shipped direct to your doorstep from overseas are all daily modern conveniences made possible by economic imperialism and de facto human slavery and no small amount of misery so you can idle away your luxurious amounts of free time ranting furiously about these same topics on metafilter. I mean, have you been on the blue much?

Some people might be haters here, but I would say many of these comments are well-informed critiques that, on the contrary, do look a bit deeper than "gee, they look a bit funny."
posted by epanalepsis at 11:47 AM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


The one basic fact of this, however, is they are not at all living in the Victorian Era. They are playing at living in the Victorian era as they think it was, and perhaps would have been for them.

But it's not real. They may be able to avoid modernity in much of their lives, but the reality is, they live in 2015. Not 1885. Nothing, despite their efforts, will make this 1885.

As someone who really loves Regency Period dress and wouldn't mind attending a tea party the likes of which real British ladies attended, I get the appeal. But as a woman with Irish ancestry from the lower classes, nothing will ever make me want to take more than a Tardis trip back in time.

You know, it might be nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
posted by zizzle at 11:49 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder if they know about Dickens on The Strand? They'd probably love it.
posted by Beholder at 11:49 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ask someone in the Belgian Congo.

But then ask the Arawak.

My point wasn't that the Victorian era wasn't so bad, but that the first establishment of the European slave trade and the extermination of many Native peoples in the Americas were just as terrible as anything the Victorians could devise.

And then, rolling forward, you get the Armenian Genocide, Stalin, the Holocaust, the Cultural Revolution, the Khmer Rouge. History, meet slaughtering bench.

Or look backward at the persecution of the Jews in Spain, or the Crusades, or the massive convulsions around the Peasants' War.

Something by Joanna Russ which has always seemed to me far too apropos:

But something troubles me even there and will not be put to rest by
the memory of the Abbess's touch on my hair. As I grow older it
troubles me more and more. It was the very last thing she said to
me, which I have not told you but will now. When she had given me
the gift of contentment, I became so happy that I said, "Abbess, you
said you would be revenged on Thorvald, but all you did was
change him into a good man. That is no revenge!"

What this saying did to her astonished me, for all the color went out
of her face and left it gray. She looked suddenly old, like a death's head,
even standing there among her own true folk with love and
joy coming from them so strongly that I myself might feel it. She
said, "I did not change him. I lent him my eyes, that is all."

Then she looked beyond me, as if at our village, at the Norsemen loading
their boats with weeping slaves, at all the villages of Germany and
England and France where the poor folk sweat from dawn to dark
so that the great lords may do battle with one another, at castles
under siege with the starving folk within eating mice and rats and
sometimes each other, at the women carried off or raped or beaten,
at the mothers wailing for their little ones, and beyond this at the
great wide world itself with all its battles which I had used to think
so grand, and the misery and greediness and fear and jealousy and
hatred of folk one for the other, save— perhaps—for a few small
bands of savages, but they were so far from us that one could
scarcely see them. She said: No revenge? Thinkest thou so, boy?
And then she said as one who believes absolutely, as one who has
seen all the folk at their living and dying, not for one year but for
many, not in one place but in all places, as one who knows it all
over the whole wide earth:
Think again. . . .

posted by Frowner at 11:50 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Show me someone who demonstrates the same privileged blindness about the contemporary era and I'll have similar criticisms for them, too. But those people aren't the focus of the FPP; an article that idealizes the Victorian era is.

And you want to throw stones at these people because they're a bit twee and want to dress funny, like you're making an astute political judgment about what they must believe in just because they want pretend it's 1888?

That's not what's going on here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:51 AM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Not to mention, the Belgian Congo existed from 1908 until decolonization. The King Leopold's Ghost one was the Congo Free State.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2015


As a rabid history buff, I thank the universe every day that my mother didn't give birth one damn minute earlier than she did.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Where do they park their airship
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not to mention, the Belgian Congo existed from 1908 until decolonization. The King Leopold's Ghost one was the Congo Free State.


You're right there- nevertheless it was appallingly cruel, even when compared to most other eras of early-Modern European colonialism.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:06 PM on September 9, 2015


I'm a professional Victorianist and all, so I had Some Reactions.

The part of the article that struck me the most was when she talked about how the Victorian era was actually very optimistic about the future and was a time of innovation, and how she's also trying to latch onto that optimism -- but by burying herself in the past and by constructing a static historical bubble to live within. That made me wonder whether she wasn't missing the forest for the trees when trying to understand the Victorian zeitgeist.

This was also my immediate response. Most middle- and upper-class Victorians (to stick with folks equivalent to our author) would have thought this exercise not just bizarre, but inane: people liked new technologies and took advantage of them whenever they could afford them. Trains! Telegraphs! Typewriters! (I'm sure there are other things beginning with "T" that I'm missing here.) There's a reason that the Great Exhibition was such a hit across the social spectrum (even though a lot of commentators were also anxious about the effects of free market thinking). More to the point, aside from the nineteenth-century cosplayers (e.g.), high-profile Victorians who pursued similarly nostalgic projects weren't necessarily thinking of them in terms of personal lifestyle choices that could be commodified for a mass readership: they were making social, economical, and political statements. To the left, you've got John Ruskin and William Morris, who were trying to revive artisanal practices that predated the Industrial Revolution--because they were critiquing the physical and moral effects of factory work on the laboring classes, and trying to imagine alternatives. To the right, you've got somebody like the execrable Catholic novelist E. H. Dering, who walked around dressed up like somebody out of the seventeenth century because he was deeply opposed to the culture of the nineteenth. As it happens, Chrisman and her husband remind me most of Walter Scott and Abbotsford, and Scott liked his mod cons, thank you very much.

On to the article:

They help us understand the culture that created them — a culture that believed in engineering durable, beautiful items that could be repaired by their users. Constantly using them helps us comprehend their context. Absorbing the lessons our artifacts teach us shapes our worldview. They are our teachers. Seeing their beauty every day elevates and inspires us, as it did their original owners.

Most middle- and upper-class Victorians could not, in fact, repair their own "items," unless it was clothing, and even then that depended on social status (a middle-class woman might make and repair many of the family's garments; an upper-class woman would probably hand this job to a servant or hire a dressmaker/tailor).

More to the point, here and elsewhere the authors slip between the self-consciousness produced by historical distance to identification with Victorian self-consciousness, and that's what caused much of my own dissonant response to this essay. The Victorians were not particularly "mindful" (other than in the usual "how much did we spend on gas this month?!") way; most of them quite cheerfully bought factory-produced goods because they were cheap; and if they got more out of their possessions than we do in the twenty-first century, the documentation they left behind doesn't exactly prove it. Now, you absolutely had people attempting to produce this kind of mindfulness--that's part of the Arts and Crafts movement, for example, and the revolutions in interior decorating during the 1890s--but it wasn't some essential property of the period.

Finally, those "ideals" were strangely...vague. For example, they're supposedly in the 1880s or so. Is the author a New Woman? After all, she's out and about on her cycle...and yet, she's wearing a chatelaine, when pockets were an important and liberatory late-century innovation in woman's clothing. (When you come across references to women's "pockets" in literature of the 19th-c. and earlier, they mean a separate bag attached to the clothing, not to pockets sewn in.) Are they imperialists? Anti-imperialists? Pacifists? Christians? Freethinkers? Vegetarians? Anti-vivisectionists? Free market capitalists? Socialists? Eugenicists? The article sells the performance as counter-cultural, but, as others have already pointed out, the Amish and Mennonites got there a long time ago, and it's not immediately obvious what "ideals" they think they're importing from the Victorians--given that the only visible ideals are pretty twenty-first century.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:06 PM on September 9, 2015 [147 favorites]


Like, big piles of human heads cruel.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:07 PM on September 9, 2015


Is the author a New Woman?


She sounds like one of those terrifying Velocipedestriennes.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I feel weird saying this, but while King Leopold's rule was terrible, so was the the torture and murder of native people for sport - if you look for some of the contemporary engravings, they'll turn your stomach, and what went on in, e.g. New Zealand later wasn't much better. So was the capture of slaves, so were the slave plantations in the Caribbean. On a smaller scale, the murder of "heretics" in late medieval and Renaissance Europe was exceedingly cruel and grotesque. If there's anything to indict, it's modernity as a whole, probably starting with the torture of heretics and the persecution of Jews in Renaissance Europe.
posted by Frowner at 12:18 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


When cheap modern things in our lives inevitably broke, we replaced them with sturdy historic equivalents instead of more disposable modern trash
Because the historic trash has already been disposed of.

I too have very important questions about how she blogs and who takes all those modern full colour photos and whether they avoid foods that weren't common then and if they go to the grocery store and use credit cards and stuff.
posted by jeather at 12:18 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thank you thomas j wise for elucidating what smelled wrong about this.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


it's not immediately obvious what "ideals" they think they're importing from the Victorians--given that the only visible ideals are pretty twenty-first century.

It's nostalgia for a past that never existed, which is basically all nostalgia. It's better than conservatives idealizing America in the 50's or the two inexplicable middle-aged Portuguese dudes in the Toronto west-end YMCA change room waxing nostalgic for the Estado Novo back in the old country because, man, it sure was tough on crime.

If Chrisman is living a lie, hey, at least it's mostly benign.

Also PLEASE STOP TOUCHING HER. I still can't get over who the heck does this.
posted by GuyZero at 12:31 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Life with the internet has officialy left me unable to differentiate between reality and parody. I read the article before the comments and was periodically guffawing at the pitch-perfect satire of lifestyle blogging. I mean, really, "When we realized how much we were learning just from the clothes, we started wondering what other everyday items could teach us". "When we started using period illumination every day, we were amazed by how much brighter the light is from antique oil lamps than from modern reproductions." Just hits that blend of self-righteousness and preciousness right on the nose.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:36 PM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


It was the most Victorian of satirists, W.S. Gilbert, whose hit of 1885 mocked "the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone / All centuries but this, and every country but his own."

My grandparents came from kerosene lighting, wood stoves and outhouses, and to the end of their lives (one is quite well) loved a nice clean Golden Corral or Best Western. I understand why.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:44 PM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


If there's anything to indict, it's modernity as a whole,

What. Earlier I was going to suggest that if there's some cosmopolitan hegemonic historical time that might have aesthetics worth emulating, it might as well be the Romans, who were pretty liberal on some social attitudes, and whose style were classy as all hell. Not to mention all of these johnny-come-lately white people empires (Brits, America) were standing on their shoulders anyway. But despite my fondness from drawing all of the wrong lessons from Spartacus, obviously the Romans were also a horrifically brutal and oppressive people, much like any other empire. And so classical antiquity should not escape the judgment of history.

So why does modernity get singled out? Are we supposed to know better? Why start with Renaissance Europe? Hypocrisy and brutality is as old as man. Our children will judge us no better or worse than they do the Victorians, or the Romans.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:45 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I Learned By Living As Roman Patrician
posted by The Whelk at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


This is an interesting discussion and I'll just bring up a side note. I do a lot winter camping in the Boundary Waters and most of the gear I use could be lifted straight from the Victorian era. Mukluks, wool clothing, native anorak with fur ruff, a canvas wall tent etc. The reason is simply that they work better in that environment that modern gear. While they are going a little hardcore, it'd be interesting to see what things work better than their modern day counterparts.

And for those geeky people like me wondering why in this case older style things work better the main reason is fire and extreme cold. A lot of modern fabrics are great, but not very tough and will melt against your skin when heated. In BWCA camping you're hauling sleds or running dogs and it's all about cutting wood and making fires. Also, most plastic buckles and similar items simply break in extreme cold. But I'm far from a purist, I also bring my iPhone and speakers and my lovely LED Christmas tree tights. And when I'm ice climbing or mountaineering I'm modern fabrics and gear from head to toe. But it's interesting to see where technology hasn't actually improved.
posted by misterpatrick at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


If I had a partner and lots of money, I would totally do this, except there would be theme weeks, like Bloomsbury week or Wilkie Collins week (white dresses & mournful expressions).

My people probably never heard of Queen Victoria because they spent the 19th century living in a stone cottage, resenting their sheep and each other, and occasionally casting spells on other people and/or sheep. As someone who is not white, I already know the past was terrible - the present isn't all that fabulous either.

However, the correct Victorian response to internet criticism should be an icy gaze through a lorgnette, not a blog post.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


Doing some sort of historical experiment like this might be fun but I'm not sure how I would goof off at work without a computer and the internet and still look like I'm hard at work at my desk.
posted by Jalliah at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do a lot winter camping in the Boundary Waters and most of the gear I use could be lifted straight from the Victorian era.

I might add that layered skirts -- that is, petticoats -- can be much better for winter weather, with long underwear, than pants. I once shoveled out a walkway in velvet broomstick skirts and was as happy as one could reasonably be.

She's right that wearing long skirts has pleasures and advantages, but as with the oil lamps, we gave up that romance for a number of reasons that all add up to greater comfort and efficiency. Plus an increasing absence of whales.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2015


Doing some sort of historical experiment like this might be fun but I'm not sure how I would goof off at work without a computer and the internet and still look like I'm hard at work at my desk.

The key is many piles of paperwork.
posted by JanetLand at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


So why does modernity get singled out?

For me - and I fully acknowledge that this is one of those hairsplitting arguments - I think that modernity gets singled out because of scope of harm, technology and pervasive ideology about race and nation. Basically, once you start getting into serious, sustained exploration and colonization and once you have really heavy armor and then guns, plus a whole bunch of other shipping and metalworking technology, you have the power to do far more harm than the Romans. Also, as more people became literate and enfranchised, you have a mass buy-in to ideologies of progress, slavery and colonization that just wasn't possible before. Also larger, faster-moving armies, etc. Not that the Romans weren't pretty brutal, far-ranging and well-organized.

I think I'd start with the Renaissance because that's where you first start to see guns and that's one place you can locate the rise of modern theories of race.

I think that the intertwining of theories about race and the ability to colonize vast and remote parts of the earth are, fundamentally, what differentiate modernity. But then, I tend to think that race is....the big leg on the table of oppression, I guess.
posted by Frowner at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh God, oh God, I have opinions! I have read her web page several times because she gets linked to with some regularity by historical costuming blogs; I follow several because I'm interested in historical embroidery, which you see a lot of on clothes, but I'm not in the historical costuming side of it at all.

And her TONE, oh God, her TONE. I don't know why it's so annoying, but IT'S SO ANNOYING. Even when she's just explaining dress construction.

agregoli: "This is all *about* getting attention (and $) for what they are doing"

Yeah, it's really irritating that, on the one hand, she wants both money and fame for doing this, and writes books and websites and does presentations and is all "look at me! look at me!" but then when people look at her, she gets mad that they're not doing it right. You can't both demand fame and public recognition and control how people respond to you; if you need your interactions to be that controlled (as she seems to), it's not going to be possible to live a public life. And if this was just their weird thing they did in private I'd be more sympathetic, but she is VERY EAGER for publicity and payment and admiration for her weird lifestyle. It's totally performative, but she constantly acts injured that people react to its performative nature.

(It is also my impression from reading her blog now and then that she escalates confrontations REALLY FAST; instead of saying "please don't touch my dress" she often goes right to "YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF" or (my favorite) she "gently informs" people that "children know how to behave better than you" and then is surprised and upset when people are confrontational after she says things like that. I get how frequent negative interactions can take you to a reactive place too quickly, but that's not the sense I get; the sense I get is that she has VERY STRONG OPINIONS that are somewhat outside the social norm about how other people should be allowed to interact with her, and when people transgress those somewhat unusual boundaries, she flies off the handle and then is puzzled when people react strongly. But I'm not a devoted fan or anything, I've just gotten that idea. She does not seem super-good at "being in the world" and while I'm sure the Victorian dress doesn't help, I'm betting she had similar interactions before she started dressing like that. I think this is also why her FAQ is the least-interesting FAQ for historical reenactors you can imagine -- all she wants to talk about is underwear and BY GOD she is going to ignore questions about anything else, because you are asking questions wrong.)

As for the money, if you read about their house, it becomes clear that they have inherited money -- probably quite a bit. She makes reference to Gabriel coming from a blue-blood New England family with old money, and several of their fancy pieces of furniture are really nice antiques inherited from both sides of the family. She tells a memorable story about their rug -- Gabriel's grandmother was snarked off because just EVERYONE was buying Persian rugs and it seemed terrible common and gauche, so she took a jaunt over to CHINA and bought herself a CHINESE rug, which was already antique at the time, so she wouldn't be like the rest of the rabble. So yeah, family money: they has it.

Also, and somewhat off the topic, it is my impression that the two of them have a corset kink, but for some reason she has to justify it by continually insisting it's just healthful underwear! Really! Healthful! Helps ladies recover after birth! Doesn't squish organs! Can ride a bike in it! No YOU wear weird underwear! The whole thing started, she says, when Gabriel surprised her with a corset for Christmas and she loved it so much that they then decided to go full Victorian. She is really weirdly defensive about the corset, and so much of the website and discussion revolves around the corset, and all her FAQs are about her underwear and corset even though that is clearly not the interesting part, she just really really wants to talk about corsets, I just -- I just get a feeling they have a thing about the corsets. (Which is cool, guys, you be you! Enjoy your kink!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [100 favorites]


Doing some sort of historical experiment like this might be fun but I'm not sure how I would goof off at work without a computer and the internet and still look like I'm hard at work at my desk.

I just read The Age of Innocence and this actually comes up! Well not, the bit about computers obviously, but the main character, Newland Archer, is a lawyer, but without much professional ambition, such that his job consists of doing trivial paperwork and reading the newspaper. I read it and thought of "so that's how I'd be goofing off in the Gilded Age!"
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Also I don't know if this is true but it's always been my impression that they have a computer in the home -- she posts with enough frequency that she must be writing at least some of it directly on a computer, and editing and posting from home, or else she's heading to Kinko's every other day to use their computers. Like I just always assumed they have a room in the back with their technology sequestered in it, like a lot of restored historic homes with the curator's office tucked away where you can't see it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:07 PM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Doing some sort of historical experiment like this might be fun but I'm not sure how I would goof off at work without a computer and the internet and still look like I'm hard at work at my desk.

The key is many piles of paperwork.


I prefer not to.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2015 [33 favorites]


There where two brothers in Brooklyn who did this, I don't know if it ever got online but a friend knew them cause he does a lot of antique restoration and now obsolete skills , they ended up using a lot of the Hasidim infrastructure in Brooklyn for things.

I miss McDermott & McGough! (I assume that's who you are referring to.) They were pretty bizarrely fantastic. Here's a New York Times article about them.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gabriel's grandmother was snarked off because just EVERYONE was buying Persian rugs and it seemed terrible common and gauche, so she took a jaunt over to CHINA and bought herself a CHINESE rug, which was already antique at the time, so she wouldn't be like the rest of the rabble

Would that have been the fifties? My grandfather - who was a garment buyer and had connections - bought several really nice Iranian rugs from buddies some time when he and my grandmother were setting up house after the war. I have a couple of the small ones, but I can't use them because my wicked cat has no respect for antiques. And as much as my grandparents had fantastic taste and my grandmother's family had had money before the Depression, they certainly were pretty self-made.
posted by Frowner at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2015


I miss McDermott & McGough! (I assume that's who you are referring to.) They were pretty bizarrely fantastic. Here's a New York Times article about them.

I think so! It would fit the circles my friend moves in, although he did call them r towers , maybe I'm misremembering . Anyway, neat!
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on September 9, 2015


What's the toilet situation like for them? And bathing? Are they bathing daily, or no?
posted by discopolo at 1:27 PM on September 9, 2015


It's never fun to play the "what would happen if I traveled back in time?" game and realize you would have been fucked.

Politics aside (since you all have addressed that pretty extensively), the idea of not being grateful every day for modern medical technology is pretty foreign to me. If I traveled back in time I would be dead many times over.
posted by naoko at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Doing some sort of historical experiment like this might be fun but I'm not sure how I would goof off at work without a computer and the internet and still look like I'm hard at work at my desk.

You hire a learned and industrious young scrivener's apprentice to copy the day's Meta-Philtre comments out by longhand, to be delivered at breakfast, morning tea, lunchtime, afternoon tea, and vespers.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:31 PM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


If I traveled back in time I would be dead many times over.

I would not travel back in time without an abundant supply of pharmaceuticals (prophylactic, therapeutic, and recreational).
posted by MikeMc at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


i'm kind of amazed at all the comments about the lack of a/c - my family's homes didn't have one, the house i lived in with my girlfriend didn't have one and we were not poor people

with sane design and a sane climate, it's a rare day when you really feel you NEED a/c

of course, if you live in a trailer or a boxy apartment, you will be miserable without it - and at times, miserable WITH it

also, heating a house with kerosene is not that bad - yes, it smells - but as a general rule CO2 isn't that bad a problem because the kind of place you're living in isn't as air tight as modern places - if it's smoking a lot, you've got it set up wrong

the worst parts were 1) outlying areas such as the bedroom could get very cold - 2) if it got below zero, i had to move one of the kerosene heaters into the utility room so the pipes along the wall didn't freeze - 3) lugging five gallon plastic jugs of kerosene down a steep, snow-covered hill

oddly enough, when i broke up with my girlfriend and moved out, lo and behold, the furnace miraculously worked again and there was fuel oil in the tank

boy, did i feel like a sucker

also, if it's too cold to try your clothes on the clothesline outside - (too cold defined as under 20 degrees F, believe it or not) - you can place racks and chairs near the kerosene heater and dry them that way

it was an old small house with an exceptional placement on a shelf above a steep hill that led to a lake and faced west - we didn't have and didn't need a/c unless it got over 95

we lived that way because we were morally superio^H^H^H^H - too stoned to get ourselves togethe^H^H^H^H, my girlfriend was rather odd and it was really was an exceptional place

about the 70s - it had a lot better future than this time does
posted by pyramid termite at 1:34 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


EYEBROWS MCGEE I also assumed 100% that they have a hardcore corset fetish otherwise there is no way in hell they would talk about it so fucking much. And, like you, I'm definitely not judging them for that but I do also wish they would stop talking about it so much when there are a thousand other things they could be saying. Like HOW THEY UPDATE THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE FUCKING HOURLY if they have no modern conveniences.
posted by kate blank at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2015 [24 favorites]


CO2 isn't that bad a problem

No, it's the potential buildup of CO that's the problem. But you won't know it because you'll be dead.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was waiting and waiting and waiting for the inevitable "Of course, there are great things about the modern world that we don't want to give up: medicine, progress towards an awareness of social justice issues, equality in marriage." But it never came! Are you actually nostalgic for Victorian times because agghhhhhh
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:41 PM on September 9, 2015




Reminds me a lot of Germans and their Native American hobbyism
posted by cadge at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Frowner: "And as much as my grandparents had fantastic taste and my grandmother's family had had money before the Depression, they certainly were pretty self-made."

Well, they claim old New England blue-blood families and talk about the grandmothers as if they are society matrons, and a little googling turns up that, indeed, these are apparently "Lowells talk only to Cabots, and Cabots talk only to God" Bostonian families whose bios reference mansions built in the 1680s and ancestors arriving in the 1630s and mills and printing presses and the First Church in Boston and the Revolutionary War. The grandmother in question actually sounds like a really interesting and impressive lady and scholar, although the more salient point here may be that there appear to be endowed foundations named after her at several universities.

(Actually reading about the grandmother's scholarship and leadership, it's sort-of irritating that she's being reduced to a society matron taking a little shopping jaunt to China because everyone else's imported Persians are gauche.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:45 PM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


...it's always been my impression that they have a computer in the home...

I assume in the same sort of room Mr. Rochester kept his wife.
posted by griphus at 1:46 PM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


That's cute, kids. Can't wait for the first time you get sick and the leaches don't seem to be doing the trick.

Leeches? Why, that's a bunch o' hooey! Nowadays, we use Dr. Fantastic's All-Purpose Ailment, Malediction, and Hair Growth Tonic! Only $1 shiny dollar per bottle. Why Mabel Poindexter over in Passamaquoddy was cured of lumbago, dysentary, and a fit o' the consumption with just one bottle of this revolutionary elixir!

(Play me out, Johnny!)
posted by prepmonkey at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


also when they make paid appearances in places they can't ride their pennyfarthings to how do they get there. do they wear their fancy dress on planes? why aren't there any videos of TSA agents looking at them like "why is this my life"
posted by poffin boffin at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


That's cute, kids. Can't wait for the first time you get sick and the leaches don't seem to be doing the trick.

Perhaps some cocaine tooth drops will put a little pep in your step?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:49 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, they claim old New England blue-blood families and talk about the grandmothers as if they are society matrons

Oh, I think I was unclear - I was assuming that people like my relatives were the gauche "everybody" who was buying the persian rugs, not that the grandmother wasn't very fancy.
posted by Frowner at 1:49 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow. I am amazed at the sheer number of comments on this post. They are just people pursuing a hobby and sharing what they learn with the larger world. How they fund it is their business. She did say that it started out as gifts to each other, like the tailored outfits, and went from there.

It looks like they are having a lot of fun, which is something I aspire to. Good for them!
posted by harrietthespy at 1:50 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


...it's always been my impression that they have a computer in the home...

I assume in the same sort of room Mr. Rochester kept his wife.



A gothic horror where the newly married couple have decided to commit to a shared fantasy of living in the early Victorian era until the wife suspects something is up and finds his secret shame, a portable TV in the attic!

Has T.C Boyke written this yet it feels like something he'd write.
posted by The Whelk at 1:51 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Y'all are haters and should feel bad. Yeah, the Victorian era is extremely problematic, often whitewashed and viewed myopically through a heavy tint - but so is today, right here and now.

Okay, let me get this straight: Since I benefit from current neo-colonial exploitation I should feel bad that I feel bad about seeing people dress up and live like the people who participated in colonial exploitation of my Chinese ancestors, which is a cause of the still happening, um, current neo-colonial exploitation of Chinese people (which also makes me feel bad).

Gee gosh, maybe I have my priorities misplaced. I just don't feel too bad about my reaction to these people playing Victorian house as I do about the other two things I feel bad about.
posted by FJT at 1:54 PM on September 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


This comes off more like this is fetish play, tbh, with a fig leaf of "ideals" ladled on top.
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:54 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was assuming that people like my relatives were the gauche "everybody" who was buying the persian rugs...

I bet they even put them on the floor instead of hanging them on the walls like a civilized human being.
posted by griphus at 1:55 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bostonian families whose bios reference mansions built in the 1680s and ancestors arriving in the 1630s and mills and printing presses and the First Church in Boston and the Revolutionary War.


So why aren't they doing HP Lovecraft cosplay, and dressing all 1920s, and reviving some ancient and obscure heretical sect, and summoning nameless horrors, and such? Could Gabriel not get a position at an lesser-known but respected university with a surprisingly comprehensive old books collection?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:55 PM on September 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'd down for anyone who wants to do a week long Lovecraft recreation, stiff collors! Round glasses! Being horrified of outsiders! Masking our sublimated homosexuality into an obsession with it's the past!
posted by The Whelk at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


So why aren't they doing HP Lovecraft cosplay, and dressing all 1920s, and reviving some ancient and obscure heretical sect, and summoning nameless horrors, and such? Could Gabriel not get a position at an lesser-known but respected university with a surprisingly comprehensive old books collection?

They might not talk about that part. I mean, if you were probing Arkham for eldritch horrors would you go blabbing about it to Vox.

It looks like they are having a lot of fun, which is something I aspire to. Good for them!

An excellent point.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love this thread so much.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:08 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'd down for anyone who wants to do a week long Lovecraft recreation, stiff collors! Round glasses! Being horrified of outsiders! Masking our sublimated homosexuality into an obsession with it's the past!

And, er, speaking of racism, I think it's pretty difficult to cosplay good ol' HP without a heaping helping.

Although I could accept a revisionist "Shadow Over Innsmouth" wherein everyone is like "oh, good, we get to go live in the wild deeps of the sea and get away from our horrible, stunted New England lives!" and where the deep sea people are the heroes.
posted by Frowner at 2:08 PM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


At best, it is a form of privileged blindness to be able to say that, and to pay absolutely no attention to just how terrible the Victorian world actually was to non-white, non-male, non-European, non-Christian person, due to those same Victorian ideals. How do they feel about the Scramble for Africa, for example? Do they feel positively toward it, or do they just not think about it at all?

Exactly how many minutes must I spend thinking about the inequities of modern chattel slavery in the Thai fishing industry before I may look at funny cat pictures on the internet? Surely if I participate in the cat worshiping culture of the early 21st century, I am complicit in the system that sustains it. Out, dammed Fancy Feast, etc. The stench of herring lies upon these hands.
posted by Diablevert at 2:09 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Doing some sort of historical experiment like this might be fun but I'm not sure how I would goof off at work without a computer and the internet and still look like I'm hard at work at my desk.

I just want to thank all of you here for giving me an entertaining thread to read while looking like I'm hard at work at my desk.
posted by Fleebnork at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh! You do you, people; you do YOU!!

I kind of love this. I want to be her pen pal SO BAD. I wonder if she would respond to me if I wrote to her?
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2015


Actually getting super defensive about your corset kink thing and turning into an extended lifestyle project full of busy work and homework that you repeatedly insist it's is totally Normal, and Actually historic and accurate and not at all a weird shameful sex thing and people would be foolish not to agree with you cube cause you've really Learned and Grew as a result of doing it ....

...is just about the most WASPy thing I can think of. Ever.
posted by The Whelk at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2015 [50 favorites]


also when they make paid appearances in places they can't ride their pennyfarthings to how do they get there.

She said (here) "We got up early and trucked our highwheels out to Sequim after a quick breakfast. (Even in the 1880s, it was already common to move bikes and trikes around via other forms of transportation.)" Which.... I interpret to mean they drove? They drove their gigantic bikes out to a place to then ostentatiously ride them around in period costume? Which. Fine. FINE. It's still less ridiculous than using a literal ice box with a block of fucking ice in a house that has electricity IN 2015.
posted by kate blank at 2:20 PM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


You know what this reminds me of, now that I think of it? Gor. The first time I read about Gor, the article showcased the viewpoint of a policewoman who was into the lifestyle, who was apparently so warped by the weight of her authority that she believed it was natural and freeing to sleep in a doghouse.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:22 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I imagine they are ecstatic to have found each other. It seems that even among this group of weirdos (I SAW YOU PEOPLE LUSTING AFTER CHATELAINES) they get little sympathy.
posted by clawsoon at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Which.... I interpret to mean they drove?

Yeah, I thought so too. i like how she avoids coming out and saying "we drove there in a modern motor vehicle" though

i just want to know if she goes on planes or if she thinks the speed of the plane will cause her uterus to fly out of her body
posted by poffin boffin at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


isn't that how astro boy was born?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


(quickly erases something out of large composition notebook labeled WOMEN)
posted by griphus at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I imagine they are ecstatic to have found each other. It seems that even among this group of weirdos (I SAW YOU PEOPLE LUSTING AFTER CHATELAINES) they get little sympathy.

What shouldn't be lost in all my lack of sympathy and eye rolling and outright mockery and just plain annoyance -- which is a lot now that I've been pointed towards the blog which shows the tone of the Vox article is not an outlier -- is that I also couldn't be more thrilled that they found each other.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:47 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


it would be fun to LARP a Victorian who was constantly having future shock in your house. "My word, a portable magic lantern show! An automatic scullery maid! Look at the size of these strawberries-oh pity about the flavor but once could feed a family on them! Are all citizens of your realm as well appointed as this?"
posted by The Whelk at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2015 [29 favorites]


i just want to know if she goes on planes or if she thinks the speed of the plane will cause her uterus to fly out of her body

I do not think she believes this, because she is a person playing complicated dress-up, not an actual person from ye olden times.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know what? Forget Lovecraft- I think I might actually dedicate my life to living like an Edward Gorey character.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


I just wish they didn't come across to me as so privilege blind and as people who haven't possibly even grappled with some of the potentially problematic issues in their role play. Maybe it's just me but a certain sense of self-awareness and humor would have gone a long way.
posted by Carillon at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Here are some really wonderful portraits of Black Victorian women!
posted by ChuraChura at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2015 [21 favorites]


it would be fun to LARP a Victorian who was constantly having future shock in your house

You'd have to overshoot it every once in a while though:

"So all I have to do is dictate my correspondence to this electric box and it will transcribe my words just as I say them?"
posted by griphus at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I say, this Siri woman who works as your personal secretary is terribly insolent!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


You know what? Forget Lovecraft- I think I might actually dedicate my life to living like an Edward Gorey character.

I'm on it

posted by The Whelk at 2:53 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


really though if someone from the 1800s asked me how a cellphone works i would just say "it's magic" because i don't really know and it might as well be.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Henry Ford
posted by griphus at 2:57 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


It doesn't surprise me that she's occasionally assaulted by people looking for her bustle; there's a reason why Disneyworld doesn't send out Mickey and Minnie without a chaperone. People are gross and rude. She lives in Port Townsend, a town that markets itself as a Victorian destination. She's Mickey!

They just seem like any other intense hobbyist to me. The tone reminds me of a blog I once read about a couple in a 24/7 d/s relationship, where the writer was really annoyed that people didn't participate in the relationship by asking her partner instead of her if she wanted something to eat. Or the people who post in knitting forums about how they knit everywhere at all times and are terribly affronted when some non - knitter implies there's a time and a place for hobbies.

Which is to say, totally harmless but a bit daft.
posted by stowaway at 2:59 PM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


"any sufficiently advanced simulation of older times is indistinguishable from OPPRESSION and PRIVILEGE AND IT'S TIME TO UNPACK YOUR INVISIBLE CHATELAINE, VICTORIAN LADY!!!"
posted by pyramid termite at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


You know what? Forget Lovecraft- I think I might actually dedicate my life to living like an Edward Gorey character.

Briefly?
posted by Going To Maine at 3:04 PM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


> And you want to throw stones at these people because they're a bit twee and want to dress funny, like you're making an astute political judgment about what they must believe in just because they want pretend it's 1888?

That's not what's going on here.


Yes, that's exactly what's going on here. These people are doing absolutely nothing wrong, they're enjoying themselves as best they can in a world full of assholes who are shitty to them in real life, and now people are being shitty to them here, treating them as if they were actual slave traders rather than slightly odd people with a corset fetish. This is one of those threads that makes me embarrassed about being a MeFite.
posted by languagehat at 3:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [28 favorites]


I think there's something to the idea of them being corset fetishists with an extremist bent.
posted by palomar at 3:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, I can't help but think that they are missing characters from the 20th century parts of AS Byatt's Possession.
posted by stowaway at 3:06 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not terribly surprising, considering the rather hard to fathom nature of the present that people would want to live in a fantasy past. Of course posting up your lifestyle on the interwebs contradicts their fantasy as do the photos not taken on glass plate negatives with a large view camera and flash powder. People are indeed weird.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:09 PM on September 9, 2015


@ Boo Radley - That was tongue-in-cheek. It seems like the Victorians were okay with being spectacular, as long as they did it in whatever way was socially appropriate, (e.g., gingerbread-encrusted houses, big, fancy hats, leg-o-mutton sleeves, etc.)
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 3:09 PM on September 9, 2015


I don't see how this is materially different from Rich Kids of Instagram, with velocipedes instead of Maybachs or whatever.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:18 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


You know what? Forget Lovecraft- I think I might actually dedicate my life to living like an Edward Gorey character.
posted by TheWhiteSkull


I'm pretty sure I've died of ennui several times.
posted by littlesq at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's got to be exhausting maintaining this kind of purity in your actions all the time. "We trucked, people trucked! Yes trucks, of a different type perhaps, but still indeed it's not against my beliefs and does not defy not violate the con-structs of my belief system at-all. No, it doesn't. Because I said so!

Just do what you want, you look fancy as hell on that bike, lady, high fives lol.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's got to be exhausting maintaining this kind of purity in your actions all the time. "We trucked, people trucked! Yes trucks, of a different type perhaps, but still indeed it's not against my beliefs and does not defy not violate the con-structs of my belief system at-all. No, it doesn't. Because I said so!

This is how people justify doing almost anything they feel guilty about.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:31 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


now people are being shitty to them here, treating them as if they were actual slave traders rather than slightly odd people with a corset fetish

I mean, let's put it this way. For me, as a Chinese-American who has no direct experience of living under colonial rule, but whose parents have vivid memories of growing up under colonial rule and cultural imperialism and the racial caste system that existed even in so-called benign colonization schemes -- yeah, no, they're not actual slave traders, but my feelings about this are a diluted version of what I imagine at least some modern African-Americans feel about white, privileged people who dress up and prance about ex-plantations in the South and go on and on about gracious living and Grand Tours and burying the silver when the Yankees came.

Add in historical nerd-rage about how they're simultaneously being all I AM MORE AUTHENTIC and LOOK AT MY AUTHENTIC VERSION OF HISTORY while totally fucking up the actual history? And misinforming people and giving people the wrong idea about an important period in recent-ish history?

A friend of mine forwarded this to me separately of Metafilter this morning, and the irritation was better than coffee at waking me up.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2015 [35 favorites]


Obviously, they aren't cosplaying Oscar Wilde.

this. this sounds good

let's do this instead
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]



Obviously, they aren't cosplaying Oscar Wilde.

this. this sounds good

let's do this instead



again, on it

posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on September 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


...while totally fucking up the actual history?

I think this is what's chafing a lot of people. It's all fun and games and cosplay until you have to figure out where to put the poop.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:06 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


again, on it

Hm.

No ascot or corsage?

And you call yourself a dandy.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:08 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: It's all fun and games and cosplay until you have to figure out where to put the poop.
posted by Mchelly at 4:08 PM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


You know, I came for all the NeoVictorian lolz, but after seeing the sanctimonious "how dare you dress up as Victorian without donning your sackcloth and ashes for the horrible exploitation of the time" shit I have never wanted more to strap on a corset and a hideous dress.

Victorian times were nice for middle class English Victorians. And they had intricate clothing and knick knacks and elaborate manners and things that are very fun to cosplay. Just...can't we let people have something nice for five minutes, stupid or not?
posted by corb at 4:08 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I kid you not I was just thinking to myself "we're due to start stirring up shit late in thread, That means we must be at about comment 300 or so..."

I know this place too well.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:21 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Of course they can dress up as Neo-Victorians all they want, and they're actually doing a decent job of it- those are very nice outfits and velos, etc. However, a decent historian would at least try to put some context around the types of people they were portraying with those outfits, and the structures which supported their lifestyle. Certainly, a man who owned a bicycle shop might have had a comfortable middle-class lifestyle (the Wright brothers did quite well for themselves even before that whole "flying machine" business), but if they have other money, where might it have come from? How did a family from the leisured classes support itself during this period, and how did they maintain their household?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:21 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Although I could accept a revisionist "Shadow Over Innsmouth" wherein everyone is like "oh, good, we get to go live in the wild deeps of the sea and get away from our horrible, stunted New England lives!" and where the deep sea people are the heroes.

Well, it is possible to read the ending as a happy one, as our protagonist has not only come to terms with the previously unthinkable aspects of his ancestry, but outright embraces his true nature, hinting with great excitement at the wonders that await him when he re-joins his kin in the blackest depths of the cold, dark sea.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:21 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I dare say, I haven't read all the comments, so I shall show eloquence and proper restraint in this endeavor. [[[[[[[[[[unholy-filth-rage-death-in-childbirth-racism-imperialism-seeds-of-fascism-colonialism-no-antibiotics-no-anesthetic]]]]]]]]]].

Good show I say chaps! Well, more antibiotics and vaccines for the rest of us. May the good lord bless you for ripping off a Jane Austin novel with such (dare I say) delicious irony. Oh wait, that was the pre-ironic age. Harrumph! Good god man, those bloody kerosene heaters do smell like someone doesn't quite know how to properly refuel an airoplane.

Thank you internets, and especially to the site that is royal blue in nature and whose aristocratic forms holds no equal in these steam powered pipes and tubes.

It's not sarcasm you see, the root word actually comes from Csar-chasm. A deadly place I'm afraid, vertiginous indeed. And so many stinking serfs!

Well after all, I only skimmed the article you see dear fellow. I'm off to drink a tincture of laudanum and reminisce about my travels to the orient.
posted by thebestusernameever at 4:29 PM on September 9, 2015


However, a decent historian would at least try to put some context around the types of people they were portraying with those outfits, and the structures which supported their lifestyle. Certainly, a man who owned a bicycle shop might have had a comfortable middle-class lifestyle (the Wright brothers did quite well for themselves even before that whole "flying machine" business), but if they have other money, where might it have come from? How did a family from the leisured classes support itself during this period, and how did they maintain their household?

Why are they required to pretend they have other sources for money in their make-believe dress-up world when "owner of bicycle shop" would have provided them with a perfectly adequate income to afford the lifestyle they are trying to mimic? Why indeed would they not be entitled to dress up like Dr. Watson and Marie Cassat in their own house and then go out into the world and work as a machinist and a bartender, or a neurosurgeon and an attorney? Or nothing at all? They're not seeking tenure. They don't make a living off giving tours to the public. The value of what they're doing as academic history may be diddly-squat, but that's not the point. One might as well as ask why a gardener isn't exclusively cultivating endangered native flora in their backyard. It's a hobby. Some people like to grown rhododendrons because they think they're pretty. I love me some Wilde, but in this case I see little reason to damn them for immorality when they're making an aesthetic choice.

Everybody in the thread is perfectly entitled to find them annoying little gits whose twee-bathed world gives them a galloping case of the fantods. But come on, man. Must there be this need to clothe one's dislike in all the stern Puritan splendor of moral turpitude? So they're goofy little dipshits. So what? Ain't hurtin' anybody.
posted by Diablevert at 4:41 PM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


Guys what should I do for 80s night I thought it was going to be about fun music but it turns out that a lot of bad stuff happened too.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:42 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: a galloping case of the fantods
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:44 PM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just...can't we let people have something nice for five minutes, stupid or not?

allright - i guess they can - but then it's back to work at amazon's overheated warehouse to provide us computer parts, bumper stickers and t shirts so we can rally people to the cause

---

Guys what should I do for 80s night I thought it was going to be about fun music but it turns out that a lot of bad stuff happened too.

wear a walter mondale button - everyone will understand
posted by pyramid termite at 4:45 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


No, you're fine because at the '80s had a cool aesthetic
posted by Apocryphon at 4:45 PM on September 9, 2015


These people are doing absolutely nothing wrong, they're enjoying themselves as best they can in a world full of assholes who are shitty to them in real life, and now people are being shitty to them here, treating them as if they were actual slave traders rather than slightly odd people with a corset fetish.

Languagehat, this is ridiculous. No one has treated them as actual slavetraders. They have been criticised for publishing a piece romanticizing a historical period where a lot of people suffered due to the vague "ideals" they say they are attracted to, which is very much different.

Your comment is not really a productive response to people's concerns, because it doesn't even engage with those concerns; it just paints us all as shit-slinging bullies.

Is the problem with our response that moneyed white people promoting their Victorian fantasy life shouldn't have to address just how different that life would be if they weren't moneyed white people? Is the problem with our response that the one-sided, rosy view of history that they're promoting is harmless? (Do you think it's not one-sided or rosy?) Is the problem with our response that the people who thought she's smug are misreading her? Why not articulate what your objection actually is?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:53 PM on September 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


You know, I came for all the NeoVictorian lolz, but after seeing the sanctimonious "how dare you dress up as Victorian without donning your sackcloth and ashes for the horrible exploitation of the time" shit I have never wanted more to strap on a corset and a hideous dress.

I mean, I have no problem with people strapping on a corset and a hideous dress.

Just don't write long-ass shitty essays affirmatively stating how Victorian times were the BEST TIMES and things were just SO GREAT and WEREN'T THINGS JUST BETTER, then back it up with analysis that's a mile deep on the subject of middle-class women's fashion and home furnishings, but less than a quarter of an inch deep on everything else.

I mean, to use yet another analogy, it's basically like all those inevitably white, inevitably straight, inevitably cis dudebros who are all like BUT THE MAD MEN ERA WAS SO GREAT!!!
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:54 PM on September 9, 2015 [42 favorites]


I think I might be a little more blase about this because I'm a public historian, and meet people like this all the time. And I think one of the wonderful things about history is that no one owns it - which means that all kinds of historically-themed projects can proliferate in the world without academic review. Even though I love Victorian-era history and love poking holes in romanticism in most contexts, I'm a little philosophical about letting people play with history without the academic certifications. None of what they're doing makes it untrue that the era, like all eras, was thick with oppression. They can't undo historical scholarship. They are not responsible to a public charter, so I don't have any basis to complain about them from a citizen perspective. And I think what they're doing is at least somewhat interesting, in that embodied knowledges about past domestic technologies and clothing and the way they intersect can help generate new scholarship. I don't like the BS about corseting, but I don't feel hate or think they should do something else.

I mean, if I really wanted to pick on people who embrace forms of historical performance as an identity practice, there are a lot of reenactors and roelplayers who'd be in line in front of them. And even then, the phenomenon is complex. Just last night I was excited to read this impressive article in the new online journal The Bitter Southerner about Civil War re-enactment as Theatre of the Oppressed. What people do with history makes for a fascinating text, in itself, for the thinking and criticism of professional academic and public historians.
posted by Miko at 4:58 PM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


(Eeeee, my friend Pat made the photographs in that story in The Bitter Southerner! Glad to see it getting attention.)
posted by palomar at 5:00 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd also like to point out that several of us who have criticised this piece have actually said we have no problem with people having fun dressing up in period costumes or engaging in historical roleplay, so it is really missing the point to act as though this is all about people being silly.

I'll go farther and say that I think the world is a more interesting place with people in it who are willing to go to these extremes to explore something they enjoy. If I saw them outside in their Victorian clothes on their Victorian bicycle, I would probably think that it's awesome.

It's this specific piece that I'm objecting to.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:01 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's this specific piece that I'm objecting to.

I just reread your previous comments, and that doesn't really seem to be true. You seem to be objecting to the fact that they aren't more inclusive and contextual in presenting their version of history to the public. It's true that this piece didn't correct that, but is this specific piece really the problem, or the entire frame of their project, which shares the exclusions of the piece?
posted by Miko at 5:09 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess the thing is, that there's a lot of focus being paid to this as an example of privilege blindness, or oppression blindness, or how dare these people talk about their lifestyle as great/ objectively better, all sorts of things. But really I see this exact same dynamic in so many other things but also like this, are only possible for people who make over a certain income and have no dependents. Home brewing, fancy bicycling,Veganism, kayaking, hiking fetishism, I mean there is really a whole host of white people hobbies that seem to be nothing more than vehicles for burning money. And like someone else said, oppression takes place at all times, in most cultures. So the kind of focusing on the Victorian era as the socially excepted bowl era to hate the exploitation of, I find kind of weird.
posted by corb at 5:10 PM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Having grown up in a city that was nearly burned to the ground repeatedly in the Victorian era, I hope they make an exception for things like smoke detectors etc. If I were their neighbour, I wouldn't be thrilled about their use of kerosene heat etc.
posted by peppermind at 5:10 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I look forward to the thread where mefites pile on anyone who likes hiphop music and criticize them for not actually living in Compton.
posted by GuyZero at 5:15 PM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


"hey, i'm not straight outta compton, i'm straight out the trailer"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:19 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Your comment is not really a productive response to people's concerns, because it doesn't even engage with those concerns; it just paints us all as shit-slinging bullies.

That's because you are shit-slinging bullies (for some values of "you"; I won't point fingers at specific people, you know who you are). I'm not crafting some sterling "productive response," I'm expressing my indignation at the shitty behavior, the self-satisfied smugness and contempt, on display here. It's as if the hatred of the Other must come out somewhere, and since it can't come out against people of color or sexual or religious minorities (on this virtuous site), it comes out against people who dress up as Victorians. I repeat (since I don't think I can put it any better): These people are doing absolutely nothing wrong, they're enjoying themselves as best they can in a world full of assholes who are shitty to them in real life, and now people are being shitty to them here, treating them as if they were actual slave traders rather than slightly odd people with a corset fetish. If you don't want your shit-slinging pointed at, stop slinging shit.
posted by languagehat at 5:20 PM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think the reason many of us think it is a bit silly (and that's really the extent of most of our criticism), is that they make claims to be living an "authentically" Victorian lifestyle, when in fact the Victorians were in many ways more modern than this couple realizes, while being less modern than this couple in a number of other ways.

A lot of what's going on here is really just gentle ribbing, though. Again, if this is how this couple wants to live, there's no reason why they shouldn't (perhaps within the limits of their municipality's building codes, however).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:21 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, no one has called these people murderers, or perverts, or actual slave traders. Chill out.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:23 PM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I've met SCA people and folks who were super into historical costuming and Victoriana geeks, and thought they were awesome, and if I saw her riding around town, I would be like, how cool! But it's this attempt to sell a Victorian lifestyle (which she seems to be literally doing with her books) that I find off-putting; I don't know these people, but I associate that kind of nostalgia with serious amounts of unexamined white privilege and class privilege-- and, more than that, an implication that we were all better off when people didn't bring up racism and classism. That's not a crime or anything, but I'd rather hang out with the smart historical costume people.

I mean, I'm really into film history, but old movie nostalgia puts me off, because it sometimes stands in for a whole set of conservative values I don't endorse. There's a point when I'm talking to certain older film buffs where the conversation goes in a "things were better in the '50s" direction and I have to nope out or get mad. Maybe I'm projecting too much onto these guys here. I want them to keep doing their thing, but it wouldn't hurt to think about why some people don't care for it.
posted by thetortoise at 5:25 PM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


So the kind of focusing on the Victorian era as the socially excepted bowl era to hate the exploitation of, I find kind of weird.

But other hobbies are not so closely tied to colonialism. And colonialism isn't that long ago. A lot of former British colonies gained their freedom in the 50s and 60s. HK and Macau were returned to China less than 20 years ago.

I admit there might be some counter-culture programming going on. There's a lot of HK/Chinese historical programming and film where a constant theme is rising up against white colonizers dressed in stuffy Victorian-era clothing.

I'm not saying for these folks to stop doing something they enjoy. I am just explaining it's a little uncomfortable and why I'm uncomfortable with it. I'm not shaving the front of my head into a queue or going all Boxer Rebellion on this.
posted by FJT at 5:33 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


If I was breathlessly panting that the path to true authentic happiness, not this superficial fake world, was to wear tweed all the time and brylcream your hair and eat steak and eggs for breakfast and drink roma wine while buying war bonds , I might expect some gentle ribbing at least.


(I will not wear those stupid 40s ties they're dumb and I hate them so I have my limits)
posted by The Whelk at 5:35 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just as a point of info, it came up in a FB discussion about this post that someone has seen the woman, at least, on a plane, so flying isn't totally taboo. She was in her Victorian clothes, though, which prompted the conversation.

Count me in as someone else who would have found this far less irritating if the tone had been different, particularly in the paragraph talking about how you only learn TRUE HISTORY FROM AUTHENTIC OBJECTS (which... you may or may not be using authentically, as it turns out).
posted by TwoStride at 5:35 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, this is from ages ago now but I can't believe we didn't have

metafilter: resenting their sheep and each other
posted by TwoStride at 5:36 PM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: I love you in the way that poor Chinese people love the gold that they are forced to extract from a pile of recycled electronics.
posted by thebestusernameever at 5:42 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you think this woman's tone in her writing is unbearable and insufferable please note that not everyone reads it that way and that your reaction is, at least in part, about you more than her.

I mean, I'd put her in the "twee" bucket at worst but she's no more insufferable than anyone who writes about something they love waaaaaaaaay more than any normal person. Oh the horror, to have some non-ironic enthusiasm for something.
posted by GuyZero at 5:43 PM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


This isn't only a hobby or a lifestyle, it's also a performance--it's being staged (via blog, book, and of course the FPP) for our consumption, which changes its meaning significantly. Usually a hobby is practiced for the benefit it provides directly the hobbyist. In this case, it's additionally being practiced for the entertainment of third parties (us), whose attention benefits the performers. What I'm trying to say is, we the audience are part of the performance, because it isn't possible without us, and after thus participating in it, I think we can consider ourselves entitled to comment on it, even with dislike. If they were doing this solely for their own pleasure, and not offering it publicly as a commodity, I would feel differently, and prrrrrrrrrrrrobably mind my own business.
posted by milk white peacock at 5:44 PM on September 9, 2015 [23 favorites]


remember that post where the super earnest guy was like "i eat at olive garden all the time and it's really great!" and everyone was like BURN HIM

that was the best post
posted by poffin boffin at 5:49 PM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


I just reread your previous comments, and that doesn't really seem to be true.

I can see this heading into an argument about my wording, so if I was unclear I'll own up to that and explain better. I only know this couple and their project through this piece. It's literally the only thing I have to judge them by, and I saw something I thought was a major flaw in it.

I can imagine that it's not an accurate representation of their project overall--that they are actually more thoughtful and aware than this, and do not always engage in this kind of rosy revisionism (yes, omission can be a form of revisionism) when communicating about their favorite past. If it is accurate, then I can also imagine a different, more aware couple doing a similar project without really bothering me.

More broadly, I think that there is a problem with how normalized these rosy views of history are--that they are a symptom of continuing social inequalities. I think that a lot of the defensive reaction people have towards criticism of these folks is because these rosy views are so normalized.

In short: I don't think I object to the general idea of the project. If a couple wants to play-act at being moneyed Victorians, then I have no problem with that. Once they cross the line into publicly promoting their lifestyle and talking about how much better things were, though, they should do so in a thoughtful, less one-sided manner.

I repeat (since I don't think I can put it any better)

If you really can't put it better, then you don't have anything to say worth listening to. You still haven't engaged with what people are actually saying.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:51 PM on September 9, 2015


Comment seen on Facebook:

FROM A FORMER HISTORICAL REENACTOR'S PERSPECTIVE:

I used to do historical reenacting (French and Indian War, 1750s-1760s). The rules for the dress and what we ate and how we lived were strict. Nothing modern could be exposed, so we threw wool blankets over our coolers holding the perishables, lol. Food poisoning sucks, regardless of the era in which you're living.

Our clothes had to be made from materials that were available to people in a rural outpost in Alabama in the 1750s, which meant mostly cotton, some linen, and a little silk for fancier things, and a lot of wool in the winter. The patterns and prints on our clothing, like my skirts, had to be from the era. Nothing later than 1765. The more hardcore reenactors hand stitched everything. A lot of us used a sewing machine to make our clothes, lol. My corsets were cone shaped, like the F&I era, not hourglass shaped, like the Victorian era. I wore them very snug, but it was actually quite comfortable because they weren't crushing my rib cage, just giving me great back support, lol. Our clothing even had to be specific to French styles of the 1750s because we portrayed French soldiers and their families, along with Native reenactors who portrayed the Natives who lived in or alongside the fort during the F&I war. I wore either leather moccasins or I wore wooden clogs. No zippers or snaps, obviously, and even the buttons on our clothing had to be in keeping with the period. Do you have any idea how taxing it is to research button styles of the 1750s? We couldn't even eat tomatoes because tomatoes hadn't made their way to the new world yet and the food we did eat had to be food that was in the area at that time and in season at that time.

I *loved* doing this and it was awesome to be completely without technology and just hanging out with folks around a big fireplace, where I cooked, while people swapped stories or just chilled in front of the fireplace (when it was cold). I can cook the shit out of a wonderful meal over a fire with the skills I learned there. We had a clay bread oven on site in which one woman made the most delicious bread I've ever tasted. We even had a cannon on site that we fired once a night that made a glorious BOOM! We lived in what would be considered a barracks, that were built based on archaeological findings in the area from that era. A fireplace in each room, and we slept on straw mattresses in bunks.

However, we only lived like this one weekend a month and twice a year we had four day events. It was truly wonderful. We would all gather in a big gang and go to a local Mexican restaurant in our period clothing. We got a lot of looks and a lot of curious people, but nobody was ever nasty to us, and this was in rural Alabama. We also didn't hesitate to use modern things when necessary. When a guy on site cut his hand pretty badly with a knife, we washed it with running water from the bathrooms that were across the park, bandaged it with modern day gauze and sent him off to the ER for stitches. When I got food poisoning (it was inevitable), a nurse who was a reenactor with us kept me tanked up on Gatoraide and she checked my blood pressure with a very modern blood pressure cuff she kept in her medical bag, ready to drive me to the ER if I got *really* sick.

I totally get *why* these people are doing this, but the article comes across as extremely pretentious. If you want to live full-time as a historical reenactor, that's awesome, but don't give me that bullshit about how you're doing it to save the planet. Yes, living in an era that does not use any of our modern conveniences does make you acutely more aware of the resources you're using. Believe me, a low woodpile in the middle of February is not a happy sight. But we didn't pretend we were saving the planet by using oil lamps, FFS.

These two come across as smug and like Victoria said, extremely privileged. It's nice that you were able to afford a Victorian era mansion in Washington and you have the time and resources and skill to make all of your clothing or have a seamstress do it for you. That's really great for you and I'm kind of envious, but you are not living a life better than anyone else and where do they get the money to afford all of this? Historical reenacting is not a cheap hobby, even when you do it part-time. I admire their dedication, but I really hate their pretentiousness.

I don't know that I'd call them "hipsters", though, because they are actually historians and living like that is a LOT of work. I lived in the 1750s one weekend a month and it was a ton of work to make or have made everything and study the era and learn a completely new way of living, if only for a few days at a time. However, none of us were smug about it and we loved talking to the "tourons" (tourists) who would visit the fort about life in the 1750s and how we made that transition.

Also, if that chick's corsets aren't rearranging her internal organs, she isn't living her best Victorian life! Heh.

Here's a link to the group I worked with with I did historical reenacting, if you're curious. Sit down, Victorian era. Let the 1750s in a fort in rural Alabama in the middle of a war show you how it's done. LOL. Maybe I am a little bit smug. wink emoticon

http://fttoulousejackson.org/
posted by Evilspork at 5:58 PM on September 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


Thank you, Eyebrows McGee, for giving us some background because I was flummoxed by both the lack of detail in her blog (as to her daily life) and the outlandish responses to her by people on the street. I was stunned by the death threats. The pawing and the groping are unbelievable to me.

However, I must admit I am frustrated with her because she wants us to believe that wearing corsets is fine-- healthy even! Furthermore she never explains how she is only using Victorian technology yet manages all of her housework by herself while having plenty of time to read and ride her bike. How? How does she manage? She wants to tells us all about her corset (without ever mentioning the limitations) yet glosses over doing the laundry, cleaning the carpets, cooking, shopping, etc. Forget the clothes, just the idea of washing bed linen by hand makes my head spin. So how does she do it? Does her husband do half the work? Is she using a washing machine? Does she have daily help coming in?

Then yes, as mentioned above, nary a word on birth control. Or what she uses for menstruation (rags? that she has to wash by hand?) or what she does for the occasional headache or flu. I guess my objection is she wants to convey this romantic idea of living out her dream of recreating the past but not explaining or revealing her thoughts on being a woman living in the Victorian era.

I don't really want to pick her life apart or condemn her actions or jeer, I'm just very curious and I'm wondering why so much is purposefully hidden from us.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:01 PM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


Yeah, even with mod cons maintaining a house like that takes WORK if you don't have help. And honestly there is nothing more era appropriate than having servants.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:05 PM on September 9, 2015


I don't really want to pick her life apart or condemn her actions or jeer, I'm just very curious and I'm wondering why so much is purposefully hidden from us.

Because it's all a made-up narrative! And those things don't fit the narrative!

The same way half-hour TV shows don't show people actually eating food in real-time. Lunch would be the entire episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Would everyone really be happy and like these people if they were simply more historically accurate? Why do people keep bringing up this transparently irrelevant complaint?

If you don't like it, great. Hate on. But it's not like you don't like it for some high-minded academic reason.
posted by GuyZero at 6:09 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Enthusiasm is one thing. But this line:

"No one pays us for it, but we take it more seriously than many people take their paying jobs"

...seems to sum up the attitude of this piece. I would be super interested in seeing all their Victorian stuff and hearing about the Victorian lifestyle, but the way this is presented, she seems to be making it more about herself than anything. It comes off as bragging about how she's made these awesome and unique life choices, and the only downside is that society is afraid of her greatness.

I dunno, my eyes rolled, but I'm generally in favor of waving your freak flag however you see fit if it works for you. I just can't imagine reading an entire book of this stuff.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 6:10 PM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


you seem really upset that some of us are interested enough to want a lot more details on the minutiae of their lifestyle.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:11 PM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thank you, Eyebrows McGee, for giving us some background because I was flummoxed by both the lack of detail in her blog (as to her daily life) and the outlandish responses to her by people on the street. I was stunned by the death threats. The pawing and the groping are unbelievable to me.

Could people just sort of stop saying this, so much? I'm as white as a sheet and all, but come on, if you don't already know that this is something people actually do because it is something that happens to black women and kids all the damn time, you have been living under a rock your entire life. I stopped dying my hair unnatural colors a long, long time ago because people would paw at it and I could not get them to stop and they would even get angry at me for objecting. Being ignorant of this reality isn't necessarily your fault or an indicator that you're a bad person, but the constant repetition of privileged cluelessness throughout the whole thread is getting on my nerves, and I'm not even black and get to (mostly) opt out of it. Yes, people display an appalling lack of regard for women's boundaries and feel entitled to our bodies even in completely non-sexual conexts. This should not be news to anyone.

stowaway's point about how she's basically living as Mickey Mouse is a fair enough point. It's not an excuse by any means, people who do that are assholes, but could the nice white people stop acting quite so shocked that the nice white lady has to go through this? It's not a unique thing by any means, and it's not because they're all hating on her for being special and unique and living her dreams, as she would like to pretend.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:16 PM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Also, if that chick's corsets aren't rearranging her internal organs, she isn't living her best Victorian life! Heh.

That is what I have been wondering about. She rides a bike and does all of this manual labor in the house so I am guessing she does not lace up very tightly. I thought that with a true Victorian era corset you can't bend, you must sit up straight at all times, and you cannot breath deeply. Nor can you eat much (heh, maybe that's a good thing) and indigestion and constipation are par for the course.

If you don't like it, great. Hate on. But it's not like you don't like it for some high-minded academic reason


Yeah I admit that it drives me crazy to read her blog because I am left with far too many questions. I didn't know about her before this post, and if you had told me a couple in Washington are recreating the Victorian Era I would have been charmed, but the way it is presented is frustrating and a bit maddening. They may just be lies of omission but they are lies.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:21 PM on September 9, 2015


Given that she and her husband advertise several different consulting services--she promises to help with your books and your movies as well as your theme parties or given an informative talk starting at $250 plus travel--wanting more information and precision from the historical facts fuelling this lifestyle-as-business-model is completely fair.
posted by TwoStride at 6:23 PM on September 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Once they cross the line into publicly promoting their lifestyle and talking about how much better things were, though, they should do so in a thoughtful, less one-sided manner.

This is also an attitude I observe a lot about historical projects in the wild. I think it's safe to say "it would be nice if they did so in a thoughtful, less one-sided manner," or "it would be ideal if they did so in a thoughtful, less one-sided manner," but I balk at "should." They don't have any responsibility to anyone. As I said, they aren't on the payroll of an educational nonprofit or a university. They have literally no obligation to anyone to be more accurate and contextual - no more than a Hollywood film does, or a bar's 1920s Night does, or a ghost tour does.

And there are people pursuing much more insidious, much nastier historically-themed projects. I'm not saying that makes theirs great, but I think it's important to remember that no one controls history. It is available for all uses.

I'm also not sure why we're so obsessed on whether they use computers, tampons, birth control, airplanes, etc. I'm not sure they've come out and said "we live a rigidly 24/7 1880-era life and use no contemporary technology." They seem to basically be saying that they seek to integrate lots of elements from Victorian technology and leisure into their life. It reminds me of the 12-year-olds who show up on historic sites and all they can think to ask the roleplayers in costume is where they go to the bathroom, or to try to catch them in an anachronism. They're obviously doing some kind of creative combination of Victorian behaviors into a modern life.

These contradictions that occurred to us after considering their way of life for five minutes have probably also occurred to the couple who live this way 24/7/365, and they might have some pretty interesting things to share on that subject if we asked them nicely instead of making fun of them.


I agree that it would be really fascinating to talk about how they make those choices, as well as what they overlook and omit, and why. Maybe someone here would want to get on the Correspondence Tubes and do an interview and writeup? Or propose a piece to something like Commonplace?

there is no huge group of Victorian Livin' Reenactors to judge these people against.

Oh...sure there is. Well, maybe not many who do as much of this stuff and make a career out of it, but there is a pretty big community/network of Victorian reenactors (and I don't mean war reenactors).

As part of my museum career I've known many people like this - they do gravitate to historical museums. One of my coworkers, in fact, was really into the late colonial period and was in a longterm project of doing his house up like a 1770 shipwrights - candlelight and all, redware, wooden furniture, tin sconces, etc. It was pretty beautiful. And I've occasionally played parts in period events and theatrical presentations. About the clothes, I can say that I had a really nice wool dress made for me for a special program that involved giving indoor/outdoor tours at night through December - sometimes in blowing snow, sometimes in freezing rain, sometimes in harsh wind. I wore a corset, long johns, a chemise, a petticoat, a wool skirt, a wool bodice, a fichu (scarf), gloves, a short cape, and a hat. I can tell you I was always extremely warm and comfortable, even when guests in Marmot parkas were shivering. The only thing that got cold was my face, and that was just because I couldn't cover it up because I was performing. As for the corset, I didn't tight lace it - most people didn't really do that and we as performers didn't either - but I found it actually really comfortable. It prevented me from slouching, gave the clothes a great look, and supported my chest better than any bra I've ever found, without straps digging into my shoulders. I wouldn't want to wear it every day, but I certainly didn't find it an instrument of torture. Far from it. I've known some costume historians who question our horror of the corset, noting that "today we wear our corsets on the inside" - that is, the culture still generally pushes a particular body ideal, only you're supposed to achieve it not with shapewear but with workouts, yoga, Pilates, or P-90x.

A bit like if someone in 1890 was going around in full Georgian dress, wigs and all, bemoaning this squalid Industrial Age and wished for a return to the gentlemen farmers of yesteryear

That great comment by thomas j wise alluded to this, but the Victorians practically invented historical cosplay. Well, that's saying too much, but they sure embraced it. Beginning by 1820, the leading lights of Plymouth, MA, dressed up and did an annual parade in the characters of the Separatist community we call the Pilgrims. Beginning at least by the 1850s, Sanitary Fairs (volunteer groups raising money for the aid of Civil War soldiers)featured nostalgic displays in which women put on quasi-Colonial garments. cooked over the open hearth, and served food in spaces decorated on the theme the Old Dutch Kitchen, the Knickerbocker Kitchen, the New England Kitchen, etc. They presented old-timey house displays at the great exhibitions, long before there were historic house museum period installations, and they went to theme balls that encouraged them to dress as Revolutionaries or Colonial gents and dames. So this sort of expressive mode was already being developed and written about by the height of the Victorian era, and it's not hard to find paeans to the way things used to be. I've not yet read of anyone in that time fully adopting past lifeways (though plenty of people were noted for refusing to give up their open hearth, their old well, their old-fashioned mutton sleeves or whatever), but there were other kinds of countercultural movements in lifestyle - the whole Transcendentalist phenomenon of living on a self-sufficient farm and wearing homespun and all that is maybe not that different.
posted by Miko at 6:33 PM on September 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


I thought that with a true Victorian era corset you can't bend, you must sit up straight at all times, and you cannot breath deeply.

There's no one "true Victorian era corset." Tight lacing - that's what produces those effects - was a fashion, and it came and went. Also, there are a lot of different corset designs, and some are a lot more comfortable than others. Just as with today, there were women who put themselves through a lot of misery to get that wasp-waist look, but often they were girls - young, unmarried women - and so they came in for a lot of censure in the press for being stupid, shallow and unhealthy and chasing this beauty ideal; there was more than one movement against it, and designers who promoted alternative dress modified for athleticism and health. The rhetoric around it is a lot like the rhetoric around "skinny models" today. For the most part, corsets were stiff and snug but not as constricting as all that. People had to work, and the majority of them worked harder than we do, so they could and did bend and breathe. Also, a lot of people just didn't wear them, or only sometimes wore them. Like most fashion, they were a middle-class respectability thing. And finally, even the extreme wasp-waist thing was also helped along by shoulder pads, bust pads and hip and backside bustles so the contrast with a waist looking super skinny was partly optical illusion.

It's really hard to get decent information about actual corset history, especially by Google searching, because the internet is so damn full of claptrap about it from corset fetishists looking to promote the "benefits' or the corset, or at the very least drone on and on and on about the things (kind of like these guys do...agree it's boring), and claptrap from costume aficionados whose research focus is on re-creating some of the more fashion-plate looks. Of course, not everyone wore the stuff in the engravings, any more than everyone wears what's in Vogue today. So the whole topic gets tainted with this sort of oddly lascivious vibe that makes it hard to talk about.
posted by Miko at 6:48 PM on September 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Miko, you write: I wouldn't want to wear it every day, but I certainly didn't find it an instrument of torture. Can you expand on why you wouldn't want to wear it every day? What were the drawbacks? And I am pretty sure you didn't find it an instrument of torture because you were not attempting a 17 inch waist.

I guess I am interested in her "menstruation situation" because she tries to be very authentic with her clothing as well as in grooming. Using rags though, that has to be uncomfortable, smelly, prone to leakage, and a pain to keep clean so maybe she doesn't go that route. Naturally I am thinking about all of the disadvantages of being a woman in the Victorian age because that was the beginning of the Rational Dress movement.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:50 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can you expand on why you wouldn't want to wear it every day? What were the drawbacks?

You had to have someone else help you put it on. It was an extra layer I wouldn't want on a hot day. Also, a good one costs about $100, and it has to be customized/sized to you, so it's not an off the rack item you can buy anywhere. But today, I wear Spanx under my work dresses to get a smooth line -- as do lots of people. So I'm not sure it's a hell of a lot different.

And I am pretty sure you didn't find it an instrument of torture because you were not attempting a 17 inch waist.

Yes, that's what I said when I said " I didn't tight lace it - most people didn't really do that and we as performers didn't either."

Just saying, it's hard to make judgements about what wearing a corset feels like without trying it.
posted by Miko at 6:53 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


People had to work, and they worked harder than we did, so they could and did bend and breathe. Also, a lot of people just didn't wear them, or only sometimes wore them. Like most fashion, they were a middle-class respectability thing.

But is that not what Sarah Chrisman is recreating? the respectable middle-class woman? She certainly claims to wear hers every day and I know tight lacing was very fashionable during the 1880's so I am really only focusing on her experience. I think she is opting for a snug, but not tightly-laced corset because I seriously doubt she could bike if she was gasping for breath.

Just saying, it's hard to make judgements about what wearing a corset feels like without trying it.

Oh I wore a corset once. I did not care for it at all. It was far too restricting in movement. And don't be ridiculous, spanx are nothing like. Spanx are designed to move with your body. High wasted girdles, on the other hand, as worn in the 60s by me as a 12 year old-- hell on earth because the rubber was stiff and unyielding.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:01 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


So all the folks okay with pretendy fun-times here were also okay with Taylor Swift's "Out of Africa" inspired video, right?

I have no idea what that is, but I'm pretty sure she didn't get an NEH grant for it.

Using rags though, that has to be uncomfortable, smelly, prone to leakage, and a pain to keep clean so maybe she doesn't go that route.

Well, I commented about this on one of the Facebook posts about this piece today: I see a lot of people who are into living "green" shifting back to using fabric, reusable, washable pads. And just recently I've seen these THINX things advertised, basically diapers made of cloth that look like regular underwear. So, if she's into being that authentic, maybe she does that, and isn't all that out of step with the other people concerned about all that synthetic waste from pads and plastic tampon applicators and such. It would be pretty much in keeping with...well, the periods of the period.
posted by Miko at 7:02 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


She's a respectable middle-class woman, so she would not go out in a day or evening dress without a corset, no. But she's also not tight-lacing in the way you're thinking of as fashionable, which was more extreme. Still, she's more tightlaced than many women of her age and situation would have been in real life. She would really beyond the fashionista stage, and probably have a couple kids. What I'm trying to say is that, no more than today did people all conform to a single ideal for their whole lives. It was just an ideal.

Also middle-class in those days meant something different- basically, top 15% of society, minus the supperrich at a smaller percentage than today. So really not everyone tried to dress like this, or could

SPANX are nothing like

I can definitely honestly say that at least the particular corset I wore that was sized to fit me was every bit as comfortable as SPANX, no question about it. I'm not saying that to make a ridiculous point, but because I personally found it to be true.
posted by Miko at 7:06 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm also not sure why we're so obsessed on whether they use computers, tampons, birth control, airplanes, etc.

Seriously? You're utterly baffled by curiosity? It's impossible for you to conceive that people who use all these things on a regular basis and can't imagine their own lives without them might want to know more about people who may or may not voluntarily choose to eschew them as a lifestyle choice?
posted by poffin boffin at 7:07 PM on September 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's not the genuine curiosity, it's the gotcha-ism. I know not everyone's playing gotcha, but lots of people seem to be.

I think the answer to many of these questions is probably a basic "I do it the modern way," and there's nothing wrong with that. They aren't claiming purism.
posted by Miko at 7:10 PM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


They don't have any responsibility to anyone. As I said, they aren't on the payroll of an educational nonprofit or a university.

I don't think that people need to be professional educators to be responsible for what they say. They certainly don't need to be professional educators to be immune from criticism of their public writing.

But honestly, I think that there's a disconnect here because you're bundling my criticism up with others'. You seem to be defending them against the charge of being poor educators (it's not their job), but that's not my problem with the article. My problem is one concerning social injustice and the privileged ability to ignore it.

I'm going to use an example of something worse to illustrate what I mean: If someone wrote an article about how the Civil War was about States Rights, and not slavery -- my primary criticism of it would not be that the author is a "poor educator," but that the author is promoting a revisionist view of history that protects the interests of whites. And their not being a professional educator would not absolve them of responsibility for what they say.

This couple has not done anything so noxious, but I do think they are responsible for what they say, and I do think that their omissions matter.

As a tangent to all this, though--this isn't a couple engaging in a private hobby. They might not be on the payroll of an educational nonprofit or a university, but as people have mentioned in the thread they apparently publish and consult, and engage in a lot of promotion of their lifestyle.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:19 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I guess I am interested in her "menstruation situation" because she tries to be very authentic with her clothing as well as in grooming. Using rags though, that has to be uncomfortable, smelly, prone to leakage, and a pain to keep clean so maybe she doesn't go that route.

Not necessarily. I used washable fabric pads for a few years and the potential downsides you mention aren't any more the case than they would be with disposable pads, with a lot of upside if you're at all sensitive to the various things in most pads and tampons. In my case, they were an absolute godsend after childbirth.

I did wash mine with modern detergent in a machine, but I don't think handwashing them would have been that much different in terms of sanitation to be honest.

It would be a really quick project to make enough to get you through the month, out of period-appropriate (ha ha) fabric. Mine were cotton flannel.

I can't believe I've been entertained by this thread all day and THIS is where I feel I must finally speak up.
posted by padraigin at 7:23 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


But holy hell her writing voice. Is that how ladies spoke back then?

Nope! For example, Mary Elizabeth Braddon wrote the original iteration of Gone Girl in Lady Audley's Secret, where a dude who abandoned his wife for several years with zero communication is SHOCKED to come back to England and discover that she wasn't patiently waiting in a locked closet in the Abandoned Wives Depot. He's like "I'm a broken man", and she's like "you're gonna be" and she tries to murder him by throwing him in a chasm. The book was a runaway bestseller and Braddon was all "what a HORRIBLE VILLAIN, right ladiessssss" and she even does the narrator's version of the Cool Girl speech, but instead w/ the infantilization of fully grown women who feel forced to act the part of helpless girlwives to flatter men's egos.

Anyway, the women who wrote Victorian novels and periodicals would find this whole shtick pretty tiresome. I study Victorian domestic magazines, and those ladies were not spending their days saying "we're so authentic and intentional about living our lives!" There is this one heartbreaking letter I found from a teen girl about how she thinks it is unfair that she never gets to sit and read like her father and her brothers do. The advice columnist is all "yes, it would be nice if women could sit and think and read and write, but if we did no one would ever get the mending done".

If this lady has time for leisure and writing, then she is not living the life of a typical Victorian woman, which makes her perverse delight in certain artisanal domestic chores all the odder. Draining the icebox is one thing. Emptying out multiple chamber pots, boiling gallons and gallons of water, sweeping out hearths, and blacking multiple grates every day were the kind of chores that actually ate up women's lives, and I'm dubious about whether or not she has embraced those practices as readily as using old fashioned pens.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:25 PM on September 9, 2015 [39 favorites]


In a response piece on Slate, Rebecca Onion discusses how a time period is not just things.
posted by knile at 7:25 PM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Posting this for the young people and their velocipedes: Black Victoriana.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:26 PM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Has anyone linked to the Storify compilation of tweets by a grad student focusing on 19th century studies? Because it brings up some pretty great points...
One thing I think is kind of funny about that piece is that "Victorian" refers to the reign of Queen Victoria.
So like, yes, 1837-1901. Fine. But when you're referring to the 19th century US, it's not usually called the Victorian era. Like, can you think of a big event in the US that took place between 1837 and 1901? BECAUSE I CAN, and I think that is far more defining. Let's change the title of the article to start with: I Love the Civil War Era. So I Decided to Live in It. Wow, weird, that immediately doesn't sound as good. Sorry it should be: "I Love the Reconstruction and Reign of Terror Era. So I Decided to Live in It."
I didn't get my Internet Rage on about this particular article. The author seems naive, but I think there are better things to get irritated about. Nonetheless, this particular Twitter retort showed up in my Facebook feed, I appreciated the angle, and knowing the discussion going on over here earlier in the day, thought it'd be worth sharing.
posted by Leviathant at 7:26 PM on September 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


Miko: " I'm not sure they've come out and said "we live a rigidly 24/7 1880-era life and use no contemporary technology.""

No, this is literally their schtick: "our entire life is an ongoing research project into our favorite decades of the 1880's and '90's. ... Sarah wears a corset 24/7, 365 days a year. All of Gabriel's current glasses date from the nineteenth century, from his 1850's green sunglasses, to his everyday gold-rimmed spectacles, to his pince-nez for reading. We don't have cell phones, or watch television; Sarah doesn't even have a driver's license. This is who we are."

A lot of what is irritating about it is that this is what they are selling, and her writing is largely about how Victorian objects are superior to modern ones, but there is an obvious dishonesty in the presentation of "we don't use cell phones or watch TV!" because they're posting incessantly on the internet (there's a computer there somewhere), and because she presents their life as "fully Victorian" as regular, everyday folks using regular, everyday clothing and technology but a lot of people have a lot of really obvious questions about many of our most convenient everyday modern conveniences (birth control, tampons), and she avoids those. It unavoidably leads to questions about her honesty and sincerity. I assume she uses modern technology to deal with a lot of these things and I'm not bothered by that (nor am I bothered by Local Eccentrics Wear Old Clothes, Ride Pennyfarthings -- I think that's awesome) -- what I'm bothered by is the lengths she goes to to obscure that, even when people ask direct questions, in the service of selling her books and blog and consulting services. Also since I've been seeing her writing pop up over the course of a few years -- before she got a book deal it was a lot more "Hey we're doing cool Victorian things and trying old Victorian technology" and now it's much more "YOU ARE LIFING WRONG, the best way is the Victorian way that we live 24/7/365 and do not look at the man behind the curtain and BY THE WAY synthetic fabrics are wrong and bad and you should feel bad." I'm sure some of it is an editorial voice that sells books, but she's even incorporated classism into her Victorian persona (making fun of people she perceives as lower class), and she's gotten pretty big on fat-shaming and talking about how if YOU wore a corset you'd probably be skinnier too and HOW DARE chubby people ask her questions about how eating works in a corset, don't they know they're fat?

Miko: "I think the answer to many of these questions is probably a basic "I do it the modern way," and there's nothing wrong with that. They aren't claiming purism."

That is exactly what she claims in her marketing, and she goes to great lengths to avoid confessing "I do it the modern way." I mean, even if we accept it as a sort of theater or reenactment (which she would reject strenuously -- this is her chosen life, not a performance), the advertising is dishonest, and that bugs people. And she takes great offense when people question her historical accuracy (particularly about corsets), have questions about how they live that way that try to inquire about the practicalities (like servants and pooping and money), or dislike the Victorian alternative she prefers. It'd probably bug people less if she exhibited a little more self-awareness or humor in her writing, or was less judgmental, but that's either part of her personality or an integral and essential part of the authorial voice she's constructed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:30 PM on September 9, 2015 [47 favorites]


I don't want to be doing the take on all comers thing - I was just really late to the thread, and there was a lot to respond to. So, sorry for the multiple comments.

an ongoing research project

I don't read "an ongoing research project" as "a purist, rigorously enforced practice." Sure, the deep experimentation is part of what they're selling, but how could I be surprised they do some modern things when they are posting stuff all over the internet? I have an "ongoing research project" on nineteenth-century camp meetings, but I don't live in a tent. I mean, there's room to read them less literally than that. The literalness of the reading many people are giving that is what bugs me.

she takes great offense when people question her historical accuracy (particularly about corsets), have questions about how they live that way that try to inquire about the practicalities (like servants and pooping and money)

But come to think of it, that's all pretty darn Victorian. Our personal inquiries about matters of the toilet and household finance are quite immodest and misplaced.

My problem is one concerning social injustice and the privileged ability to ignore it.

So that's understandable, and I actually share your reaction in that way. At the same time, lots of people in the thread have noted that we ourselves, even as we sit here hogging up server time and fossil fuels, are also committing social injustices - or, as you point out, many other people are doing much visibly worse acts of social injustice, with much greater material harm. It just seems like this couple's become outrage of the day, when they are doing almost nothing that isn't also done by costume dramas on TV, historical fiction, movies, and a million other pop-culture products that deliver a sanitized, whitened, Pollyanna view of a much more complicated history.

I agree it's fine to react to them and their writing. I'm just surprised at the strange proportion of it. For my money, the likes of Downton Abbey and Little House on the Prairie have done a lot more damage.

as people have mentioned in the thread they apparently publish and consult, and engage in a lot of promotion of their lifestyle.

Again, fine - if you don't like their product, you don't have to buy it. The point I am narrowly making is that there is no Ministry of History that can regulate the quality of the product. History is un-ownable, and plenty of people make a cock of it, as is their right. Have you ever seen the kinds of crap history texts and blogs Civil War reenactors produce? And some make a fair bit of money on that stuff. I can agree with you that it's naive stuff without agreeing that it should not exist or should be better, by some metric I have no power to enforce. History is horrifically messy in this way - anyone can take it and make any kind of nutty creation out of it. It happens all the time. In a way, it's kind of what makes public history interesting.

But when you're referring to the 19th century US, it's not usually called the Victorian era.

Well, it sort of is. Scholars call the whole six- or seven-decade run C19 or nineteenth-century, more often; the eras she's citing are academic and topical so they don't have the sweeping scope of "Victorian." But America was modeling itself so much on Victorian Britain that there's a fair amount of overlap in what the mores were. People still call it Victorian era history colloquially, even if they're scholars, and tend to only get more specific with peers. I think that's kind of a quibble, though there's some good stuff in the Storify later on.

I like the Rebecca Onion piece. There is every reason to believe their shallow history is a retreat from modernity and social complexity that they fear; there's every reason to suspect it's racially and economically tinged. In that way, they're like lots of contemporary suburbanites and artisanal hipsters, like the back-to-the-landers and hippie utopians of the 60s and 70s, like the Colonial Revivalists who probably started the historic house museum in your town. I agree that, like a lot of those people, these bloggers are shitty historians. But like I say, if I had a dime for every shitty amateur historian...
posted by Miko at 7:43 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Chrisman seems so very much of this time. She blogs about a lifestyle, extends it to a book deal, even has a clickbait article for us all to hate-read. The parts of her life that don't fit with the lifestyle she's selling are not included, just the way Mormon mommy or Brooklyn foodie or London hipster bloggers obscure the parts of their lives that don't fit the image. That doesn't mean that those parts aren't real, just that they are not included in the narrative presented.
posted by stowaway at 7:58 PM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


It'd probably bug people less if she exhibited a little more self-awareness or humor in her writing, or was less judgmental, but that's either part of her personality or an integral and essential part of the authorial voice she's constructed.

I feel like that sort of presupposes she's a normal person, when it seems trivially obvious to me that anybody this obsessed with anything is a wee bit off-kilter. It's like those people who turn their living room into the bridge of the Enterprise. Once you're this devoted to living your life in a fantasy world, it's obviously serving some psychological need for you, and trying to pick apart that fantasy and point all the ways in which they're failing to live the life they dream of and they're actually sill stuck here in our reality seems sort of petty. Puppy-kicking-ish.

My problem is one concerning social injustice and the privileged ability to ignore it....This couple has not done anything so noxious, but I do think they are responsible for what they say, and I do think that their omissions matter.


Okay. But they haven't said anything about how colonialism was awesome. They have just failed to say how colonialism was terrible before discussing the Victorian era at all. So, again, how many minutes do I have to spend pondering current social injustices before I am allowed to enjoy current pleasures? If I were to write an article talking about how i think society's current values are quite nifty, what with gay marriage and all, and mention the fact that today's technology allows me to easily keep in touch with distant loved ones, or gather with like minded strangers to discuss bullshit on the internet, am I remiss if my paean to the joys of facebook baby pictures fails to include a lengthy discussion of how ISIS recruits people on twitter? Basically to mention the good stuff I like about X is suspect if I do not also discuss the bad stuff I dislike about X? A hint that secretly do support all the bad stuff about X?

This seems tenuous to me. Everybody that wants ol' Gabriel to read a chapter of King Leopold's Ghost like it's his catechism before he's allowed to ride a goofy-ass bicycle which historically would have been made with Congolese rubber is probably typing their scorn on a laptop chock full of Congolese coltan. I don't think they're using the hippo hide whips in Kivu anymore; now they just shoot you if you fail to meet quota. Yay progress.
posted by Diablevert at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


As someone with an anachronistic aesthetic who loves antiques/vintage stuff and enjoys history, I find what Chrisman and her husband are doing to be fun and cool and interesting and harmless, but I must admit that I agree with others in this thread who say the way it is done and her presentation it for public consumption is somewhat problematic.

I didn't find the tone of the linked material off-putting, but the consensus in the Amazon reviews for Chrisman's book on corsets indicates that yes, Chrisman has some personal issues that she needs to address if she wishes to make a success of her historical lifestyle blog thing, because they're alienating readers and exacerbating problems she's having in dealing with people out in public. (Not that the worst of the garbage she's dealing with is in any way her fault. People try to lift up her skirt and send her death threats -- what the hell!!!!!)

I was also really disappointed to open the FAQ on her blog and only find information about her corsets when there were so many things I would have liked to know more about. Like many people, I'd like to know more about the details of how she manages things like household plumbing and fire safety and how far she takes historical authenticity in her day to day life. If you're going to claim to be a historian and to be living the Victorian life, you do need to back up that claim by demonstrating a certain intellectual rigor. Otherwise what you're really doing is toying with Victorian aesthetics and technology, which is sort of an extension of what I do when I bought a 1913 piano for my 1912-built house and knit sweaters from 1930s patterns. I enjoy having antiques and recreating vintage style clothing so long as they make practical sense for me as a woman living in 2015, but it doesn't make me a historian any more than decorating my kitchen to look like a science lab and making coffee over a Bunsen burner would make me a scientist.
posted by orange swan at 8:34 PM on September 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


I'm struck by something beautiful in the effluvium of rage and mild amusement resulting from fake yet fully entitled Victorian set-piece.

So pointed in pointlessness. Yet nearing dada in its disregard. What do we have left to truly ridicule? We cannot ridicule the trust funds and automatic bill pay that facilitates a fantasy for being dislodged in time and logic.

This is the joy of displacement, a derangement of economy, a misplacement of desire, a flaccidity in the midst of chemically augmented erections. A chaste and fearful approach to avoiding identifying with the sheer horror and often pointless complexity that surrounds.

Perhaps fighting complexity with perplexity and obfuscating history with a historical lie to recreate a false history of last week is a good thing.

After all, whenever I come to this endangered blue whale, I'm just adorning John Barger ideals and wearing authentic 1998 era thoughts and preening hopes. Maybe there is no robotwisdom left, but there is still folly, and folly is best described in terms of its legitimacy.
posted by thebestusernameever at 8:34 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just think we have a higher then average number of history nerds and recreation dorks in here.

So we can literally talk about this all day.
posted by The Whelk at 8:39 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Spoiler: It turns out she is both Jack the Ripper and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.
posted by The World Famous at 8:43 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]




Interesting about that video: Sarah doesn't have the kind of mastery of the body that was an ideal of the time. Lots of hand gestures, face-touching and awkward shrugs. Her interlocutor better represents the period ideal.

At the same time, the interlocutor has a full page of corset stats including body measurements with ranges based on "cycle" and "inhale/exhale."

It's a hot mess, folks.
posted by Miko at 9:11 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


At the same time, lots of people in the thread have noted that we ourselves, even as we sit here hogging up server time and fossil fuels, are also committing social injustices - or, as you point out, many other people are doing much visibly worse acts of social injustice, with much greater material harm... For my money, the likes of Downton Abbey and Little House on the Prairie have done a lot more damage.

If I recall correctly, there has been some pretty critical discussion of Little House on the Prairie on MeFi in the past (the books, at least).

All of these things you bring up, though, are other topics. We're responding to the topic that's in front of us. So, what if I agree with you that The Little House on the Prairie has done more damage than this couple? Does that invalidate or change my criticisms of this piece?

The point I am narrowly making is that there is no Ministry of History that can regulate the quality of the product. History is un-ownable, and plenty of people make a cock of it, as is their right.

Honestly, Miko, I find this argument a little hard to understand. As far as I'm aware, no one here is suggesting that they be censored; we agree that they have the right to make a cock of history. But does that mean making a cock of history is right? That's a separate question. "Other people do worse" isn't relevant to answering that question. "There's no authority to enforce correct history" isn't relevant to answering that question.

You seem to be coming from a place where people making a cock of history is completely divorced from ethics--that there is no right or wrong behavior regarding the things laypeople claim about history. But I have a hard time imagining that, for example, you believe there is nothing wrong with holocaust denial, with claims about how slavery benefited the African savage, and so on.

You say yourself that Downton Abbey and Little House on the Prairie have done a lot more damage...so you think that there is some kind of damage done, but not that there is a responsibility to avoid that damage?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:28 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


But does that mean making a cock of history is right?

No. But it happens in the real world.

you think that there is some kind of damage done, but not that there is a responsibility to avoid that damage?

What would be the source of this responsibility? To whom is the slavery apologist, the Holocaust denier, responsible?
posted by Miko at 9:32 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


They have just failed to say how colonialism was terrible before discussing the Victorian era at all.

No, that's not it. I didn't respond to your first comment in this thread because I thought it was made in bad faith, but I see that you're persisting in this misrepresentation. If you legitimately think that people are asking for a "colonialism is bad" disclaimer before any discussion of the Victorian era, then I suggest that you read the criticisms again. They are more specific to the approach taken by this particular writer, and don't resemble your strawman very much.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:34 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


No. But it happens in the real world.

Okay, so...? What I don't understand is how pointing out that people make a cock of history all the time somehow makes criticisms of this couple's particular project invalid or wrong.

I mean, I guess you are trying to bring some clear-eyed pragmatism to the discussion by pointing out that there's much worse out there, but no one needs to be told this. It's not clear what you're defending, because you haven't been very consistent. (I mean, does this mean you believe some cock ups aren't "right"?)

What would be the source of this responsibility? To whom is the slavery apologist, the Holocaust denier, responsible?

Wait, are you actually arguing that holocaust denial and slavery apologia aren't unethical? I want to be absolutely sure I'm not mistaking you here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:45 PM on September 9, 2015


Anyway, at least this thread has reminded me that I should really catch up with Ruth Goodman's various shows on the BBC. I like that she digs into whatever period she's recreating with gusto and good humour, that she offers a reasonable first hand explanation of topics such as the comfort of corsets, and that she has chosen to eschew some mod cons without claiming that all of modern life is rubbish.
posted by maudlin at 9:50 PM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


I don't understand is how pointing out that people make a cock of history all the time somehow makes criticisms of this couple's particular project invalid or wrong.

It's not invalid. Criticize away. What I'm objecting to is not criticism in and of itself, but the attempt to say that certain invocations of history or certain historical projects somehow should not be allowed or are not legitimate, that there is some ultimate arbiter of what kinds of historical project are all right and not all right.

It's not clear what you're defending

I'm defending the right of every person, regardless of ideology, to engage in historical projects, and the idea that history is not in a special category of protection that has the power to prevent it from being misused, inadequately used, or used toward ill ends. My belief, my democratic ideal, is that history is open-access, and that everyone can use it in ways they desire, even if they use it in awful ways.

Wait, are you actually arguing that holocaust denial and slavery apologia aren't unethical? I want to be absolutely sure I'm not mistaking you here.

That would be a fun zinger, wouldn't it? I'm not saying they're not unethical in my personal ethical framework. I'm just wondering to whom you think those people are responsible? What framework are you referencing that they would agree they are responsible to? Given that we have no Ministry of History with the power of censure or praise, what ultimate arbiter are you calling on, here?
posted by Miko at 9:53 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ruth Goodman just recently spoke at my place of work! I've loved her projects. Watched the whole of Edwardian Farm when I was sick with the flu a few years ago - entertaining and well-grounded - and then followed with Victorian Farm. Highly, highly recommended.
posted by Miko at 9:59 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've been thinking about this. It seems to me all the bile and vitriol flying around on here and elsewhere is an expression of a deep-seated, bitter resentment. Like everything else, this boils down to race, class, privilege and power: 'How dare these twee idiots show affection and approval for stupid obsolete shit that oppressors owned a hundred-plus years ago! Where do they get the money for all that crap? It has to be a trust fund. I don't have a trust fund! I can barely keep a roof over my head, and these well-off twits are playing dress-up, for Christ's sake! They're fetishizing the era of racist robber baron assholes! Fucking WHITE PEOPLE!'

I can understand that kind of free-floating hostility. Hell, I have plenty of it myself. People are letting off steam, attacking a convenient target. However, I think it's kind of wasted, ripping apart a couple of harmless nerds. I think this energy would be better spent chewing at the heels of the oligarchs currently running the show, but that's a lot harder, of course.
posted by KHAAAN! at 10:19 PM on September 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm not saying they're not unethical in my personal ethical framework.

But this seems to be a consequence of what you're saying, and I'm trying to understand whether it actually is. You objected when I said that the writer of this piece "should" have shown more awareness, and your reasons seem to be based on a fundamental rejection of responsibility for what we say about history. I thought that this was surprising, so I brought up some extreme examples that I thought were clearly unethical, but your responses to them have been coy. This hasn't helped clarify your position for me.

I don't understand, for example, what it means to you to use history in "awful ways"; what does it mean to behave awfully, if you have no responsibility to behave better?

I'm defending the right of every person, regardless of ideology, to engage in historical projects,

I agree with you, but we may be using the word "right" differently. I believe that they have the right, but that they can exercise that right unethically. More broadly, I believe that people have the right to freedom of speech, but can use their speech unethically. (I'm not treating history as a special category here.)

what ultimate arbiter are you calling on, here?

To tell you the truth, I'm not up to settling the question of ethical force today. Maybe in another thread.

1 Note that I said "should," not "should be compelled to," or "should be prevented from."
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:41 PM on September 9, 2015


I say if they want to re-enact the Manor House PBS show or whatever, be my guest and good for them. I'm glad they have the inherited bucks to do it in that case. (Seriously, what I wanted to know most on the FAQ was (a) do either of them have to deal with a regular office job during the day with computers and phones, and (b) is she updating the blog at the library or what? Though poffin boffin has a point as well.) But overall, I'm not that offended by the whole idea and I second languagehat in that the pissiness in this thread ain't pretty. Yeah, this is a rich white people only sort of activity, but hey, there's historical nerds/re-enactors out there already, so why not.

"Yeah, it's really irritating that, on the one hand, she wants both money and fame for doing this, and writes books and websites and does presentations and is all "look at me! look at me!" but then when people look at her, she gets mad that they're not doing it right. You can't both demand fame and public recognition and control how people respond to you; if you need your interactions to be that controlled (as she seems to), it's not going to be possible to live a public life."

Well.... it's one thing to dress "look at me," there's plenty of people who do that in life in other ways, like getting shit tons of tats and/or piercings and/or funny colored hair, or they dress in a colorful manner (that's me), or they like wearing corsets recreationally--and I have met enough folks into that that it doesn't faze me. But what it sounded like she was objecting to me was PHYSICALLY BEING PAWED UP IN PUBLIC by a random person--which isn't cool no matter what the hell you're wearing--and then being told she should LET some random person paw her up in public. What the fucking fuck!? That's not okay regardless of whether or not she's dressed as a Victorian, a hooker, in a burqa, or in a trench coat covered from neck to feet.

What she's reacting to is the same kind of shit people/mostly women are getting nowadays if you do something that's slightly out of the norm, especially if it's mentioned online. It's that crazy fucking rage that some people get into that make them decide they want to attack someone--that's not okay, no matter what the outfit! And that's what she's talking about with your dreams: people are scared to act on them because they know they'll get horrible things happening to them if they do it and others notice and get angry about it. That applies to so many more things than just being a neo-Victorian. If you want to do something interesting, the haters these days become violent stalkers, and that's just beyond crazy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:13 PM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I find her insistence on 100% hand-stitching her clothing to be the oddest part. Sewing machines were widespread by the 1890s -- hell, the electric sewing machine showed up in 1889. The Wilders got a sewing machine in (IIRC) Little Town on the Prairie, which would have been around 1881 or 1882, and they were hardly rich or at the forefront of new technology.

Which is not to say that hand-sewing isn't useful -- it's relaxing and for some specific tasks, it does a better job. I do a lot of hand-sewing myself. But strict hand-sewing only isn't how someone in the 1880s or 1890s would have made a dress. I'm sure some people did, but the people with enough money had machines for the long boring parts (or just hired a dressmaker).

But then I prefer a sort of Murdoch Mysteries take on the Victorian era, where there's lots of excitement about all the new technology being invented and all the new worlds opening up, and also people fly anachronistic planes over Niagara Falls.
posted by pie ninja at 5:36 AM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


the consensus in the Amazon reviews for Chrisman's book on corsets indicates that yes, Chrisman has some personal issues that she needs to address if she wishes to make a success of her historical lifestyle blog thing, because they're alienating readers and exacerbating problems she's having in dealing with people out in public.

I found the story of the bus driver -- "a low class Southern brute"-- who deliberately tore her dress while helping her onto his bus to be a very telling anecdote.

As to the Victorian ideals she professes well I can't imagine what they are. She has a room in her house set aside for her work as a massage therapist....that doesn't sound very Victorian to me.

Finally, addressing the issue of how she does all of her housework, she says that she cleans her carpet with salt and a broom. OK I'm just going to assume that she plays at being the Victorian lady of the house but then when she runs out of time she uses her microwave, washer and dryer, and her vacuum cleaner. I prefer to assume that rather than think she employs someone to beat her carpet with a broom and wash all of the laundry by hand.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:42 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


'How dare these twee idiots show affection and approval for stupid obsolete shit that oppressors owned a hundred-plus years ago! Where do they get the money for all that crap? It has to be a trust fund. I don't have a trust fund! I can barely keep a roof over my head, and these well-off twits are playing dress-up, for Christ's sake! They're fetishizing the era of racist robber baron assholes! Fucking WHITE PEOPLE!'

I feel like you're reading a lot of anger into this thread that I don't see here. If anything, it's mainly the same kind of snark that "look at my unique lifestyle" bloggers always get.
posted by thetortoise at 5:50 AM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, again, I think that the visibly eccentric ornament a town and should basically be encouraged.

I found the piece insufferable and agree with a lot of the criticisms expressed above, but I very much agree with this. Around here there are some men (all men, interestingly) who dress up everyday as mountain men, complete with fringed leather and powderhorns. They look like they are having fun and more power to them.

They mention their attraction to Victorian "ideals" more than once, but those ideals were frequently terrible: deeply racist, sexist, and classist--the source of a lot of suffering for those considered inferior.

My take is that they are attracted to the aesthetics (and especially the aesthetics of the sexy sexy corsets) but for whatever reason feel compelled to layer a poorly thought through justification around "ideals" on top of that. The aesthetics are enough, really; the other stuff about ideals and history and so on aren't necessary nor particularly compelling.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:56 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


As a native of the Pacific Northwest I am unable to support anyone's decision to live in Port Townsend.
posted by duffell at 6:36 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


It seems very American, and I am one, but I don't understand this attitude to class where you can talk about all the corsets you own and your restored Victorian home and the time you spend making your own clothes and appointing your house in authentically period fashion since artifacts deserve to be used and be like "but most people aren't brave enough to live this way," and then when I'm like, wow, I guess that takes a lot of money, I'm being hostile. Like, do other cultures have the thing where you could be walking around a plantation house and be like "huh, slavery built this" and it would be unpardonably rude? I now know more about this author's underwear than my wife's, so I'm not sure it's that I'm a tacky busybody.
posted by thetortoise at 6:42 AM on September 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


for whatever reason feel compelled to layer a poorly thought through justification around "ideals" on top of that.

But I think what's fueling a lot of the GRAR is that these poorly thought through justifications are coming across as an attempt to stake out some kind of moral high ground while simultaneously just ignoring the fact they're only able to live this way due to a fairly high level of privilege and that the lifestyle they're emulating was a fairly highly privileged one. It's kind of a "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" situation - I think lots of people would be A-OK with them living a charmingly eccentric life; it's her attempts to justify that eccentricity by vaguely claiming that their lifestyle is somehow "better" along multiple axes that's getting people's backs up.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:50 AM on September 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


They could be Bas-Lag cosplayers and update their blog with thaumaturgy. Of course, they'd be villains in Mieville's universe.
posted by bad grammar at 6:56 AM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


But by that standard it would be impossible to say anything ever is better or a good way to live, about anything.

It's better when you can cook meals for your kids from natural ingredients - both true, and also not pausing to note all the people who can't afford the material or the time.
It's better when you are very involved in your child's schooling - true, but what about the people who work long hours?
It's better when the house is clean - unarguable, but what about people who have neither money, time, or spoons?
posted by corb at 6:59 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


You objected when I said that the writer of this piece "should" have shown more awareness, and your reasons seem to be based on a fundamental rejection of responsibility for what we say about history. I thought that this was surprising, so I brought up some extreme examples that I thought were clearly unethical, but your responses to them have been coy. This hasn't helped clarify your position for me.

Sigh. I've tried to be clear, not coy.

My position is that since no one owns history, no one can dictate to another person how they use the materials of history.

My position is that a complex and free society will generate millions of personal interpretations of history, and that that is a good thing on the whole, even though it predictably raises social and cultural problems and challenges to the surface. Representations of history are contested because histories themselves are contested. Both professionally and personally, I accept that people are starting where they are in entering a historical conversation.In many ways, those let us talk usefully about the past, whether it's the Confederate flag and "Southern heritage" or Victorians and oppression. I can certainly say, thanks to this article there has been more public conversation of Victorians and oppression in my immediate, non-professional social environment the last 24 hours than in perhaps the last ten years cumulatively.

My position is that there is no governing body or political structure which has the power to rule some private person or group's historical expressions in and some out based on the quality of their research or their interpretive conclusions.

My position is that there are many expressions of history which are against my personal ethics (and I can call them "awful" with reference to my personal ethics). And there are expressions of history which are debatable or simply unallowable when there is a formalized set of relationships that create obligation - for instance, a museum receiving public funds that has a public charter, a government granting agency, a university department of history. And there are professional codes of ethics that pertain in those fields, promulgated by professional associations and enforced by employers and, sometimes, governments. In those settings, there are shared ethical, professional and legal frameworks that can called upon to arbitrate what does and doesn't belong, what is and isn't okay. Absent that, we have free-range history, and it is often a mess, problematic, complicated - and interesting.

It seems like you're arguing that there is an absolute set of ethics that we all adhere to, to which everyone is responsible, under which the Victorian Couple could be called 'unethical.' Of course, there is not. For many people here, the selectivity with which they construct and present this period would be unacceptable in their personal ethics and those of groups to which they belong, perhaps; if that blind selectivity took place in a museum (and, well, similar activities do, something that makes for a sort of a personal crusade for me and many colleagues) it violates professional ethics, as well. You'd be hard pressed to find someone more impassioned than I about driving romanticism and selectivity out of museum presentations because I believe it is a grevious misuse of public money and an abuse of the public trust. But I balk at the use of the word "should" - which means something like to conform to a standard of correctness that I, the speaker, endorse (and I don't really think quibbling by saying "oh, I wouldn't compel them, I'm just critiquing" makes that different) - to tell someone else how their expressions of history should change. Either way, the attempt is to say that they don't form to a standard of correctness. Whose standard? To whom are they responsible?
posted by Miko at 7:01 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


But by that standard it would be impossible to say anything ever is better or a good way to live, about anything.

What? No.

Well, I suppose if you're intentionally sliding down the slippery slope all the way until you hit the rock bottom of black-and-white either/or thinking - which is neither a useful way to live nor an effective discussion position.

It's entirely possible to make the case that some things/moral positions/lifestyles/etc etc etc are better than others while acknowledging the problematic complications of your position as it applies to the real world.

In fact, your examples are exactly what she's NOT doing - she's thoroughly ignoring the "but what about . . . . " part while generally claiming "Victorian Life is Better."
posted by soundguy99 at 7:50 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


How affected. In Victorian times, if the man worked at a bike shop, with a working person's income, they'd likely be living in tenement housing with no flush toilets. One of my favorite things about modern times is flush toilets, water treatment plants and clean running water. The whole "old stuff is better" gets reinforced because the cheap crappy stuff doesn't survive, doesn't get preserved. Certainly, many hand tools were well made, since they got such a workout. Using an unvented kerosene heater is nasty, unhealthy, and that one looks like a fire risk.

Why am I so negative? They are espousing a great deal of silliness and coloring it with ideals. They seem happy, so I don't care very much, but I have zero interest in following their blog and anyone who actually pays them for consulting to be silly. But it's the Internet, so anybody can have an opinion.
posted by theora55 at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


But I balk at the use of the word "should" - which means something like to conform to a standard of correctness that I, the speaker, endorse (and I don't really think quibbling by saying "oh, I wouldn't compel them, I'm just critiquing" makes that different) - to tell someone else how their expressions of history should change. Either way, the attempt is to say that they don't form to a standard of correctness. Whose standard? To whom are they responsible?

They are selling their lifestyles to the public for profit; they're "responsible" to the standards of their potential customers, at least as much as anyone else selling something is held to the standards of their customers--that is, by the customer's right to buy in or not, or to leave negative reviews of their experience. If kutsuwamushi, or anyone here, has a standard that people peddling a historical lifestyle should present a fuller picture of the era and not merely tell us about their underpants before we'll buy in, why is that invalid?

Are you saying that no critique of these people is acceptable? Or that only critique on the level of "I like/do not like this thing" is okay, since they're not a formalized historical endeavor? I'm really not understanding your point if it isn't that.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:02 AM on September 10, 2015


There is nothing wrong saying that it's good to cook meals for your kids from natural ingredients. There is something wrong with saying that people who don't cook meals for their kids from natural ingredients are worse than those who do.

There is nothing wrong saying that it's good to be very involved in your child's schooling. There is something wrong with saying that parents who work long hours are worse than those who don't.

There is nothing wrong with saying that it's good to have a clean house. There is something wrong with saying that if you don't have a clean house, you're a bad person who should feel bad.

There is nothing wrong with dressing up old timey clothes that you and your husband find enjoyable, or even extending that to other aspects of your life that other people find odd or weird or unusual. You should not be harassed or touched without your consent, and people should not bully you, much less send you hateful, threatening mail.

There is something wrong with claiming that because you do these old-timey things that are fun for you, you are not only better than others because you have discovered your true authentic self in this labor-intensive, money-intensive, social-capital intensive lifestyle that very few people ever get to try, much less sustain in the way you claim, but also that the old-timey period from which your clothes and fun stuff comes from was the BEST EVER and SO GREAT because the build quality is just SO MUCH BETTER THAN CHEAP MODERN STUFF and that IN AND OF ITSELF PROVES JUST HOW GREAT THINGS WERE and modern scholars who try to contextualize the material goods you enjoy in wider framework that takes into account things like class, race, gender roles, and oh, I don't know, colonialism and imperialism -- well, nobody should pay attention to them because they're just PLAYING A GAME OF TELEPHONE UNLIKE YOU WHO IS LIVING THE REAL TRUTH!!!!

People in this thread have brought up some pretty good points about how ahistorical her interpretation is in the small things, like her choice of making clothes solely by hand and her pretending at being middle class for the time period, but not having servants. If you want to get an idea of just what kinds of historical facts on a larger scale this lady is ignoring in order to have her fantasy of Victorian life that she is presenting as REAL TRUTH FOR REAL PEOPLE, read LeviathanT's link above in this thread explains in detail how weird it is for a Washington couple to cosplay as "Victorians".
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:04 AM on September 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


To me, this is not all that different from when Gwyneth pretends to be on food stamps for whatever period of time but does a half-assed job of it, and then goes on her blog talking about the system like she Truly Knows what's up with food stamps. In that case I'm not mad that Gwyneth tried to understand what underprivileged people deal with; I'm not even really mad that she did a shitty job--honestly, how likely is it she would ever do a good job of it? I'm mad that she did a shitty-ass job and pretended (or honestly believes) that she did a good one.

And that's the same deal with these folks, at least for me. I'm not mad that they dress up in corsets and waistcoats and breathe in kerosene fumes all day long. I'm not mad that they nonetheless use modern technology at the same time to have a constantly-updated facebook and blog. I'm mad that they do both of these things but won't admit it and instead pretend (or honestly believe) that they're doing a super-aces good job of living a True Victorian Life in 2015.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:18 AM on September 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is the quote that has been bugging me, from her entry about the lavender festival, after the (extremely horrible) groping incident: "I don't want to give up our ideals and philosophies and just try to pretend we're like everyone else. Because that's letting the idiots win." Being like everyone else is the worst possible outcome, not misinterpreting historical norms or her idealized version of an era.
posted by pekala at 8:45 AM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's better when the house is clean - unarguable, but what about people who have neither money, time, or spoons?

flagged as SPOONBAIT
posted by poffin boffin at 9:01 AM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is something wrong with saying that parents who work long hours are worse than those who don't.

Wait, is it OK to say that?
posted by thelonius at 9:14 AM on September 10, 2015


Sigh. I've tried to be clear, not coy.

But you still haven't answered the question, and I still honestly don't know whether you think that holocaust denial and slavery apologia are unethical. These are extreme examples, but I picked them because that makes them very clear--no problems with categorization.

This is all about this word "should" that I used in the first comment. So, point blank: if someone claims that slavery wasn't all that bad, and benefitted Africans, (1) are they being unethical? (2) Should they stop?

Here is what I'm guessing, based on your responses: You will say that they are being unethical according to your personal ethical system, but that because there is no absolute standard of ethics, no one has the right to say that they should stop. You draw a difficult line between judging something to be unethical, and believing that someone should stop that behavior.

In fact, if I say that slavery apologists should stop, you will defend their right to engage with history in any way they see fit. (Although we both believe that they have the right.)

My position is that since no one owns history, no one can dictate to another person how they use the materials of history.

No one is suggesting that anyone "owns" history. No one is suggesting that we establish a body that can enforce the correct uses of the materials of history, i.e. censorship. All that has been suggested here is that people's can say things about history that are unethical and that it's fine to say they shouldn't say that. But there is a conflict, here, because you say:

And there are expressions of history which are debatable or simply unallowable when there is a formalized set of relationships that create obligation - for instance, a museum receiving public funds that has a public charter, a government granting agency, a university department of history.

So for you ethical judgment can only exist in the context of a formal relationship. The relationship of a person to society, to the victims of historical atrocities--that does not grant any ethical force, in your eyes.

My position is that there are many expressions of history which are against my personal ethics (and I can call them "awful" with reference to my personal ethics)

But you draw the line at saying people should not do awful things?

It seems like you're arguing that there is an absolute set of ethics that we all adhere to, to which everyone is responsible, under which the Victorian Couple could be called 'unethical.' Of course, there is not.

This argument applies to all human behavior, not just writing articles about history. You're arguing that we can't make any judgments about what people should and should not do, outside of the context of formal obligations.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:21 AM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm really glad that I attended the lavender festival this year on a day when this couple was not out and about on their bikes, because I spent a fair amount of time at the farm where she was treated badly by the handsy lady and allegedly mistreated by the farm employee, and holy goddamn if I'd seen people dressed up in Victorian costume parking their fancy old-timey bikes under the trees (which is kind of where people go to get out of the sun, also where they serve food and drinks and have a little bazaar of arts and crafts and other things for sale in the shaded areas of the farm so every shady spot is packed with people and things, and it's a HUGE TOURIST EVENT so I'm sort of gobsmacked that this lady went out in it at all if she hates being approached by the public so much), I might have tried to approach them and talk to them and maybe ask them questions. Judging from her blog entry about how awful and tedious it is to have to talk to plebians like me, I bet it would have been a negative experience for me as well as her and her husband.

I mean, nobody should ever have to tell strangers to get their hands off her body. Nobody should be screamed at or treated poorly for being a little eccentric. Those things are unacceptable, full stop. But upthread someone mentioned the instant shaming that this woman goes for when someone acts in a way she finds inappropriate, and that really stood out to me as well. If I stood too close and accidentally grazed her skirts, would I be told to be ashamed of myself and that children are better behaved than me? Because damn. Maybe consider adding a badge (made in old-timey period appropriate style) telling people to look but not touch, or that you're not an actor, or something? Sure, then you have to spoil the illusion that you're a goddamn time traveler on your fancy toy in your fancy clothes, but you end up maybe having a nicer time and not having to be a dick to a lot of people who are just curious about the massive spectacle you're offering up in your lifestyle cosplay and don't know to ask the erudite questions you'd prefer to receive.
posted by palomar at 9:22 AM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


read LeviathanT's link above in this thread explains in detail how weird it is for a Washington couple to cosplay as "Victorians".

Come on, I'm not a historian and even I see inaccuracies in this rant.

"If your dream is to live in an era in which white supremacy was scientifically entrenched, moreso than now, FUCK YOU"

Again, this is pretty much every period of history until maybe the 1990's? I mean, is it de facto terrible to have any admiration for the esthetics of any historical period at all? This isn't wearing a SS uniform to a halloween party. She wears corsets and old-fashioned dresses.

Also, "white supremacy" as Americans know it was hardly an English Victorian belief. English superiority maybe. The Irish, while white, were considered a different race. For someone who studies history this person seems to conflate modern construction of race with historical constructions of race pretty loosely.

Again, you don't have to like these people. But there is a lot of projecting about race going on for no reason that I can figure, other than that race relations in the US have gone to shit lately.

And OF COURSE she's not pretending to be a Victorian tenant farmer living a squalid existence.

It's like some people have never had a fantasy or something. Are all you haters dead inside?
posted by GuyZero at 10:08 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's like some people have never had a fantasy or something. Are all you haters dead inside?

Yes, that's obviously it. Excuse me while I retrieve my eyes from across the room, where they seem to have rolled.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:18 AM on September 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


It's like some people have never had a fantasy or something.

They take that fantasy and are turning into some hipster artisanal lifestyle business or something like that and trying to play it off as some meaningful thing and we should all strive to derive some manner of truth of the human condition from their actions. And people are rightfully calling bullshit on that part.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:19 AM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


But there is a lot of projecting about race going on for no reason that I can figure, other than that race relations in the US have gone to shit lately.

Because (if not considering the US), they kind of chose to emulate the largest, most successful, most hegemonic empire that's existed in modern history. It's not hard to imagine that an empire that's span has reached across the globe, that's fought wars with nearly every country, that's completely changed the economic and cultural landscape of entire continents will mean different things to different people.
posted by FJT at 10:22 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Jesse Berney: I Love 2012. So I Decided To Live In It.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:24 AM on September 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


And again: they are marketing this as a better and more authentic way to live.

It's about the framing. Had it been "We live our kink 24/7!": Whatever floats your boat/keep Washington weird/TIL corsets can be comfortable.

But with, "We are the only real experts about this superior time period!": Slow your (Pennyfarthing) roll, lady/How do you define authentic?
posted by TwoStride at 10:28 AM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's like some people have never had a fantasy or something. Are all you haters dead inside?

You keep saying this, as though marketing her fantasy on the Internet shouldn't expose it to commentary. I imagine people would be less inclined to see the whole thing as collapsing under its contradictions if it were a more private choice and/or she admitted that there are contradictions.
posted by listen, lady at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I guess I'm ride or die for "If you market your Victorian lifestyle on the Internet you should just cop to owning a laptop."
posted by listen, lady at 10:35 AM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I imagine people would be less inclined to see the whole thing as collapsing under its contradictions if it were a more private choice and/or she admitted that there are contradictions.

So I guess I just see it as obvious that there are contradictions and I don't understand why this gets people het up. Well, sure, I probably seem het up about it. To me these contradictions are about as upsetting as seeing a 12 year-old in a Nirvana t-shirt who doesn't know who Kurt Cobain is. Of course she owns a computer. Who cares?

Anyway, I seem to have gotten into that thing where people are WRONG on THE INTERNET. Truly the only actual problem here is me coping with you all being WRONG.

WRONG.
posted by GuyZero at 10:52 AM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think that from now on, everyone should refer to their home as Hameau de la Reine.
posted by rue72 at 10:56 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who cares?

I care because she goes to considerable length to obscure it and she trades on (literally) her claim to absolute authenticity. She is the one who brought her choices to my attention!

Why does anyone's opinion matter to you? How is that less innocuous to you than this woman's behavior? You're the one calling people "dead inside." Like it's fine for you to jury THAT but this should be off limits to everyone?
posted by listen, lady at 10:56 AM on September 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


But you still haven't answered the question

What is the question? Whether I "think that holocaust denial and slavery apologia are unethical?" That's why I ask: unethical for whom, and in what context? (Besides which, they're not really extreme examples, they pop up as current everyday in my work feed commonly enough). Are you really feeling the need to get me up against the wall and force me to admit I think those things are bad? I think they're bad. Do I think people shouldn't do them? I think the world would be better if they didn't do them, and in my life and work, I try to create that world. Satisfied?

So for you ethical judgment can only exist in the context of a formal relationship.

You can't find ethics in the ether. They can come from a formal relationship that defines an ethics and set of obligations, or they can come from less-formal constructs, personal beliefs, etc. But they don't exist in the abstract. People make them. So all ethics are contextual.

But you draw the line at saying people should not do awful things?

Yes, basically. I think that's fair. I try to avoid the "should" thing. I think it's interesting and necessary to critique the things, to educate, to point out the problems with the things, to recommend change. The prohibitive language that assumes a shared ethical frame, though, I try not to use. Because my "should" just doesn't mean anything to someone who is committed to their point of view, and my disapprobation doesn't get me anywhere near as far as my engagement with them on other grounds might. What I'm saying is that there's no reason for the people in question, or for me, to recognize that you have any grounding to tell them what kind of work with history they should or shouldn't do. They might if they share an ethical framework with you, but there's no reason to think they do.

You're arguing that we can't make any judgments about what people should and should not do, outside of the context of formal obligations.

I actually pretty much believe this, though I fail to meet my own standard a lot of the time. That's why I'm kind of a governance and ethics stickler. We need shared frameworks to fall back on, because we all construct our obligations differently.

The relationship of a person to society, to the victims of historical atrocities--that does not grant any ethical force, in your eyes.

It's not possible to have much of a relationship with "society." Society is an abstract descriptor. We have relationships with individuals who we sometimes see as aggregated into groups, but we don't have relationships with "society." But, that being said, we often don't need go to the level of comparing personal ethics and senses of obligation, because we're almost always in a context that does demand legal and moral obligations to one another, for instance, as a U.S. citizen subject to federal, state and local law, or as a member of a religious group that believes in the Golden Rule, or as a museum with a public charter and accreditation. I don't think "not doing bad history" is one of them.

For me the more interesting side of this discussion is not whether they're hypocritical because they ride the bus or use an iPad or have a washing machine, nor does it interest me to debate much whether they should or shouldn't live the way they do. What I gravitate toward is trying to understand how they themselves construct this historical project and what it says about our time and our perceptions of another time. And also, it's incredibly interesting to watch the reactions of other people to this project and what strikes them about it. In this thread alone we have people who rankle at the sense of superiority, at the exclusivity and selectivity of their narrative, at the class resentment inspired by their apparent ability to make expensive choices, and other things that don't have a lot to do with history itself, but again, with the preoccupations (and wilful blindnesses) of our own time.
posted by Miko at 10:59 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


In Victorian times, if the man worked at a bike shop, with a working person's income, they'd likely be living in tenement housing with no flush toilets.


Just a note here- this would not, in fact, be the case. Bicycles were very much cutting-edge technology at the time, and were not only extremely popular among affluent people (of a certain set), but also built by skilled craftsmen. Building a bicycle at this time required a master machinist, welder, and wheelwright- each of these being very well compensated professions. Again, The Wright Brothers did very well for themselves at this sort of thing. Of course, for a couple with significant family resources, taking up such a profession would be seen as rather odd (even as a hobby, it would be considered eccentric). They might be suspected of being free-thinkers, Owenites, or even *whispers* anarchists, and probably wouldn't be invited to many parties.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:00 AM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


In this thread alone we have people who rankle at the sense of superiority, at the exclusivity and selectivity of their narrative, at the class resentment inspired by their apparent ability to make expensive choices, and other things that don't have a lot to do with history itself, but again, with the preoccupations (and wilful blindnesses) of our own time.

And a lot of rankling about other people's opinions, whatever they happen to be. Has Metafilter's purpose changed since I was last a member?
posted by listen, lady at 11:00 AM on September 10, 2015


I guess I'm ride or die for "If you market your Victorian lifestyle on the Internet you should just cop to owning a laptop."

Yeah, but it's a steampunk laptop.
posted by Rangi at 11:15 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


In all honesty, it just struck me as being a variation of what happened to my cousin when he got into CrossFit. It started as a simple gift that rocketed into a Lifestyle Choice that kept going all the way Lifestyle Proselytizing and ended in me unfollowing him on Facebook. With all that wool, I'm sure the Neo Victorians get about as sweaty as Rob and have to complete an equal number of fiddly tasks as part of the daily routine. I can certainly admire the results - that's a nice dress and Rob's abs are shredded like lettuce - but I don't have to agree that the steps taken to achieve them are somehow better or more virtuous than the stuff I do.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:18 AM on September 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


Your cars, your electricity, your global factory farming and your Amazon Prime delivering insanely cheaply produced goods shipped direct to your doorstep from overseas are all daily modern conveniences made possible by economic imperialism and de facto human slavery and no small amount of misery so you can idle away your luxurious amounts of free time playing angry flappy cookie fruit ninja or whatever on your shiny new phabet or whatever.

But we don't have a choice. I feel like that is an important difference. We are not choosing to live in the world of today. We just live here.

I am personally not super annoyed by them, but I think they are really naïve and blinded by their own ignorance and priviledge. Is it the world's worst tragedy? No, but clearly it is a little disgusting to some of us.

I don't think anyone here wants them to stop having fun, but I think they could present their lifestyle in a more humble and socially aware way.
posted by Tarumba at 11:19 AM on September 10, 2015


We are not choosing to live in the world of today.

If we're not doing anything to change it, and we could, then certainly, we are choosing it.
posted by Miko at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


...and ended in me unfollowing him on Facebook.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
posted by griphus at 11:25 AM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I care because she goes to considerable length to obscure it and she trades on (literally) her claim to absolute authenticity.

So aside from hyperbole and rhetoric (I do not think anyone is dead inside, really) I actually don't see any claims to "absolute authenticity." Insofar as this is an actual formal argument where there exists some sort of absolute right or wrong (and mostly there isn't, which is fine) I don't see her making this claim. She talks about how awesome she is a lot, sure, I mean she's REALLY into herself. But I honestly don't see any claims to superiority anywhere other than some vague claims that old stuff is better made.
posted by GuyZero at 11:30 AM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


At the moment, I am judging them for eschewing electricity because it means they cannot slaver over the delights in the Port Townsend Art Deco lighting museum.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2015


I don't think anyone here wants them to stop having fun, but I think they could present their lifestyle in a more humble and socially aware way.

I was thinking it would be nice if she had a bit more joy in her blog and her interviews and her books. She comes across as rather miserable and angry at all the "bullies." Why not focus on all the terrific individuals who make your lifestyle possible: the man who delivers the ice, the woman who hand sews your clothes, the person who comes by to do all of the ironing (I'm presuming.)

I wonder what the future will hold for them. Will the Victorian Why of Doing Things be allowed to slowly slip away or will they wake up one morning and decide to the sell the house so they can sail around the world. I do hope they don't decide to raise a Victorian family because that would be cruel
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:48 AM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]




Lord jesus, she thinks all the work of feminism was done by Victorian ladies and there's no need to continue the fight because it's all solved?

Yeah, I'm out. Ain't got no use for that kind of mindset.
posted by palomar at 11:55 AM on September 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Again, this is pretty much every period of history until maybe the 1990's?

White supremacy did not end, even maybe, in the United States in the 1990's.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:56 AM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Amanda Nelson read her entire book and oooooo boy

I like how much her belief that wearing the corset makes people respect her makes her sound like the men's fashion forum dudes who are convinced that when they wear double breasted suits men fear them and women can barely contain their sexual desire; it's a different idealized time period and desired response, but they both seem more telling about the person themselves than reality.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Honest to god if even half the things in that Storify link are legitimately presented as they are in her book, this lady is just the worst. Huckabee levels of ew.
posted by palomar at 12:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Sweet monkey christ, that storify. THAT BOOK.
posted by XtinaS at 12:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Amanda Nelson read her entire book and oooooo boy

Oh wow, if that's even like 70% accurate then I'm sad I was as nice as I was to her. Guess all the people in the thread who were like "hey we don't know if the clothes are the only retrograde thing about her" were on to something.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:01 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is a whole section about how when she dresses like an "old-fashioned proper lady" people treat her like one.

Wait a minute. I thought her whole schtick was that when she wore her regalia people couldn't stop pawing her.

She gets through airport (how modern?) security fast now b/c her corseted figure signals that she's an alpha female to security

God I can't stop reading this. Thanks, The Whelk.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:03 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ugh, fine, I put a library hold on her book so I can verify for myself that she's a corseted love child of the unholy union of Anne Coulter and Wendy Shalit.
posted by palomar at 12:04 PM on September 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Her explanation for why we associate the Victorians with sexual repression is that we don't like to think about our grandparents having sex.

Well, all of her ideas and behaviors DO make a lot more sense now that we know she is somewhere around 95 years old.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Apparently a quote from the book, as stated on the storify:

"I want to introduce a bit of temporal diversity to people's lives. I mean, people talk a lot about diversity, but..."

oh my god.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


Amanda Nelson read her entire book and oooooo boy

MetaFilter Snark Patrol: vindicated!
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Never let it be forgotten: everything is always the worst.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:07 PM on September 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


The part with the temporal diversity.
posted by XtinaS at 12:08 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reading her recounting in XtinaS's link, about how she talked to a grocery store clerk who thought she was in costume... God, she's so rude to people who completely understandably think that she's a performer of some kind. But it's a little easier to understand why she feels so "bullied" -- when you speak to people as if you think they're so stupid they're not worth treating with any level of respect, they tend to pick up on that disdain and respond accordingly.

I thought Victorians were more well-mannered than this.
posted by palomar at 12:14 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


TEMPORAL DIVERSITY WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK

(I'm sorry; it just can't be pointed out enough.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


The part with the temporal diversity.

Wow. Grossly-clueless message aside, I called the blog more-than-slightly-overwrought before, but damn, that is some precocious-teenager prose. I don't even think I could hate-read this. Hat tip to those who do (full-on, off-with-the-hat bow; I understand that it's wonderfully chivalrous).
posted by uncleozzy at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Also according to the bit that XtinaS provided, at least one of the chapters has 58 end notes. because of course it does.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2015


Interesting because if you read past that she talks about she cannot understand why anyone thinks she is getting paid for wearing her costumes.

"I make my own clothes," I explained.
A brief but uncomfortable pause ensued.
"So..." she (a grocery clerk) slowly lowered the peas into the bag. "No one pays you to do this?"
I shook my head. "To be me? No sorry it would be nice though." I smiled at the thought.

Really she is either completely clueless or willfully obtuse. There is a reason why most people do not grocery shop in elaborate and expensive costumes that cost thousands of dollars. She wants to pretend that all of the rest of us are historicists or something.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Temporal diversity doesn't get to be a thing before holodecks, sorry folks.
posted by griphus at 12:21 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I started out in this thread giving her the benefit of the doubt despite my reservations about the whole thing, then I was horrified by people getting meaner and nastier in thread, and now? LADY YOU ARE FULL OF SHIT AND NOPE NOT GONNA FEEL PITY FOR YOU.

/sorry i doubted you guys
posted by Kitteh at 12:23 PM on September 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


one of the chapters has 58 end notes. because of course it does.

> because of corset does
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:24 PM on September 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


"It should be remembered that in traditional chivalry, hats are removed in the presence of one's superiors. A queen tips her crown to no one."

That is just... I don't have any particular interest in the Victorian era, and I already know that that's wrong.
posted by XtinaS at 12:25 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I don't feel bad about defending the idea of immersion in a Victorian household in general, but yeah, both of these people are jerks who are using a Freak the Mundanes lifestyle to feel superior. They may have a deep love and enjoyment of the time period but it seems secondary to the opportunity to get squiffy with people. Honestly, given some of the descriptions I'm surprised they didn't go into Southern Belle and Dixie Gentleman mode instead, it seems almost more aligned with their notions.
posted by PussKillian at 12:44 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I like how much her belief that wearing the corset makes people respect her makes her sound like the men's fashion forum dudes who are convinced that when they wear double breasted suits men fear them and women can barely contain their sexual desire; it's a different idealized time period and desired response, but they both seem more telling about the person themselves than reality.

I rolled my eyes really hard at the suggestion that her wasp waist made her an "alpha female" who got through airline secuity faster because of it. It's like, look, whatever makes you feel pretty and isn't harmful, but people can still absolutely tell the difference between you and Kim Kardashian. She's not even really bad looking or anything, but her body issues make me so sad.

The whole excerpt about never feeling feminine because she was tall and fat just made me want to give her an enormous hug. For her husband the whole thing is a fetish but for her it's clearly a coping/compensating mechanism, and the way he went about pressuring her into it was just awful and emotionally exploitive.

It's just like, come on, go find someone who is at least into statuesque, tall blonde women and will worship you as a triumphant Valkyrie goddess, or even a beautiful domestic Freya if you're really so hung up on the "power of female domesticity" or whatever, and not basically decide that everything about you is wrong but it! can be! fixed! and prey on your insecurities to get you to do his weird sex thing. If you're going to do a weird sex thing, it should be with someone who is super fucking into you exactly as you are to the point of constantly being on the verge of exploding with glee because of how into you they are.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


I'm surprised they didn't go into Southern Belle and Dixie Gentleman mode instead, it seems almost more aligned with their notions.

I generally assumed that's a Normal Thing People Do In The South
posted by griphus at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2015


All those opportunities to tell cashiers "Fiddle-dee-dee" wasted...
posted by PussKillian at 12:48 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


If this were just a hobby, I would not mind. I'm fond of the clothes of the 1920s, and would not enjoy it if people were to mock me for it. I edit twee magazine, and I know that tweeness irritates some people, but I would rather they keep it to themselves, as I honestly do not care about their opinion regarding my tastes.

However, she seems to be authoring books and giving lectures about her insights into the Victorian era based exclusively on her experiences trying to live a Victorian life in modern America, in the meanwhile deliberately ignoring the work of historians. And I have seen what can result.

I work for a historical archive attached to a house that was built in the Victorian era. Now, it's an interesting house, in that it served for many years as the home to military brass and, when it was uninhabited, was an officer's quarters.

But when the house was first taken over by the historical society, it was an amateur organization made up of Victorian enthusiasts. These were not professional historians, and they had a hugely distorted idea of history. Their sense of the Victorian era was informed by British literature and an sort of obnoxious antiquarian impulse -- this is a town filled with packrats with very little real ability to identify antiques based on historical value, as the antiques market is not dominated by historians but rather by collectors who tend to fawn over a few popular styles of costume or furniture.

And so they took this officer's quarters and set about making it into a Victorian dollhouse. They selected the only person ever to live there who was actually from the Victorian era -- a blundering Civil War general who went on to be a blundering Indian fighter during the Indian Wars, which puts him, in my estimation, on the murderous side of a long war of genocide. He was not especially distinguished, and his career locally was almost entirely administrative. He only lived in the house for a year, and there is almost no documentation about what the house was like when he lived there, except that his wife didn't really like it.

But he was the resident Victorian, and so they made the house exclusively his and erased any of the history that postdated him. And because they made it his house, they had to make him a hero -- someone significant enough to merit historical attention. And so they misrepresented his history, and even tried to make him a friend of the Indians, when, in fact, whatever his personal feelings regarding the subject, his actual career was spent persecuting them.

And so they set out to recreate the house he lived in. But, since there are no records of what it was like, and since we have nothing that belonged to him, they simply brought in all their Victorian furniture and made the place in a manner that they think perhaps it would have been like when he lived there. It's entirely fanciful, entirely imagined, but nothing in the house would indicate that. Instead, there is a sort of ongoing message that we recreated the place precisely as it was when he lived here, which, of course, is untrue.

The people who did this are still around, dressing in costumes that they think look Victorian, telling tall tales about the General and his wife, ignoring anything that happened after the single year he lived here, having "Victorian" teas that are unlike anything that ever happened in this town, and ignoring the rest of history because they are obsessed with this nonsensical version of history.

I mean, if it were their own home, no problem. But they've spent 50 years distorting the historical record because they have a yen for one specific period, and it's a problem, and not one that I can solve, because were I to change one single thing about the house, they would raise holy hell.

And there are a lot of people like this who involve themselves in the telling of history, and, at that moment, they become legitimate subjects for criticism. Were this couple just some happy hobbyists, they'd be harmless, and I personally respect people who are willing to devote themselves so fully to something they enjoy. But she's writing books revisiting the history of the suffrage movement to suggest that genteel women were the real driving force behind women's rights to vote while the ones who engaged in direct political action were essentially thugs, and, I'm sorry, but you've gotten your hobby into my history, and I've seen what that can do.
posted by maxsparber at 12:56 PM on September 10, 2015 [54 favorites]


And the part at the airport (plus details about polarfleece petticoats, modern underwear, and sanitary napkins).
posted by katemonster at 1:07 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Similar things happened in my previous museum, which has an American Revolution focus. So instead of Victorian teas, it was Colonial parlors right out of the Colonial Revival 1930s. Some of the rooms were "corrected" by curators by adding martini sets, a telephone, and a few copies of 1930s antiques magazines, because it was easier to do that than to ruffle feathers by redoing the room completely. It's hard to channel enthusiasm for history because it's frequently based on stereotypes. "What really happened" is always weirder and harder than putting on a mob cap or riding a funny tricycle in a big skirt.

On the other hand, curators and historians can get siloed also; it's not a trap that only the hobbyist can fall into.
posted by PussKillian at 1:10 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


She actually gets into evopsych. Welp.

"Deeper than the social cues of dress, this stretches back into the animal forebrain. We are biologically hardwired to recognize certain signs of genetic superiority..."

nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope
posted by XtinaS at 1:13 PM on September 10, 2015 [37 favorites]


tell me there's a phrenological chart in there somewhere
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


You know, maybe this is all actually a sort of meta-performance of a relatively blithe and sheltered Victorian lady negotiating life in the 21st century.


Honestly, though- you'd get a better sense of the lives of late 19th century upper middle-class Americans by watching Meet Me In St. Louis.

Plus, Judy Garland!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:16 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think her myth has been busted.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:17 PM on September 10, 2015


Oh my gosh, reading that book excerpt makes me so sad for this lady. She sounds like she's mired in body issues and the corsetry is just a way to mask it and she's developed this persona of "I was an unloved fat girl and now I'm an alpha female with a slim waist and more smarts than you plebs" and I just want to tell her to get over herself and get into therapy.
posted by PussKillian at 1:18 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Wait, wait.

"Gabriel had gone on ahead of me, his belt buckle being the only element of his respectable, although modern, clothing that had set off the metal detector."

So she goes Victorian 24/7 but he doesn't? Yeah, sign me up for the theory about relationship imbalance here.
posted by Tknophobia at 1:20 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Come for the trip to Walmart; stay for the horrible statistical assumptions

(Basically she examines prices of the cheapest and most expensive clothing and electronics items for sale at Walmart and determines that these prices indicate that "a typical Walmart shopper is willing to spend 4,880 percent as much on electronics as they are on clothing.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:21 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's spousal pressure or the pressure of her own vanity that drives her to dress Victorian 24/7, but my money's on vanity after reading enough of her book via the googles. Full of praise for mundanes that call her beautiful or admire the tiny size of her waist (how many times will she mention being asked if she's a model?), otherwise she's full of disdain for everyone and stoops to calling them savages at times.
posted by palomar at 1:23 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Darling."

"What, dear?"

"Darling, I have just realized that as I am not 'built like a twelve-year-old-boy', modern fashions must of necessity look hideous on me. I have been deluded all this time. I must acquire a corset."

"Well, if you want to, my sweet--"

"But there is more. I will require a 'real wool petticoat', but as I could not possibly spend a--a Wal-Mart amount of money on said petticoat, I will require you to make me a substitute. This lady's husband made her 'a primitive underskirt' out of an old blanket."

"But darling, you can sew--"

"No! It was the knowledge that her dear husband had made it for her that kept her warm in the boreal winds of Manhattan! I REQUIRE THIS AS A SIGN OF YOUR LOVE FOR ME."

"Dearest--"

"You may use my scissors. Quickly now, lest my alpha-femininity dissipate! If you can't make me a jerry-rigged petticoat, I shan't move aside my mink coat at your urgings--see if I don't!--to display my shapely waist to New Yorkers who have stopped us on the street to inquire whether I am a model."

"Very well, dear."
posted by Hypatia at 1:23 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


So she goes Victorian 24/7 but he doesn't? Yeah, sign me up for the theory about relationship imbalance here.

I could be wrong, but this seems to be more one of them decided against trying to go through TSA at Newark in period dress and the other decided the wrong thing.
posted by griphus at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


The airport security complaints are really something else... I mean, really? You're wearing garments with steel rods in them, lady, and acting like the TSA agents who have taken you into a private area to have you remove some of your piles of clothing are really perverts trying to look at your tits (when odds are high they're just trying to make sure the garment you're wearing that's CHOCK FULL OF METAL isn't this year's shoe-bomb)... come the fuck on.
posted by palomar at 1:31 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Ah, yes- but she is clearly a lady of the upper classes. Surely no one would suspect her of harboring malevolent intentions, or concealing an infernal device like some sort of trade unionist or Italian!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:36 PM on September 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


I read that excerpt and I have wheeled around to some semblance of pity, if only because she has some serious body issues. Or maybe she's just incredibly vain and I still feel sorry that her life hasn't come to much except her image. (And I don't think much of the bit where her husband says she should open her coat to display her waist. You might as well treat as though she's a car you want to show off.)
posted by Kitteh at 1:41 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just read that Amanda Nelson thing. Anyone here actually read the book? Does Chrisman really complain about WA state foster care regulations and children requiring their own beds???? What the fuck? Children in foster care need more care, not less. I hope her Victorian lifestyle extends to her not voting, because ... arghhhhhh!!!
posted by stowaway at 1:43 PM on September 10, 2015


"I must acquire a corset."

Actually, Gabriel bought the first corset as a birthday present - even though she'd specifically told him never to do that.
posted by Lucinda at 1:49 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I tried searching the available parts of the book on Google to see if I could find the part about foster care regulations, but I'm not finding anything. If it's in there, it may be in a part of the book that's not available this way. If I can get a full copy later today I'll see what I can find.
posted by palomar at 1:51 PM on September 10, 2015


Yeah, the power imbalance in their relationship is pretty unnerving.
posted by Kitteh at 1:52 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm curious about the foster care comments too, but mostly because I was going to make a joke about it coming up because she was pining for the halcyon days of workhouses for children, and the more I think about it, the more I'm not sure she wouldn't say exactly that.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:54 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


like some sort of trade unionist or Italian

As the child of a trade unionist and an Italian, this delights me to no end.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:55 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


oh man her domesticity stuff is giving me fits! and i say this as an enthusiastic housewife. just. ugh. no.
posted by nadawi at 2:03 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Actually, Gabriel bought the first corset as a birthday present - even though she'd specifically told him never to do that.

Goddamn is a corset going to be like, the vacuum cleaner of our generation's idea of a shitty present to give your wife?

"Happy birthday honey! Hope you weren't planning on eating more than a mouthful of that cake!"
posted by Hypatia at 2:04 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


oh man, i've done quite a bit of poking around at the waist trainer thing on instagram/twitter/etc and they are always trying to convince men to buy it for their women so the women can be more secure in their self-esteem. anything old is new again...
posted by nadawi at 2:07 PM on September 10, 2015


fuuuuuck i hate it when metafilter is right
posted by entropicamericana at 2:11 PM on September 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


Does Chrisman really complain about WA state foster care regulations and children requiring their own beds???? What the fuck?

Yes, but only briefly, saying that Victorian foster kids would be immensely grateful for a bed, much less a room -- it's part of her weird thing about privacy.

Everyone who insults her is fat or dumpy or heavy and also -- horrors -- wearing polyester.
posted by jeather at 2:13 PM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Amanda Nelson read her entire book and oooooo boy

Yeah, that's even more of a hot mess. Whoo doggie. The book is appalling.

And there are a lot of people like this who involve themselves in the telling of history, and, at that moment, they become legitimate subjects for criticism.

I know many, many museums like yours, maxsparber. They are all over the U.S. But the good thing is that their constituencies can leverage some control over them - and have the power to change the narrative, wrest back the BS from the fantasist volunteers, and start putting serious scholarship in motion. There was terrible romanticist Victorian history before this person, and there will be long after, and the battle against it, especially in the nation's small Colonial Revival-era house museums, is far from over. The grounding in good primary and peer-reviewed, advanced-scholars' secondary interpretations, and critical thinking about source quality, as well as historical thinking (logic, contingency, etc.) are the skills that need to steer those houses on the right track. You can fight off fantasy and BS artists one at a time as they pop up, or you can start shoring up institutions one by one by exerting some pressure, using the public chrrter, to develop mission, research base and strategic goals that define the tea parties and white supremacist narratives out.
posted by Miko at 2:16 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was poking around her Facebook page. They're going to be the subjects of a TV documentary in Quebec.
posted by Miko at 2:21 PM on September 10, 2015


I do understand the surprise that a lot of people feel on seeing just how terrible her opinions are, and I was kinda surprised too, in a way?

On the other hand, a person who is super-obsessed in a non-critical way with only the lifestyle porn aspects of wealthy people in a notoriously racist, sexist, colonialist period in Western history turns out to have terrible opinions about racism, feminism, and the fat poors in polyester who fail to properly admire her alpha-woman stature.

News at 11.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:25 PM on September 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm reading around the book - at the time she wrote it, she was thirty. I'm finding it interesting to think about her presentation and her reception, and how much being youthful has to do with her opportunity for celebrity. Reading the bus driver incident, for instance - if she carried on like this at sixty-five, or even fifty, she would really just be seen as batty, and would not be getting book deals and web features. I wonder how she'll feel about her 'alpha female' status and the true sources of female power in American culture when she no longer has the youth on her side.
posted by Miko at 2:28 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


As much as we could unpack this suitcase for a few thousand more comments, I still think the first comment in this thread says it all best...
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:39 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Everyone who insults her is fat or dumpy or heavy and also -- horrors -- wearing polyester.

For a small fee I could tell her how wrong she is in my Edwardian great coat and reproduction three piece evening suit.
posted by The Whelk at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


Thirty is really more than old enough to be held responsible for being quite as classist and overall horrible as the author presents herself to be.
posted by jeather at 2:46 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]




i didn't take any of Miko's comment about her age being an excuse for her behavior - but that how she is treated as a somewhat youthful white woman has a lot to do with the reactions she gets and were she older she likely wouldn't be showered with book deals and such.
posted by nadawi at 3:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


From Carillon's link: "These people are the anti-vaxxers of modernity, except they actually have vaccinations, so they don’t have to worry about dying from polio." Ouch.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


their bikes are still cool as fuck though
posted by entropicamericana at 3:07 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"There is no value of lived experience generated from this exercise, which is so devoid of the actual context for the Victorian-period trappings it fetishizes that these two would have been equally served privilege-LARPing the life of a moisture farmer on Tatooine." Oooof.
posted by palomar at 3:13 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


A documentary in Quebec, you say?

*grabs popcorn*
posted by Kitteh at 3:26 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we expect a transcription, Kitteh.
posted by GuyZero at 3:31 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just checked out the ebook from my public library. It's on.
posted by padraigin at 3:34 PM on September 10, 2015


he prohibitive language that assumes a shared ethical frame, though, I try not to use.

Which means you have some relatively unusual, although not wholly unreasonable, views about normative ethics. Which has not much to do with the actual subject at hand. Some people find their approach to history reductive, silly and/or offensive, and those people will tend to use the customary normative terminology without necessarily embracing a particular viewpoint in ethical philosophy. So maybe a bit of an extensive derail?
posted by howfar at 3:35 PM on September 10, 2015


Is there a word that means, I am embarrassed for someone who is not self-aware enough to be embarrassed? Because if so, that is what I am feeling after reading her book excerpts.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:41 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


GyuZero, I fear there are far better MeFites to transcribe a Quebecois French documentary than I. My husband, for one. I will ask him because I am totally watching this hot mess.
posted by Kitteh at 3:42 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Feel the fremdschämen, Secret Life of Gravy!
posted by kagredon at 3:46 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Is there a word that means, I am embarrassed for someone who is not self-aware enough to be embarrassed? Because if so, that is what I am feeling after reading her book excerpts.

Yes, and it is, of course, German: Fremdshämen
posted by howfar at 3:46 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I kid, any sort of synopsys will do. Hopefully you'll get to hear them in their own words and it won't all be voiceover translated.
posted by GuyZero at 3:48 PM on September 10, 2015


Oof, on second thought, this book is so badly written I'm not sure I can take one for the team. And yes, chapter one, In Which Gabriel Gives Her A Corset She Never Wanted, pretty much supports the fetish hypothesis.
posted by padraigin at 3:51 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I tried reading through more of the Google Books preview, but there's something about the writing that's just... incredibly off-putting.
posted by XtinaS at 3:53 PM on September 10, 2015


there's something about the writing that's just... incredibly off-putting.

I was sharing some excerpts with Eyebrows, but she implied that she would block me and possibly change her name and move to a different continent so I could never find her again if I continued to share them.
posted by jeather at 3:56 PM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Oh, she's terrible. Some woman is surprised that she's wearing an actual corset and gets described as dropping her jaw "like one of the stupider breeds of dog" and then in the next sentence, as staring with "...rudeness most people...leave behind with their diapers". And with far too many extra adjectives where I have placed ellipses so as not to barf.
posted by padraigin at 4:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Gabriel and the Gift of the Unwanted Corset sounds like either a terrible children's book or an above-average Decemberists song.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:03 PM on September 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


MetaFilter: I have placed ellipses so as not to barf.
posted by The World Famous at 4:08 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


metafilter: like one of the stupider breeds of dog
posted by Greg Nog at 4:10 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


oh god she's even more vile than we suspected this is bliss
posted by poffin boffin at 4:11 PM on September 10, 2015 [34 favorites]


Page one, in which we discuss how corsets mangle the body so badly that when a Victorian lady is cut open during autopsy, her "dear organs" are not where they are supposed to be. A few pages later, she's laced into her corset and the "dear mirror" is telling her flattering lies.

I probably won't be able to read this because all my time is going to be taken up with eye-rolling and muttering "oh brother" under my breath.
posted by palomar at 4:11 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gotta love the fact that her husband steamrolls right over her telling him no. Sounds like an amazingly healthy relationship.
posted by Carillon at 4:15 PM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


And yet despite the critics I carried on; and the people who were receptive lent encouragement that helped me stay the course. It was rewarding to help individuals reexamine their opinions of Victorian culture... [after anecdote about how her Korean tutee's psychiatrist mother approves of her corset] Historical ambassador wins small victory.

Oh, the martyred historical ambassador! I know that all proper Victorian ladies will find this most unseemly, y'all, but I am gloating that us "haters" totally called this.
posted by TwoStride at 4:23 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


She seems to have been incredibly thin-skinned about any but the most positive attention right from the very first times she went out in public in period clothing, and incredibly judgmental of other hobbyists. I cannot for the life of me imagine that she is having actual fun with this, because she describes it all as "welp, another day to lace up and enlighten some morons about my truth". Which sounds exhausting, apart from being insufferable.
posted by padraigin at 4:24 PM on September 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


oh my good lord. so she wears her corset all day on the first day she has it, including to her birthday party that evening, and she's just so completely shocked that her friends are actually nice to her and don't hiss and scream and vilify her for wearing a corset -- oh, excuse me, what she actually says about her friends is that they "did not descend to strip me of bondage and burn the symbol of oppression." She and her husband are just shocked to their very cores that her friends didn't burn her like a witch for wearing an article of clothing available in ever so many stores in this very city, my goodness.

Honestly, if I were one of those friends I'd be so damn offended.

This lady needs serious therapy. Homegirl's got ISSUES.
posted by palomar at 4:25 PM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


And she describes the angry welts. I can't decide if it would have been better with more or less description, but anyway, later we are rewarded with her walking around all day in vintage style boots with a broken toe.
posted by padraigin at 4:28 PM on September 10, 2015


surprised by the genuine interest—and even envy—shown by my modern, liberated female friends. The only one who didn’t lean forward with approving intensity was Yukiko, but I wasn’t sure whether this was a cultural difficulty, a linguistic one, or simply a preoccupation with the exceptionally large piece of cheesecake I had forced on her. (By Japanese standards, it probably would have fed an entire family.)
All her friends are totally envious of the corset, except the Japanese one -- but she lived in Japan! She gets it!
I thought about the group’s ensembles: loose rayon blouses, skirts dragging in the dirt, and plastic flowers glued to huge, floppy Target-bought straw hats. They weren’t exactly artifacts from which to extrapolate historical data. “But, they don’t really seem . . . like our sort of people . . .”
I know whose loss that isn't.
posted by jeather at 4:28 PM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Later the corset teaches her that eating less helps you lose weight.
posted by padraigin at 4:30 PM on September 10, 2015


BY JAPANESE STANDARDS?!

I've been going back and forth on this chick for the last day but I'm pretty firmly forth towards "goodness what a massive tool of a human being she is".

I just bet she likes to use the word "colonials" in that jolly way I hear in period movies. Yikes.
posted by angeline at 4:33 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Describing a Renaissance historical costumer demonstrating how to put on a corset over one's head as a "bloated boa constrictor trying to force its way down a shrew hole"... wow. Not a kind word for anyone except dear, sweet, doesn't listen when he's told not to buy a damn corset Gabriel.
posted by palomar at 4:38 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I mean I didn't know the Japanese had standards on the size of cheesecake slices.

(I'm sorry that this is what I got stuck on)
posted by angeline at 4:40 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, my major takeaway is that this is just plain not a nice person. In hindsight I'm surprised she had any friends to be shocked or not shocked about her corset.
posted by padraigin at 4:42 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I assume they read about how stupid and mockable she thinks they all are and fled the day after her book came out.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:43 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm now at a part where I can start wondering about whether her mom is still speaking to her.

This is really reading as "I never got along in your so-called society anyway so I made up my own".
posted by padraigin at 4:46 PM on September 10, 2015


padraign, I feel like we should award you some purple corset of honor or something for reading this on behalf of Metafilter and posting updates to the thread.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:47 PM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Blue roses surely.
posted by Carillon at 4:48 PM on September 10, 2015


But her mom gave her feathers from her "cosseted parrots" for her fancy re-enactin' ladyhat, padraigin!

Waiiiiiit a second. Is she jealous of her mom's parrots, maybe? I SHALL TAKE THEIR PLUMAGE AND ADD IT TO MY OWN GLORIOUS SELF.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:48 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am more than plump and I wear (gasp) a fair amount of polyester. It's like I was born to be this woman's natural enemy!
posted by TwoStride at 4:50 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hope her mom buys her a lovely antique Victorian stepladder for the next gift-giving occasion. Just the thing a proper lady would use to get over herself!
posted by palomar at 4:50 PM on September 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


I mean I didn't know the Japanese had standards on the size of cheesecake slices.

They're actually the US Army standards from the mid-30s. MacArthur was always going on about the cheesecake standards because his first assignment after West Point was writing requirements and standards for the quartermasters' corps.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:51 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Did you get to the part where she's very offended her mother doesn't want to spend mother's day watching her give a talk about her underwear and then it turns out that it's only that her mother is ashamed because she is so fat?
posted by jeather at 4:51 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean I didn't know the Japanese had standards on the size of cheesecake slices.

It's a reference to Victorian Starbucks sizes, not actual Japanese standards.

Customer: I'll have a large Pumpkin Spice Latte and a large slice of cheesecake, please.

Victorian Barista: Venti and Entire Family Size, then?
posted by The World Famous at 4:52 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just got to the part where she's a total brat about helping out at a charity fashion show to benefit a senior center. I loathe this woman.
posted by padraigin at 4:54 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd ask if you hit the part where she insulted straw feminists, but that's every part. HA HA feminists, Susan B. Anthony AND Harriet Tubman both wore corsets!
posted by jeather at 4:55 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


You can't be taken seriously in bloomers! They're worn with a short skirt like a child's. It's as though a man were wearing shortpants!
posted by padraigin at 4:58 PM on September 10, 2015


I'm genuinely torn between pity and disgust. On the one hand, body issues and a useless damp sock of a husband. On the other hand, what a deeply unpleasant person in general.
posted by XtinaS at 5:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yeah, not to armchair psychologist too much, but this is less a lifestyle choice and more a response to some deep-seated issues.
posted by padraigin at 5:03 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It must be really hard to find custom corsets and avoid the kink community though.
posted by padraigin at 5:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd ask if you hit the part where she insulted straw feminists,

You mean the part where she talks about how in college she avoided women's studies majors because she found them all "rabid?"

It must be really hard to find custom corsets and avoid the kink community though.

No, there are websites aimed at theatrical costumers and reenactors. I do feel like she's very coyly tiptoeing around the kink community in her writing, though, as if it's more fun not to come out and say it.
posted by Miko at 5:08 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


She's pretty openly dismissive about a corset maker who also had handcuffs in her shop, and said straight out that she doesn't like the association.
posted by padraigin at 5:11 PM on September 10, 2015


She made a guy argue with her so hard about corsets that he later had a heart attack. In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up.
posted by padraigin at 5:14 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


“Well,” he pointed out, “they used to sell a lot more sizes in ready-made clothes.”
“Yeah,” I continued. “They certainly fit better than today, when everyone’s supposed to fall into three size categories—small, medium, and large.”
“Not that a small is really small anymore,” he smirked.
“Right,” I laughed. “More like large, extra-large, and ginormous.


People believing I was a model surprised me even more than the inquiry as to whether I was a dancer had done. A model? Me? Gabriel kept encouraging me to show my “blouse” (an excuse to show my waist) to people
They're a very well-matched pair.

You mean the part where she talks about how in college she avoided women's studies majors because she found them all "rabid?"

That's the first time, but certainly not the last time.
posted by jeather at 5:14 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh of COURSE Gabriel has (or had at some point) a DeLorean.
posted by padraigin at 5:16 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oh here we are at "feminism was wrapped up years ago, and it's great how much power housewives in Japan have".

What.
posted by padraigin at 5:18 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like maybe that Deadspin takedown's refrain of "Gabriel (fuck Gabriel!)" was not, in fact, too mean.
posted by TwoStride at 5:18 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I guess we should be happy she's not referring to him as Mr. Gabriel?
posted by Carillon at 5:19 PM on September 10, 2015


Wait, what I want to know is what precisely is the size of this "small fee", The Whelk?
posted by corb at 5:28 PM on September 10, 2015


You wouldn't believe how self-congratulatory these two are at figuring out why a watchpocket is located where it is on a waistcoat. Or maybe you would.
posted by padraigin at 5:28 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


You wouldn't believe how self-congratulatory these two are at figuring out why a watchpocket is located where it is on a waistcoat. Or maybe you would.

I would.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:30 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, body issues and a useless damp sock of a husband.

Typical Walmart way of thinking, to call my husband a "damp sock"; in fact, in Victorian times, damp socks were known to be the most attractive type of footwear. This makes sense when you look at things from an Evo-Psych perspective, as only the Alpha got the dampest socks, and everyone else had to die of thirst. To this day, many Omegas cannot believe their savage, beady little eyes when they see me wringing water out of my socks to drink. To think that I was once unhappy with who I am - but now I have all the very dampest socks n Washing-ton state!
posted by Greg Nog at 5:31 PM on September 10, 2015 [28 favorites]


You wouldn't believe how self-congratulatory these two are at figuring out why a watchpocket is located where it is on a waistcoat. Or maybe you would.

Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:32 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch

I'll take What Insufferable Prats Living a Faux Victorian Lifestyle in the 21st Century Have on Their Person, Alex.
posted by Kitteh at 5:37 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


She could learn a bit about how to do this sort of thing gracefully from Tasha Tudor. My mother idolized her and her dedication to living a past lifestyle (I've been known to make fun of my mother for that). But in view of this idiot I have a new appreciation. Also Tudor was a pretty damned good artist.
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 5:38 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The excerpts remind me of my brief and horrifying foray into This EL James Person Can't Be As Bad As They're Saying, I'll Have A Look.

It's fifty shades of Victorian scenery porn. Christamighty. I'm surprised there isn't fanfic of these two yet.
posted by cmyk at 5:43 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


See, that's what I mean when I say I see these folks as all of a piece. Tasha Tudor has been pretty historicidal, too.
posted by Miko at 5:44 PM on September 10, 2015


i think I have to tap out. I have reached the suffragist/suffragette part where she explains what the right kind of feminist looks like, and I just...

And I used to spend a lot of time on r/paleo, my tolerance for this general sort of thing is really high.
posted by padraigin at 5:44 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I keep looking at the title of the post and feel like the lesson I've learned here is that people who talk a lot about following their dreams are fucking horrible.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:51 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have never wanted to gleefully shriek "I TOLD YOU SO!" so badly in my entire life.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:56 PM on September 10, 2015 [26 favorites]


One last quote.

“What do you think the really rabid, ‘corsets oppress women!’–style feminists would think if they bothered to notice that? They worship Susan B. Anthony! She’s like, the Supreme Deity to them! How could they possibly square her wearing a corset with all the nasty ­stereotypes they push about them?”
posted by jeather at 6:04 PM on September 10, 2015


No no, let's go out on this: "There was something sadly wistful in it: to see these twenty-first-century "emancipated" women yearning after a freedom over their bodies, which their great-grandmothers had possessed, but which modern society had convinced them they could never have".

(I know I said I couldn't go on but I couldn't stoooooop)
posted by padraigin at 6:10 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


(I know I said I couldn't go on but I couldn't stoooooop)

You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on
posted by listen, lady at 6:13 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


pls i want to wallow in how vile she is
posted by poffin boffin at 6:14 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


You can dip into a fair amount of it on Google Books.
posted by Miko at 6:25 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry I called you guys haters. Look, I'm biased. Corsets have been known to make me a little crazy.

However I am now available for hire to convey your affronts and insults to the parties in question in person.

Say, a dollar a word. Five dollars for shouting. Ten bucks per for slaps across the face with bespoke kidskin gloves. Fifteen per for using the cuff and button ends.

For twenty I will attach either of them to the nearest permanently fixed metal object with a freakishly large neodymium magnet.
posted by loquacious at 6:35 PM on September 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


So, would anyone like to start the countdown before her "I was viciously savaged on the internet by meanies, here's what I learned" article designed to elicit support from the collective representatives of Team Are All You Haters Dead Inside come out to support her for having been Hated On On The Internet? For every action, there is an equal and opposite psychological defense. Maybe we should start a betting pool?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:37 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Master and Margarita Mix: I try not to bet on near-guaranteed things.
posted by XtinaS at 6:38 PM on September 10, 2015


C'mon, padraigin, keep going!

(Did the Mefi book club thing get off the ground? I want to read with all y'all.)
posted by stowaway at 6:40 PM on September 10, 2015


would anyone like to start the countdown before her "I was viciously savaged on the internet by meanies, here's what I learned" article

I checked out her Facebook a few times today, feeling sure that the Internet would show up ready for a fight. Well, her page is Sunnydale, even the visitor posts. She's probably not scratching away with the ink pen today because there's not enough time in between deleting all the comments she does not think are apropos.
posted by Miko at 6:41 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Twenty dollars. Same as in Ye Olde London Town.
posted by cmyk at 6:41 PM on September 10, 2015


So, I'm a ridiculously fast reader and I skimmed a lot and this isn't a very taxing book to read (except for emotionally and gastrointestinally). And I am as done as I'm going to be, and here is my conclusion:

I had a lot of the same feelings other people have expressed about the weirdness of embracing a period for basically superficial reasons and avoiding any unpleasant subjects at all whether it's "how we poop" or "how do we look at the very serious problems with this time period through an appropriately modern lens".

But I think I can honestly say that I don't think this woman is functionally capable of looking at anything through any lens but the "Sarah and Gabriel" lens. Her self-loathing pretty much oozes off every page of "Victorian Secrets". Anything passing for an insight is ALWAYS attributed to Gabriel, and this includes very stupid insights like "Gabriel! I wonder if my mom ate smaller meals, do you think HER heartburn would go away too!" and Gabriel sagely nodding.

Every single person who does not respond to Sarah's appearance with complete approval is instantly dismissed, often very cruelly. She knows a lot of pretty mean ways to describe people who aren't perfect in appearance, including, as mentioned, her mother. Nobody is safe who is critical in even a "but haven't I read that corsets are..."

I can't tell if she meant to be so heavy-handed at describing her body issues and childhood insecurity, or if it all just slipped through, but it's either a case of "I am very fucked up and I have no idea" or "I was very fucked up but then I was saved by being guilted into wearing a corset forever", and I don't think either one is, like, a great message? I definitely, definitely, definitely think that lives can be saved by participation in subcultures, by getting enthusiastic about hobbies, by major lifestyle changes. But I also definitely do not think that this is what is happening here. But I also did say before that I thought it was a very badly written book so maybe she just didn't explain it right (or on her blog, or in the Vox piece)? It really reinforces the "this is their kink" theory and it is why I was surprised that she specifically, in the book, expresses distaste for her precious corsets being tainted by association with BDSM--it's as someone said above, the whole thing is 50 Shades of Earl Grey.

My ultimate opinion is that this woman could not possibly (I am not a psychologist, I am not her psychologist) come around to giving a shit about how her kerosene lamps might be supporting the idea of colonialism or class issues or any of the other things she's been accused of ignoring. Almost everyone around her now is described as, basically, an enemy; why would she spend a lot of time pondering how her chosen lifestyle is entwined with a message that includes massive oppression and corruption? The people in her actual life are by her own account ignorant, stupid, low-class...in short, the sort of people who could really use a good colonization. In that sense, she's probably actually not all that far off from your basic middle-class Victorian lady, who left the newspaper-reading and vote-thinking to the menfolk and kept her focus on her calling cards and the parlour-maid's recipe for lace-starch.

Anyway. That's what I've got for now.
posted by padraigin at 6:47 PM on September 10, 2015 [39 favorites]


I started reading with hopes of a few details how they indulged in some Victorian kinks what with all that repression and heavy clothing. I left with the feeling it's pretty much "close your eyes and think of England."

Oh my god, fine. I'll come out and say it. About 25% of the bits I've read through Google books--the bits where she's not being bitchy about people around her--read like pornography/erotica to me.

Specifically, the endless cooing and lavish descriptions of every single bit of feminine clothing remind me of Victorian porn* written by male fetishists who have (surprise!) a Thing for women's clothing and undergarments. (It does seem different to me than the other kinds of detailed clothing description one often gets in certain kinds of historical novels.)

The opening chapters, and later chapters which are all about the physical sensations of wearing the corset, and how these physical sensations affect her self-image and self-confidence--that writing is, I think, very reminiscent of stereotypical scenes in modern erotica. (Or maybe more like 1970s - 80s trashy romance.) I haven't read specific corset-interest (is that a word?) stuff, more the mainstream trashy romances, but it really does remind me of that kind of writing. Even the PAGES about what her intestines are doing at that ball... oh god, at least I've been spared stuff like that in my reading career.

And yes, the idea of "Oh, I did not want to try this Naughty Thing, but I did! and now I am more Feminine and Liberated and Let Me Describe Exactly How It Feels" totally seems like a doth-protest-too-much situation.

Maybe I'm being a literary snob, but I definitely think there are several ways to write about one's experiences wearing certain clothing, and one's physical and social experience as a historical reenactor, and not write them in this particular way.

Now, do I think that she believes she's writing this as porn? No--I think she's having the fun of being "provocative" about being ladylike. I don't think she thinks she's writing porn. But it does seem to me like she's experiencing this whole thing in a really...um, trashy-romance-novel-writing sort of way... at least, that's what is coming through in her writing.

*You guys it was college I was reading it ironically.
posted by Hypatia at 6:55 PM on September 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


this isn't a very taxing book to read (except for emotionally and gastrointestinally)

Hold on, I think we've found the cover blurb for the next edition's printing.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:58 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have to say that I was one of the ones wondering about the depth of the dislike for this woman in this thread ... Then I got a look at her writing and grokked that here we have the painfully twee, Victorian -wannabe equivalent of Quiche Lorraine, the "Bloom County" character who said that all feminists were "fat, manless and hairy-legged," as if that were the worst thing a woman could ever be.

Fuck that noise.
posted by virago at 7:18 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm on chapter 10 now, having downloaded the ebook from the library, and I definitely agree wholeheartedly with everything padraigin said. And everything Hypatia said. So much self-loathing, so much disdain for everyone outside her little Victorian bubble for two. (Holy crap does she ever hate her mother.) So much creepy breathlessness to her prose that makes my skin crawl, honestly. I don't know how much more of this I can get through... pretty soon I'm gonna need to go lay down and apply some Golden Girls to all the places where the mean lady's terrible book hurt me.
posted by palomar at 7:21 PM on September 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


This thread has been an amazing journey, and I just want to thank you all.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 7:31 PM on September 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


The scene where he's out of the house for hours and she can't remove the corset without him, and is therefore forced to be ladylike instead of slumping around in the usual slatternly way is something I could swear I've read in erotica before. And the part where the airport security agent meticulously inspects her undergarments (not because it's her job, but because she's fascinated by their beauty) taking care never to fully expose her breasts, while Sarah ruminates about the possibility of a cavity search. There's no fucking, but I wouldn't hesitate to call it prurient.
posted by milk white peacock at 7:34 PM on September 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


To non-historically quote the ultimate Victorian...

"I don't care what they do, as long as they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses."
posted by Hypatia at 7:47 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


So man I just reread the bit where she's all "the TSA lady thought I was a dancer!! or a singer!!", and holy shit, she doesn't get that it's the costume. Like, she doesn't think you're a graceful ballerina, she thinks you're dressed like that becuase you're on your way to a hoedown, and you're so far up your ass you can't imagine it as anything but a compliment.

It's just like, an amazing level of both delusion and the greatest, most profound self-burn I have ever witnessed, in print or otherwise. Hyacinth Bucket could not pull that off.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:52 PM on September 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


I mean I didn't know the Japanese had standards on the size of cheesecake slices.


The Chiizukeiki Sangyo Sho is very particular about that sort of thing.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:15 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: so far up your ass you can't imagine it as anything but a compliment.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:19 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Well, my friend, I guess we've finished up here."
"Yes, we certainly have discovered a way to prove ourselves right."
"You know, there's a certain amount of letdown, once we've proven ourselves right."
"Goes with the territory."
"Yeah, but, um, what's that all about?"
"Well, if you really want to know, being right doesn't always lead to happiness."
"Really?"
"Sad but true. But judging people is a suckers bet, no matter what they might be."
"But we're right here, right?"
"We may never REALLY know. How can we?"
"Well, what she's done wrote down."
"Yeah, well. People can grow and learn. It's kinda ugly when people don't allow for that."
"But you gotta call them on it, right?"
"I reckon so. But when you start looking like the thing you hate, it makes for a confusing situation."
"So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying any kinda righteous bullshit seems to smell to high heaven, no matter what side it comes from. Even if it comes from me. Cuz eventually I regret it. Just like I'll regret this post."
Why?
You'll see.
posted by valkane at 8:19 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


slow fuckin' clap, cowboy.
posted by listen, lady at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


This thread reminds me of that thread about the $15,000 "Hobo Wedding", and this Onion article, "Grueling Household Tasks Of 19th Century Enjoyed By Suburban Woman".

Chrisman's pretensions have also put my own style in greater perspective for me. As I said above, I like old things myself (though my period is "the first half of the twentieth century" rather than Victoriana, which I don't much care for). I've tried to decorate my 103-year-old house in an Art Nouveau-ish way, and I often draw on the past for ideas and patterns when it comes to planning the clothes I make as well as my other projects.

The more objective part of my brain sometimes watches me scouring every store in my vicinity and/or the internet for something very specific that will fit into my aesthetic ideal and asks, "Aren't you getting a little carried away?" After seeing Chrisman's work, I don't think so. I don't claim to be living in a time not my own, for one thing. I revel in being able to both choose whatever I like from both the past and the present and to discard the rest, and in having such unprecedented access to it all in this, the Age of Information. My ideal is to have a home that has an old-style aesthetic as well as most of the comforts and conveniences of our time, and I make clothing, not costumes. I do what I do relatively inexpensively. I don't expect anyone else to do it or claim to be some shining example of anything, though like Chrisman I do enjoy showing it to others online. I've been posting before and after photos of my home renovation room by room, and I intend to eventually post about all the rooms in my house; there won't be any room that I won't show because it doesn't fit my aesthetic or my presentation of how I live my life, because it all will. My lifestyle feels very integrated and much more authentic to me than what she's doing. Thank you, Sarah Chrisman, for inadvertently making me feel a little more comfortable being my vintage-loving yet non-corseted self.
posted by orange swan at 8:39 PM on September 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Well, I'm sure she'd not be missed!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:43 PM on September 10, 2015


"Well, my friend, I guess we've finished up here."
"Yes, we certainly have discovered a way to prove ourselves right."


i'm gonna be honest, i don't understand who are these people in your dialogue here
posted by Greg Nog at 8:56 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I was thinking Vladimir and Estragon.
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Twenty dollars. Same as in Ye Olde London Town.


For thirty I'll don the corset, slap myself in the face and send you the glove by post in a keepsake box.
posted by loquacious at 9:07 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]



"Well, my friend, I guess we've finished up here."
"Yes, we certainly have discovered a way to prove ourselves right."


I dunno, sounds like someone might need the old Rest Cure. Or a little tipple of Doctor McFullerton's Healing Tonic Elixir.
posted by TwoStride at 9:15 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Toast I Love 2012. So I Decided To Live In It:
The looks I get when people see me using my iPhone 5 are deeply hurtful. I can see the judgment in their eyes.

They look at my slightly unfashionable clothes and see a freak. But I am no freak, just a man who chooses to live in a simpler, more innocent time, a time when abortion was slightly more accessible in several states.

Yes, our choices come with sacrifice. When I went to HR to complain that my coworkers were creating a hostile work environment by discussing Seasons 6 and 7 of Mad Men — seasons that literally don’t exist in the world I choose to live in — I was met with disbelief and derision.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:02 PM on September 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


This thread has been like a ride on Mr. Ferris's fantabulous observation wheel!
We've had ups and downs and gone round and round and round. And I think a few farmers have been killed along the way.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:07 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do people who work in the service industry have to knuckle their foreheads for her to tip them?
posted by Carillon at 10:19 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I find it difficult to reconcile her aristocratic demeanor with her choice, with all the options Seattle offers, of The Old Spaghetti Factory for her birthday dinner. Dilettante's cheesecake is probably pretty good, though.
posted by gingerest at 12:27 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Living in the Flintstones Era
posted by lukemeister at 3:16 AM on September 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


favorite comment from Slate's Facebook post of the Rebecca onion article: "so when does the Victorian husband take up the Victorian mistress and give his wife Victorian syphilis?" It's probably coming. Watch this space for the time they decide they can't manage without a "maid."
posted by Miko at 5:44 AM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


The kink part seems so obvious but unstated. I can easily imagine them in a group situation, all in 24/7 corset training and costume lifestyle bliss.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dr Dracator: "When we started using period illumination every day, we were amazed by how much brighter the light is from antique oil lamps than from modern reproductions."

Are they actually using whale oil?
posted by chavenet at 7:50 AM on September 11, 2015


knowing the answer to that would be interesting, but if it's not about her corset she's probably not going to go into detail about it.
posted by nadawi at 7:56 AM on September 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's a four day Victorian slog From PT to Seattle.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:05 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read more of her blog last night and this morning. There are some charming parts of it - describing her solo trip the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and scrounging for coffee in the early morning with another guest of her hotel, a memory from her undergrad days when a professor used an old typewriter paper for a class handout and the students were entranced by the novel sensory experience, things like that. It's sweet and I am no longer left with the impression that it's a joyless existence. I think she's having a lot of fun cruising around in a corset on a 50 lb bike.

Also, in some of the snapshots, there are glimpses of modern conveniences, like a toaster oven on top of the icebox, or a printer and mac cord next to a wooden trunk full of some clothes. I also don't quite think they are trust fund babies ... they waited to get the icebox until their old fridge died. I think when someone says Victorian house we are all picturing one of San Francisco's Painted Ladies, but I suspect their house is far more modest. There's a lot of old, inexpensive houses in the smaller towns of the PNW.

In her descriptions, Gabriel does come off as a tool, though, but maybe that's her writing style. He pops up with a device and gives the Victorian ELI5 to her. There's this distance to it, like he is always on the other side of a shop counter. Maybe she's trying to portray her husband in a flattering light - knowledgeable and so forth - but it's a very cold portrait.
posted by stowaway at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always experience a combination of amusement and annoyance when someone cherry-picks a few anomolies out of the media of any culture, presents them out of context, and claims that they represent 100% of the opinions of that culture.

LOLOLOLOLOLOL

lady

I can't
posted by listen, lady at 8:24 AM on September 11, 2015 [17 favorites]


they waited to get the icebox until their old fridge died

She writes in the linked Vox article that they sold the fridge as soon as they could after moving in, and then got the icebox. Still a responsible and non-wasteful option, of course.
posted by orange swan at 8:41 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The icebox blog post

I need to know the truth. What really happened to the old fridge? Did it die or did they sell it?
posted by stowaway at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2015


You can also see the corner of the toaster oven in the picture.
posted by stowaway at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think she's having a lot of fun cruising around in a corset on a 50 lb bike.

The kink part seems so obvious but unstated.

If I were to project some loosely founded assumptions on it, I kind of feel like her husband initially promoted corset kink to her, and she's embraced it, but through some combination of shame or need to elevate it to a level of seriousness, she had to find a rationale that would make it okay for her. So has constructed around it this elaborate project to present as a serious study. Like, I get the sense that she's the one extending this into the realm of 'let's cycle! Let's do leisure time activities! I'm not kinky, that's gross, I'm a Victorian lady!" But based on the Google Books section of the book I was able to read, I find it easy to believe there is a D/S relationship there, even if it is not articulated in any way we'd normally recognize.

As I read her account, I could only imagine her speaking in a high, quavery voice.

Sometimes as I read about someone, I get an impression in my head, and then when I can finally see and hear them on video or in person, there's an enormous clarification that happens that photography alone can't do; you find out so much more about the person, and are able to relate their voice, behaviors and mannerisms to pre-existing schema that help you make sense of them as a person. An "Ah, I get where you're coming from now," moment. I found this to kick in when I watched her on that video I linked above. She reminded me of a lot of people with similarly irritating and somewhat pitiable qualities, in my personal view.
posted by Miko at 9:08 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It says in the post that they sold the fridge because they were tired of waiting for it to die.
posted by angeline at 9:09 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's an example of her weird ahistorical sensibility: a post of "links to photos of beautiful Victorian ladies" with no commentary about the fact that these are photos of women of color and convey something more complex than "marvelous corsets."
posted by listen, lady at 9:15 AM on September 11, 2015


no commentary about the fact that these are photos of women of color

I read this as proving she's totally more progressive than us blinkered and shallow liberals with our simplistic ideas of "diversity" - obviously, these women needed no one to empower them, they are clearly masters of their own feminine domain! /channeling. Her writing is full of tokenistic mentions of people with nonwhite ethnic and racial identities, which come off as proofs of her bona fides. It is she who is broad-minded, we who are narrow-minded.
posted by Miko at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Miko and Kutsuwamushi, if you're both at a point of saying "I won't respond anymore," it's probably better to just let the disagreement from yesterday rest where it is, rather than reopening it here now that the conversation has sort of moved on from that.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Reading comp fail! Doh!
posted by stowaway at 9:38 AM on September 11, 2015


I'm a Victorian lady!
So much "Little Britain" running through my head.
posted by MikeMc at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It is she who is broad-minded, we who are narrow-minded.

which, LOL

may she never show up at a historical site near you
posted by listen, lady at 10:03 AM on September 11, 2015


oh christ she'd be UM ACTUALLY incarnate
posted by griphus at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


with the power and resolve of ten thousand dads at a Civil War site
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


And now, in my head, I just heard someone say "well, ACTUALLY it's about authenticity in corsetry..."

I have shame.
posted by Tknophobia at 10:24 AM on September 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


And now, in my head, I just heard someone say "well, ACTUALLY it's about authenticity in corsetry..."

Pretty sure that's what her actual response to somebody bringing up the racism in Gone With the Wind would be.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:29 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


i still just really don't understand how she can think that corsets aren't a huge part of many feminist leaning groups (and just straight up mainstream groups) and that somehow she's more enlightened and better than feminists because of her corset wearing. hot topic has been selling (shitty) corsets from the beginning. in the late 90s i was reading feminist corset training blogs. she's seemingly utterly offended at the notion that the central part of her identity doesn't make her special or unique. she had to place all this other stuff on top of and around it to hide how utterly banal it is to be a woman in 2015 who likes to wear a corset.
posted by nadawi at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


her actual response to somebody bringing up the racism in Gone With the Wind would be.

That section in her book was another bodice-heaver, by the way, that makes me think Hypatia's right about the thinly veiled erotica.
posted by Miko at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2015


i think i would rather read this guy discuss his sartorial decisions.
posted by nadawi at 10:41 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh hell. Here it is, just because I don't want to be the only one who has this in my head:
Perhaps part of the reason audiences have become so obsessed with the bedpost scene is because the image is such a sexually charged one. The sexual innuendo inherent in a scene where a scantily-clad young woman takes a tight grasp of a large pole, her breathing becoming increasingly labored as she makes inarticulate vocalizations, makes good Hollywood drama. The lascivious nature of the image burns it deeply into the psyche of even innocent viewers with less-than-Freudian minds...Groping an article of furniture and adopting the breathing patterns of someone in the early stages of foreplay is no more necessary in order to tie a corset than it is to engage in such an activity as to tie one's shoes.
posted by Miko at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


i think i would rather read this guy discuss his sartorial decisions.

That's just a phat pair of JNCO's!
posted by maxsparber at 10:50 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


oh i'm aware. lol i had them. but also the jacket. and also the presumed 2010+ nature of that outfit...
posted by nadawi at 10:58 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Miko, that bedpost paragraph had me rolling my eyes so hard last night I damn near sprained my face. I was thinking about a very similar scene from the sugaring-off dance in Little House in the Big Woods, when Aunt Ruby and Aunt Docia are struggling to get a corset laced. There, too, they were hanging onto furniture and red in the face, but there were no sexual undertones. Definitely a doth protest too much situation here... it seems more likely that you'll see sexual undertones in those scenes if you already think corsets are sexy and ladies who wear them are sexy, which she very obviously does. It's just honestly kind of sad. I pity this woman.

She's got a new book coming out in November that picks up where Victorian Secrets leaves off, and it's supposed to be the story of how she and Gabriel immersed themselves even more deeply in Victorian life, living in Victorian culture full-time, which... girl, bye. Being fully immersed in Victorian culture probably means not having a blog presence.
posted by palomar at 11:15 AM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm really having a "jesus christ just fuck already" reaction except in this case it's "just write porn already."
posted by griphus at 11:17 AM on September 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


Although to be fair I was watching Top Gun last night and Days of Thunder before that and that's just been my general overall mood for a while.
posted by griphus at 11:18 AM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


it seems more likely that you'll see sexual undertones in those scenes if you already think corsets are sexy and ladies who wear them are sexy

It's so true. I haven't seen GWTW in a while, but my read on that scene is that it exists to show Scarlett as vain and desperate, not sexy. You've really got to bring that frame in with you.
posted by Miko at 11:44 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Man, as somebody who started out in this thread seeing covert racist/classist/colonial-apologist vibes in the author's writing, I feel much worse after reading the book passages. It does seem like this is primarily about body image stuff and kink to her, and rather than deal with that as part of her life, she's overlaid an ugly, oblivious "Victorian times are the best times" historical frame on top of it, which ends up with calling unfortunate folks interacting with her "savages."
posted by thetortoise at 11:55 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see some really scary parallels to her bargaining process with her body and my own with relation to facing gender dysphoria and related body issues. I created to some BOOOL-SHIT notions in my head before I finally got to the point of just accepting myself as I am. I feel for her. But I'm not holding out that she'll break out of her cave any time soon. Sighs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:06 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, how interesting, I didn't know that as a feminist I worship Susan B. Anthony. My goodness, I'm learning so much about myself from this Phyllis Schafly clone.
posted by palomar at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been worshiping Susan B. Anthony ever since the night I left a Beyonce CD and a dollar coin in a drawer and when I opened it in the morning the Beyonce CD had been cracked in twain.
posted by griphus at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


Also I'm wondering how many times she mistakes a comment about her general attire for a snide remark about her corset. I just got to the part where she kind of goes off on a museum volunteer who had simply looked at her floor length tight wool skirt and high necked long sleeved tight blouse and said "you must be dying in that", treating the poor lady to a monologue about how corsets are no more a torture device than shoes would be to someone who'd walked barefoot all their life, and I'm like, "Damn, lady. Of course she gave you the sort of cautious look usually reserved for bedlamites on day passes, it's spring and you're wearing a fuckload of wool and screaming about your underwear not being a torture device. CHILL."
posted by palomar at 12:25 PM on September 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


Groping an article of furniture and adopting the breathing patterns of someone in the early stages of foreplay is no more necessary in order to tie a corset than it is to engage in such an activity as to tie one's shoes.

I've been tying my shoes wrong all this time?!?!?
posted by Gorgik at 12:26 PM on September 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


Thanks to Padraigin for biting the bullet and reading this book. At first I was inclined to give this lady and her husband the benefit of the doubt-- they seemed pretty harmless-- but WOW she is a whirlpool of issues, and her hostility towards other people is just awful.

Re: the GWTW straitlacing scene. Does she not realize that is straight from pictures of Georgian women being laced into their stays? Granted it's anachronistic for the 1860s, as the style of corsetry had changed, but it's not as if there's no precedent, or that the filmmakers made it up out of whole cloth.

I tried watching the video with her on the Lucy's Corsets site, but her manner of speaking bugged me too much. Also, all I could think was how red her face was.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:40 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Finished the book, and actually went so far as to write my first actual Goodreads review. Because it was so deeply, terribly bad. So bad. Oh god.

Who wants to tackle the follow-up book coming out in November? I call NOT IT.
posted by palomar at 12:55 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reading an entire book of that thing would be Bad For The Baby, and as such I'm not permitted to read it. >.>
posted by XtinaS at 12:56 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uh uh. I'm behind on reading books I WANT to read.
posted by angeline at 12:59 PM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks to MikeMc, I'm now wishing Matt Lucas and David Walliams would rewrite Emily Howard to remove all the transphobic passing stuff and make her all about faux-Victorianism instead.

"Ma'am, you must be dying in that outfit today."
"Excuse me? Are you referring to my corset, perchance? I'll have you know corsets are perfectly safe! How dare you say such things, I'm a laaaady!"
posted by thetortoise at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uh, nadawi, checking the source on that photo might help you better contextualize it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:05 PM on September 11, 2015


Also, all I could think was how red her face was

Yes, I thought the same thing. I wonder if she has rosacea.

I had seen still pictures of her already but all of the talk about model-dancer-alpha female had built up an image in my mind of someone rather special. I was surprised how ordinary she is and more girlish rather than womanly. Without her costume nobody would bother turning their heads, which I suppose is the point.

So what happens when the corset comes off permanently?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uh oh, Goodreads...

Recommended for: NOBODY ON PLANET EARTH.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:07 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I didn't know that as a feminist I worship Susan B. Anthony

Now that you know she wore a corset, you're not allowed to anymore.
posted by jeather at 1:10 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I woke up this morning just feeling lousy about having read the book and having to feel all these feelings about it. I honestly liked the world better when all I'd read was the Vox piece and all I really had to feel about this couple was a vague sense that they were missing a larger point.

So I probably won't be hate-reading the followup. But, you know, who knows what frame of mind I'll be in when the opportunity presents itself.
posted by padraigin at 1:23 PM on September 11, 2015


Who wants to tackle the follow-up book coming out in November? I call NOT IT.

I would say yes, but -- alas! -- this post will have been closed by then and Fanfare doesn't have room for books.
posted by jeather at 1:24 PM on September 11, 2015


Does she not realize that is straight from pictures of Georgian women being laced into their stays?

In fairness, she does say exactly this right before the part I excerpted.
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on September 11, 2015


Additional thought based on the recent turn in the conversation: I wonder how many other people in the living history/reenactor community were also drawn there in part in reaction to psychological traumas.
posted by Miko at 1:40 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Groping an article of furniture and adopting the breathing patterns of someone in the early stages of foreplay is no more necessary in order to tie a corset than it is to engage in such an activity as to tie one's shoes.

Really aside from all of the vileness I just can't get over the complete awfulness of her writing. Is she self-published or something? Had she no editor?? NO SELF-RESPECTING EDITOR WOULD LET THIS HOT MESS OF A SENTENCE THROUGH.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:51 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Uh, nadawi, checking the source on that photo might help you better contextualize it.

uh, i google image searched it and the first 6 pages didn't link to the onion (also, there is no actual source on that photo even on the onion). regardless - it was a joke.
posted by nadawi at 1:51 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is she self-published or something? Had she no editor??

She's published by Skyhorse Publishing. I don't know much about them, but they own a fair number of imprints. One of those imprints is Night Shade, which has published at least a couple of Paolo Bacigalupi's books.
posted by palomar at 2:15 PM on September 11, 2015


Thanks to this thread I am now watching all of Ruth Goodman's shows on YouTube and they are AWESOME.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 2:20 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The opening chapters, and later chapters which are all about the physical sensations of wearing the corset, and how these physical sensations affect her self-image and self-confidence-

This is such classic fetishism that it isn't even funny. The people I know who have a thing for being tied up (and I mean that simply literally, I don't know what they do in the bedroom) get a particular thrill from the feeling of rope in their bodies and the sensation of being suspended. And because whatever connection in my brain between "physical sensation" and "emotional reward" is missing (I am not really a sensualist), I don't relate to this at all. But she has all of that in spades. And she is either tiptoeing around the sensual thrills/turn-ons she is experiencing from her clothes and corsets, or she doesn't understand that this is what is happening.

Mostly, though, I found her writing condescending and annoying, and it is no surprise that it is part of her attitude towards everyone else that comes through in her memoirs. In contrast, I watched an interview with her, and to my great surprise she speaks without any kind of affectation: no faux British accent and no hyper-enunciated speaking style as I was expecting.
posted by deanc at 2:21 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Good Reads reviews are scathing. Here's an interesting review written by a reader who is herself a waist trainer.
posted by orange swan at 2:31 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I feel really bad for this woman. I think she's wrong all over, from the parts of the book I've read, and I hope she gets to be okay someday.
posted by lauranesson at 3:14 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It Happened to Me: Sometimes I Hear Maniacal Laughter From the Locked Tower Room
Like others recently entered in the public conversation, I, too am committed to living an authentic Victorian life. And I do assure you: there is nothing quite as Victorian as being an impoverished governess, oppressed by circumstances — who nonetheless remains in possession of a soaring spirit and chafes at confinement. *
posted by epersonae at 3:19 PM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, all I could think was how red her face was

A Goodreads reviewer quotes her as calling someone, Tomato-Faced man.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:27 PM on September 11, 2015


Oh, yeah, that's a reference to a guy who was shouting at her about how bad it is to wear corsets. Don't worry, gentle reader! Later she's told that the man had a heart attack and she makes sure to make a snotty remark about how he deserved it for being unkind to her.

She's a real gem.
posted by palomar at 3:59 PM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Additional thought based on the recent turn in the conversation: I wonder how many other people in the living history/reenactor community were also drawn there in part in reaction to psychological traumas.

I have like a million thoughts on this but don't want to derail the thread. (Maybe someday I'll put together a post full of links on closeting, various forms of queerness, and cosplay.) I think one of the reasons we find this woman so fascinating is that you can see this personal motive running into a bunch of ready-made American cultural projects to construct the past, and she's using those (if unwittingly) to legitimize her interests. So this apparently-liberal woman from Washington cavalierly dismisses racism in Gone with the Wind and can sound in print uncannily like someone who longs for Dixie.
posted by thetortoise at 4:19 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Soo... can anyone point me to the erotica she's trying for? For research, I mean.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:21 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just read the biking post and I'm starting to get fascinated by how she forces every subject back to her corset. I'm imagining a day when I answer every question, no matter what it is, with a rambling-yet-perky discussion of corsetry. It's an oddly entertaining vision.
posted by TwoStride at 6:26 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Parlor game: Player A throws out a subject drawn at random from the encylopedia; Player B makes it about a corset. First round: Rhinoceros.
posted by Miko at 6:59 PM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh hey she was on The View.
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


My corset is inlaid with ivory from the rhinoceros my husband manly man hunted on his latest safari. It's custom made by a top corset maker in London.
posted by Jalliah at 7:26 PM on September 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


Well done! Capital! Now, you choose the next topic.
posted by Miko at 7:29 PM on September 11, 2015


Peanut butter.
posted by Jalliah at 7:30 PM on September 11, 2015


Any true lady who wishes to cinch her corset to a splendid 22 inches like I do will avoid all peanut butter! A moment on the lips, a lifetime mucking up your corset laces!
posted by TwoStride at 7:34 PM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Food is too easy. I used to eat peanut butter all the time, but when I wear my corset my 22 inch waist no longer has room for peanut butter, and I am afraid of getting my antique clothing dirty with peanut butter.
posted by jeather at 7:35 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Kelvin temperature scale
posted by Miko at 7:40 PM on September 11, 2015


Lady Amberly told me that William Lord Kelvin, who my husband told me wrote and very important and scientific book about something called a temperature scale, likes to secretly wear corsets. How disgraceful.
posted by Jalliah at 7:45 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


International just-in-time shipping logistics
posted by Miko at 8:11 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Trivially easy: "Due to the recent west coast ports longshoreman's strike, my corset-maker has been unable to get either the baleen I prefer in my corsets, from Japanese whalers, or the Chinese silk that all of my corsets are made from. She generally relies on just-in-time shipping to provide her with the materials without having to keep an expensive backstock on hand, as a proper lady's corset takes 143 yards of silk and only uses the woven edges, as well as seven six-foot whale baleens all cut to specific size from the center only, which is far more environmentally friendly than using steel ribs which have to be manufactured instead of being procured from naturally-occurring whales. I have been unable to get a new corset for my now 21-inch-waist and I have been forced to walk around in my 22-inch corset LIKE SOME KIND OF JUMPED UP RAGAMUFFIN."

CAPTCHAs
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 PM on September 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


North Carolina style pulled pork.

or

Stirling engines.

If we are ruling food out of bounds.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2015


(True story, the silk for my wedding dress was actually delayed in customs for over 8 weeks because I ordered it not long after 9/11 and the dressmakers actually did use JIT shipping for silk supplies for the dresses they made, so they could order only as much as needed because it's very expensive, and raw fabric shipments were being massively and dramatically slowed down by customs bottlenecks after 9/11. It was fine, though, I ordered in plenty of time. My engagement photos, however, were incinerated in the Washington DC post office with the anthrax scare.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


I used to struggle mightily with CAPTCHAs--they do not translate well in the printing press or handbound journal at all!--but I have found that with the heightened senses my corset gives me, my eyes are now even more astute at picking out the letters. Additionally, the wonderful posture and elegance my corset brings me makes all CAPTCHAs recgonize my alpha female qualities and I pass through all websites without trouble.
posted by TwoStride at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


Slow clap, Eyebrows.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2015


Corsets: Squeezing Life From The Middle Of The Toothpaste Tube Since 1550.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:05 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


They can pry my reenacting Gone with the Wind every time I lace up a corset out of my cold, dead... I don't know, ribs or something.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:07 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks to this thread I am now watching all of Ruth Goodman's shows on YouTube and they are AWESOME.

Very much so. She emphasizes the "Holy shit, what a pain in the ass all this is"* of the periods she looks at, unlike the "Oh, all this is superior to your modern trash" of the "We live like Victorians but won't tell you how we actually get by" assholes.

*Not her exact words, but implied.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:41 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really must watch me some Ruth Goodman. I have an idea for an Edwardian adventure novel I want to write that begins in 1900, and I read and watch all the Edwardiana I can find.
posted by orange swan at 7:50 AM on September 12, 2015


"I'm imagining a day when I answer every question, no matter what it is, with a rambling-yet-perky discussion of corsetry."

i interviewed a guy once - for a portrait studio - and every single answer was in relation to his frat. a frat that i knew had recently had its charter revoked and multiple members of it were expelled from the college in town for various tomfoolery. "when was a time you worked as a team" "well, in my frat..." "tell me about a time that you were given an order you disagreed with but did it anyway" "see, in frats sometimes..." and on and on and on.
posted by nadawi at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's a lot of old, inexpensive houses in the smaller towns of the PNW.

Not in Port Townsend.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2015


If I were to project some loosely founded assumptions on it...

Lots of creative armchair analysis going on here.

Sometimes a pretentious douchebag is just a pretentious douchebag.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:58 AM on September 12, 2015


Her writing is full of tokenistic mentions of people with nonwhite ethnic and racial identities, which come off as proofs of her bona fides.

Fortunately for her, that same thing can be said for about 65% of the people in the town where she lives.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2015


Sometimes a pretentious douchebag is just a pretentious douchebag.

After I read a lot of her writing, I found it harder to believe it was that simple.
posted by Miko at 10:45 AM on September 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


After I read a lot of her writing, I found it harder to believe it was that simple.

This is why fame sucks. We all construct personal identities and narratives for ourselves which help us get by in life. But once you have thousands of people looking at you and dissecting you, they're deconstructing that identity and those narratives and peeling away the onion and finding what's really going on, which is confronting you with a side of yourself that you created an entire identity specifically to move away from.

Someone in goodreads wrote that you could make a drinking game out of how many times Sarah Chrisman writes about "going from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan." She put all of her personal issues out there for all to see-- albeit unintentionally -- and now they're going to be picked apart, and she's going to be constantly reminded of them. I assume this plays a role in why she is so hostile to everyone who talks to her about her costumes -- because for her each of these interactions has the potential break the illusion that she has about herself.
posted by deanc at 1:14 PM on September 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yes, good comment. This made me think about how one function of the internet is that the interface renders everything a text. I think it's pernicious when the fame is unwanted and the person really just got thrust into the public eye. But even those who create products, like books and websites and videos, that are consumed on the internet may not be aware that not only are their intentionally made products going to be read as a text, but they themselves are, in a way once reserved for only famous mass media celebrities.
posted by Miko at 1:53 PM on September 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Her writing is one thing. I have a choice not to read it.

Interacting with her is another thing. I frequently find it, as do many others apparently, less than rewarding.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:46 PM on September 12, 2015


Interacting with her is another thing. I frequently find it, as do many others apparently, less than rewarding.

MORE DETAILS NEEDED
posted by listen, lady at 2:58 PM on September 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


When I first heard about this couple and their "study" of history, I immediately thought of this AskMe answer on the difference between amateurs and professionals.
posted by deanc at 4:00 PM on September 12, 2015


When I first heard about this couple and their "study" of history, I immediately thought of this AskMe answer on the difference between amateurs and professionals.

Yeah, my first impulse reading her claims that she is doing "real" history was to e-mail the article to a historian friend just to hear his howl of rage. (I managed to restrain myself, since I value my life.)
posted by thetortoise at 4:06 PM on September 12, 2015


But as a public historian, there are real bones to pick with academic historians who really don't understand what a jungle it is out there - that they can professionalize history, but never control it, and that there are some positives to that reality. And I think that people outside the field expect that history deals in certainties a lot more than it actually does - though of course, some things are evidentiary and not much debatable, and some represent a massively broad consensus that it's somewhat ridiculous to oppose. Still, if you think of it as a field with Answers, that's not quite right. It's a field with analyses and investigations and interpretations.

I was thinking about this again, because I'm working on an exhibition of an artist who's doing amazing things reinterpreting the slavery history of the greater Caribbean and the sugar trade. She's doing some out there stuff, sculpture and poetic metaphor and performance art, which is compelling and engages people in meaningful conversations about history and justice today, but is not "real history" as academic historians will construct it. It's a historically-themed project, like many in the world, and I tend to think the world is a richer place for having both the good and the lousy ones. And the lousy ones can be dangerous, but I'm almost grateful, because they are great at surfacing subtext that often does not come out as direct political speech.

Personally, I like the swamp, I like taking the good with the bad, and watching the complex and insane variations and uses of history that happen in the wild, even while committing to presenting better questions and narratives that are responsible, as part of structured projects with public accountability.

I mean, it's probably a different discussion, which may be why I raised so many people's hackles. You might need to be way down the rabbit hole in thinking about the public + history to develop a heretical POV like mine. But ultimately, I think it's good that there are amateur historians, even really terrible and damaging ones, because they are a sign that history matters and that people feel impelled to engage with it. Bree Newsome climbing up a flagpole is an amateur engaging with history. Once you have people's attention - and nutbars like our corset-frothing friend can help create it - you can introduce another level of inquiry and response. The alternative - no one cares about history, no one fantasizes, no one investigates, no one refutes - is much scarier and sadder to me.
posted by Miko at 9:02 PM on September 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks very much to those who mentioned Ruth Goodman — I did not know her! I just watched a couple of BBC shows and miscellaneous shorts online, and also and read an excerpt from her book How to Be Victorian (which is now in paperback), and it looks like everything this book isn't — good humored, well written, well researched, full of details about the nitty gritty of life, not avoiding uncomfortable facts about the period like poverty. I'm definitely going to read it as soon as I catch up on a backlog of other things.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 6:25 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]




MORE DETAILS NEEDED

Like I said at the beginning of all this, I live in PT. I don't really want to tell stories because this is the kind of place that you guard what you say because it gets around.

But, I have occasion to interact with them in places of business. They move about town in their special way. They make their point of view clear and well known with their display, articles in the newspaper, involvement in the community, etc.

What is there to say? It's not how I would conduct myself. And, as I said, they get lots of support from the other dreamers that gravitate to this place. What works in their favor is that if there was ever a place where you can be anachronistic and live a life of pure cognitive dissonance, this is the place. Extreme underwear not necessarily required.

It's also a really wonderful place to live in general. Even for us casuals.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:30 AM on September 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't really want to tell stories because this is the kind of place that you guard what you say because it gets around.

*pout*
posted by listen, lady at 1:59 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


if there was ever a place where you can be anachronistic and live a life of pure cognitive dissonance, this is the place.

I was in Port Ludlow for an event this past April, and my work schedule and budget concerns did not allow me to extend my stay to have extra days to explore the surrounding areas.

Over the course of the weekend, people who were from nearer by those parts would chat with me about how wonderful the whole area is. There was always something telling (that I couldn't quite decipher) about the way that they would say "oh? you've never been to Port Townshend? You really should see it."

I'm starting to understand why.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:12 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, to be fair, there really is a lot of great Victorian architecture in PT and it's all picturesque and stuff. Plus you can stay in this allegedly haunted former brothel, but to be completely frank the only ghost I encountered was the CRT television in the bathroom closet of room #7. The ghost of old technology isn't exactly what I'd expected.
posted by palomar at 5:16 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even for us casuals.

I think the term might be "ragamuffins." Or "urchins." Or maybe, if you're employed, "mechanicals."
posted by Miko at 8:56 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cheers, I'm now on episode 3 of Edwardian Farm and loving it to pieces. I wouldn't have found it if not for the kind people on this thread pointing it out!
posted by PussKillian at 6:54 AM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't really want to tell stories because this is the kind of place that you guard what you say because it gets around.

Yeah, quoting this for truth. The first time I had a date here most of my coworkers were asking how it went. I didn't tell anyone about it at work.

Another example: I was once at a local beer garden place where I ran into a friend who also works in the food service industry, where we spent nearly an hour bitching and moaning about work, and how idiotic our bosses can be. I turned around and found that my boss's boss had possibly been in earshot the entire time.

I have dozens of examples like this, almost all of them benign, but telling.

Thankfully PT is also very stoically mostly "mind your own business" and live-and-let-live, so it's not as bad as other small towns, but word gets around fast.

On the upside this works in everyone's favor and tends to drive out creeps, jerks, thieves and takers. God forbid you assault someone or steal from someone in this town - or even if you're just a jerk or a flake - because everyone will know.

I'm more than ok with this. But I still need to learn how to shut my mouth more.
posted by loquacious at 12:01 PM on September 14, 2015


The Whelk: "I wrote a SF short story about this, or rather when living in the Victorian Era isn't by choice OOC"

Interesting, reminded me a bit of Silverberg's The Iron Chancellor.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:39 PM on September 14, 2015


So after having read this sentence in the article a few times:
I kept thinking of an article we had read in an 1883 cycling magazine about wheelmen riding bikes just like Gabriel's when they took a trip out to a mine.
I went about trying to find this 1883 cycling magazine about wheelmen riding pennyfarthings on a trip out to a mine. And I found this. And, as a fairly avid cyclist myself I'm kind of freaked out by that illustration. Please, Sarah and Gabriel, if you are within the reach of my cyber-typing, allow yourselves the period-incorrect indulgence of two GoPro cameras and create the most epic cliff-edge old-timey cycling insanity mountain-penny-farthing video of all time. I will watch the hell out of it.
posted by The World Famous at 1:06 PM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]




create the most epic cliff-edge old-timey cycling insanity mountain-penny-farthing video of all time.

until that happens, this will have to do.
posted by nadawi at 3:29 PM on September 14, 2015


cf.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 4:39 PM on September 14, 2015


For those who don't know, there is a nationwide association of vintage cycle enthusiasts called the Wheelmen. They have chapters in almost every state and do regular events. So you can get your old-timey cycle freak on no matter where you may be.

I have ridden one of these things. Once. We had them at one of my jobs and the group I was in all had to train on them. After training I opted out of it and stuck with the giant 3-wheeler (basically a big grownup tricycle). It is pretty scary. No gears, no brakes, dismounting is quite an art.
posted by Miko at 4:55 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


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