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The Lady’s Dressing Room

In Swift’s poem The Lady’s Dressing Room is interesting when you first read it, it is different than a lot of the things I’ve read in the past. After listening to the lecture and re reading the poem it struck me that men still like to believe in this distorted reality, his idea that women are some completely different species in that our bodily functions don’t match those of men. It may be the fact that these “men” I speak of are mainly college students or recent graduates, they still hold women to this standard of “perfection”. Something that seems to beat time itself, there is still a social stigma that women take forever to get ready and that we should take this long. That as a gender we are expected to be hygienic and well kept, much more so than a man. Perhaps if we held them to the same standards and “perfections”, would they still look down on women for the amount of time it takes to get ready?

            As far as the grotesque parts in the play one could be lines 40 through 42 where Swift disguises the fact that Celia has to clean her teeth, just like a man. “The Scrapings of her Teeth and Gums, A nasty Compound of all Hues, For here she spits, and here she spues” (Swift 40-42), it’s just so unexpected and goes against their view of how a woman lives. Another example is after Strephon looks about her room and to his disgust sees an old pair of used socks, “The Stockings, why shou’d I expose, Stain’d with the Marks of stinking Toes” (Swift 50-52). Here we see him freak out over something relatively minor, even today it is absurd to believe that a woman’s feet don’t smell after spending countless hours on her feet. Biological processes just didn’t seem to apply to women during this time period. The last example of grotesque I gathered from the poem was the point where Strephon realizes Celia plucks her eyebrows, this is a misconception I’ve seen today. The idea that women’s eye brows are naturally groomed is actually crazy. For the time, however, it makes sense that men would believe women were perfect, an object of reality that didn’t take work or time to maintain. Back then they were seen as goods and as it was mentioned in the lecture, a collection of items was something that was strived for. The more things you had the wealthier you must be, if these things were pretty it made it that much better. It then makes sense that women were put on this pedestal and were expected to only be able to perform certain tasks.

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2 thoughts on “The Lady’s Dressing Room

  1. You make some really good comparisons between the expectations for men and women in your post. I definitely agree that the sort-of double standard still exists, but I also know guys who will go and find the most isolated bathroom at a party to avoid having their bowel movements becoming public knowledge. Of course, I guess that could be part of the double standard as well. (Girls are seen as clean and perfect, so guys do not want to give the impression that they are disgusting in some way.) I also really like the way you have interpreted this dynamic in terms of property and conspicuous consumption. I am also in a Shakespeare class right now, and we have talked a lot about the idea of women being considered property and how a father giving away the bride was (and kind-of still is) an actual exchange of goods. Your post helped me see how conspicuous consumption enters the situation from Strephon’s point of view; he sees her as potential property, and he is, perhaps, concerned that her more grotesque actions would not reflect well on him.

  2. The process of a woman preparing her self definitely can take more time than that of a man because a man will most likely have less to do. From cleaning of the body to the point of actually stepping out the door the process is significantly longer depending on the details involved for either gender, mostly woman. As witnessed in “The Lady’s Dressing Room”
    Men do have a different perspective on woman, a certain expectation. Often, pretty, dainty and very unmanly. Though that is not loss in the amount of time taken to get prepare, certainty 5 hours is excess to any preparation. The way a woman can be viewed does have a certain gender role bias. Men don’t expect a woman to “break wind” (pass gas) or to ever be smelly as a man, and I hope we would not. There is an expectation of naturally beautiful without having a process of being in upkeep. Strephon’s curiosity is that he wanted to see the chamber’s of Miss Celia, he wanted to know what lay behind her lapse in lengthy time and his shock or horror was only to find she was as human as he. Good example you gave with the stockings.
    The “distorted reality” you mentioned is that “beauty” just simply happens.

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