“The Tree of Love”: In the 18th century, heavy flirting became feminine!

Is love in the trees? What was it like going on a cruise at 18?And century ? Could women also be welcome performers? To answer these questions, every week we decipher an object from the past that says a lot about today’s social issues…

From November to March, Mucem hosts Les Procès du Siècle! On the program: a cycle of fascinating debates around the evolution of society, struggles and minorities, especially gender. Themes at the center of Madmoizelle’s editorial line, which is a partner of the event.

These debates are always based on “exhibits”, objects from the Mucem collections. Madmoizelle’s editors joined forces with museum curators to decipher six of these exhibits: objects that, as in a real trial, are much more talkative than they appear… Today, let’s look at the mysterious tree of love !

Exhibition of the day: The tree of love

The scene is surprising and a little funny: the women huddled around a tree try in every way to knock down the frightened gentlemen clinging to the branches. There are those who beat the leaves with great strokes of a stick, those who climb a ladder, and two very determined young ladies who are very busy sawing the trunk of the tree.

Print, the tree of love, lithograph on paper, 19th century, credit Mucem

Here is a very fashionable topic at 18 years oldAnd and at 7pmAnd centuries: The tree of love. It’s so popular that it’s found on thousands of prints like this one, these inexpensive prints that have made it possible to decorate homes without breaking the bank. No need to look far to find it on plates, dishes or other decorative ceramics as well. With, every time, gentlemen frightened by very enterprising young ladies. The scene is deliberately caricatured and meant to make people laugh… But is it really that funny?

When the joke is not one

This type of model derives from a long tradition, that of the “upside down worlds” : as in the carnival, these are moments in which the roles traditionally assigned by society are reversed, both in class relations and between men and women. Here, in this situation of seduction, women embody the heavy flirt role and they are in an active, even aggressive position of seduction. Conversely, men find themselves in the role of frightened prey.

A reversal of roles that appears all the more unlikely at this time when women are considered for life as minors, subject to the authority of their father and then of their husband, and whose sexuality is strictly monitored, controlled, codified.

Salad bowl, The Tree of LoveNevers earthenware, 1773, credit Mucem

The verdict: a subversive image can hide a well-responsive speech

After carefully observing these finds, here’s what they reveal to us. love trees : apparently subversive, because they seem to empower women, these images are actually completely sexist. They mock a situation perceived as unthinkable, out of the ordinary… And making fun of this reversal of gender roles, these images mainly serve to maintain the established order discouraging all those who would question it!

Let’s zoom out a bit: if these images are a hit at the end of 18And century and in the 19thAnd century, it is no doubt because it is a particularly misogynistic time. This is the moment of the first great feminist movements, which demand more equality and warn of the violence inflicted on women. In reaction it builds immediately a solid anti-feminist discourse, A knockback (or “backlash”) that mocks these women longing for independence, on the well-known refrain of “They go too far! Look, if we let them, the world will be turned upside down! »

Some music not so far from some post #MeToo speeches, who continue to methodically downplay and discredit the voices of women who speak out against the oppression they suffer.

And especially the heavy flirting and unsolicited harassment that most women experience. Sexist situations that have existed for centuries and that these pictures of The tree of love they seem to divert at best to encourage them. But situations that today have become intolerable, and that can no longer be minimized or mocked. This is demonstrated by the avalanche of testimonials under the hashtag #MeToo: the recurrence, the banality, the systemic side of this harassment. And above all the impact that these recurring situations have on the lives of these women, on their relationship with men, with seduction and with the public space.

From the tree of love to the post #MeToo era

By raising awareness of the extent of the phenomenon, making it impossible to brush away with the palm of your hand, the #MeToo wave has laid the groundwork for a new order and new, more egalitarian standards in relationships between women and men, which value the communication and the expression of consent.

This also tree of love, in print or on plate, is the perfect test to instruct the Process of the Century which was held at the end of January on the theme “Being 20 years after #MeToo: is it really better? “. How to flirt today? Are there always that many suckers? What has changed #MeToo in the seduction relationship between women and men? These questions were at the heart of the debate between the influencer and activist Camille Aumont-Carnel and the sociologist Irène Théry, with the participation of Amélie Lavin, curator of Mucem.

This evening’s recording will soon be available on the museum’s website! And see you next week to find out another test…

Source: Madmoizelle

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