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Op-Ed: I Love Victorian Aesthetics But Would Never Want To Live In The Victorian Age
Victorian Time Travel Is For White Men
By Luna Lark
How much privilege do you have to have to actually want to live in a bygone era? I'm nostalgic for certain art and design, especially from the Victorian Age, but I'm too savvy to fantasize about living then. No aesthetic is beautiful enough to tempt me away from having basic human rights—and with movements like #metoo, it's debatable I even have those today. Time travel is a much cooler concept if you're a white man, preferably Christian, able-bodied, and heterosexual. You couldn't pay me any amount to live in 1800's England, no matter how much exquisite lace I could buy.
foToday I can dress up in Victorian fashion reproductions and still have the right to vote. I'll take the fashion (minus actual corsets), plus the furniture, original paintings, first edition books, and other goods that don't infringe upon my humanity. "Oh, have some fun! Step into the time machine!" No thanks. Women didn't get the right to vote in England until 1918, and that was only if they were over 30 and owned property that met certain requirements. I'll have way more fun going to the antique shop with your credit card than I would hopping into a time machine. What's my budget again? One million dollars? Awesome! Now I'm having fun!
It's easy for white men to dream about living in the Victorian Age. White men lived on Easy Street back then. They didn't have doctors claiming too much study would dry up their ovaries or need a chaperone to speak to a member of the opposite sex. They weren't already parents by age 22 on average or limited by legal restrictions on contraception. Imagine if Victorian men had been taught that their sexuality "was completely dormant" until their legal spouse touched them. Victorian white men simply didn't have the same concerns as women did about a host of everyday issues: the pay gap, sexual harassment, job discrimination, property rights, and more. Then obviously things were worse for you if you were a woman of color or mixed race.
The conversation about time travel has been reinvigorated under the Trump administration and the Brexit debate. When thinking, compassionate people hear phrases like "Make America great again!" and "Take back control!", it's hard to ignore the sexist, racist, xenophobic implications. There was a lot of shitty stuff about the U.S. and the UK in the Before Time. There's still a lot of shitty stuff. That's why we have movements like Black Lives Matter and feminist memes galore. It's one thing to feel nostalgic about aspects of the past (Victorian bird cages were pretty fabulous; let's bring those back), but longing for an entire era when vast quantities of people faced undeniable oppression is...terrible.
I don't want to make America "great" again because this was a country founded on indigenous genocide and African enslavement. That's not great. I don't want white, Protestant men to take back control of British borders. I don't even want to be a Victorian lady of the manor. Just give me the lady of the manor's wardrobe and estate to have in the modern era. I'll figure out what I want to keep and what I want to donate to my favorite charity. That still trumps any time travel fantasy for me.
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