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Justin Mcmurray

Traveling Women Ministers - Pushing Gender Boundaries

Quaker women led lives that were very different than those of their contemporaries. These
women had the opportunity to act as vigorous participants in their faith, not being driven from
the supposed domain of men. George Fox, considered to be the founder of the Society of
Friends, saw the ministry as a holy calling instead of a trademaking it naturally open to all.
(Trueblood 31). Many women, including Barbara Blaugdone, heeded their call to the Ministry.
Some of these women pushed the limits even farther than most, following their call to preach,
wherever it led. These traveling ministers pushed even the limits of fellow Friends, often
experiencing great oppression and ill regard by those outside of the faith. These women also
chose to press other gender boundaries of the time. For this devoted group to be fully understood
by the modern reader, they must be seen for what they were, radicals of their time.

The behaviors exhibited by women like Blaugdone could easily have been, and often were,
misconstrued. Acts like sleeping in a hog trough, sneaking onto someones property, and barging
into the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, all outlined in Blaugdones own
narrative, were quite out of the ordinary. Often compared with the actions of a vagrant or a
prostitute, these dealings were not seen for their religious affiliation but instead for their
shocking deviance from the norm. So flustered by great differences between Quakers and others
groups of the period, some individuals reacted violently. In one such instance Blaugdone along
with Mary Prince were attacked by a knife yielding man, who did, in fact, succeed in sticking
Blaugdone in the side (Blaugdone 10). On her mission to Dublin, Blaugdone was blamed for

storms affecting their ship and was almost thrown overboard by her shipmates (Blaugdone 21).
Katharine Evans and Sarah Chevers, fellow Quaker travelers, were thrown in prison during their
mission to Alexandria, and were tortured psychologically by their captors (Davies 262). True,
even stationary Quakers felt many assaults, but traveling women received the worst of it.

Traveling female Quakers tested gender norms even more so than by preaching alone. Their
ability to ignore the role of men as protectors, as well as owners, had no context in the minds of
their contemporaries. Evans and Chevers greatly distressed their captors when they refused to
give their affiliation to fathers or husbands. Women of the day were to be under the thumb of
either a father or a husband throughout their lifetime; these two women saw themselves under no
authority other than Gods (Davies 259). Blaugdone prided herself on her ability to do her
ministry as well as her travel entirely by her own means. This was of such importance to her that
it is the fact by which she closes her account. She states:

But in all my Travels, I Travelled still on my own Purse, and was never chargeable to any, but
paid for what I had. And much more could I declare of my Sufferings which I passed through,
which I forbear to mention, being not willing to be over-tedious. (38)

Women of the day held little to no personal assets, and were forever defined by who their nearest
male relative was. In this statement she asserted the fact that she was fully responsible not only
for her own person but also her own moniesa radical affirmation.

The early traveling female ministers can only be fully understood when considered in the context
in which they were dealing. These women were not only radicals due to their faith but also were

the most extreme members of that faith. They took the word of God and moved as it
commanded. These women broke gender norms not only pertaining to the act of preaching itself
but also because of their lack of a need to identify by their male relationships. These digressions
from cultural norms caused them to pay dearly in physical as well as emotional assault, a price
they gladly paid for the ability to remain steadfast to the word of God.

In another example Television Soaps, Perfect to show The Cultural Construction of Gender and
Representation . Soaps but more importantly music videos can be said to interrogate the
cultural construction of gender and representations of identity. The video
suggests a set of images to the viewer and usually these are a blurring of
gender and identity. Music videos predicate on the representation of female
gender experience. The two interrelated sign systems- access signs and
discovery signs- will be discussed. Music clips that will be focused on are
Madonna's Burning Up', Express Yourself', and Justify My Love'. The singer,
who has been labelled Our Lady of MTV', has an amazing video appeal due to her
play with gender and identity. No other single artist has produced as many
mixed images as she has.
Television soaps tend not to interrogate the construction of gender and the
representation of identity. They do not seem to cross any boundaries. People
watch soaps to relax and somehow relate, so if they were to experiment with the
theatre of gender, it may be seen as a threat to viewers. Soapies usually have
the males in typically male dominated occupations such as doctors, car salesmen
and chefs. Women in soaps are usually secretaries or housewives. There does
not seem to be any attempt for a switch of roles. Females are feminine, males

masculine. There has been one exception, which was Kylie Minogue's character,
Charlene, on Neighbours. She was a mechanic and tomboy. This is one of the few
occasions where a soap has interrogated the cultural construction of gender and
representation of identity.
A music video is footage that accompanies a song. They can have a
storyline related to the song, displays of images or simply focusing on the
artist/s performing. Music video is forever crossing the lines of gender and
identity. It is able to do this as it is seen as a form of art, therefore there
is no threat to viewers. It is ironic that Boy George has said that video was
the worst thing to happen to music, when he himself looked and acted like he
was crossing the lines of gender and boundaries back in the 1980's. Madonna is
most famous for creating videos with no boundaries for gender or identity. Most
of the time, she deliberately plays with surfaces and masks. Madonna visual
style engages and hyperbolises the discourse of femininity- she has bleached
hair with dark roots, street smart image yet glamorous. Gender play is the mix
and match of styles that flirt with the signifiers of sexual difference, and
Madonna is always doing that. The three music videos of Madonna to be analysed
a re `Burning Up', Express Yourself', and `Justify My Love'.
Pouring money into the visuals, she is the first female artist to fully
exploit video. In the three videos to be discussed, there is a mixture of
suggestion and aggression. Burning Up' involves her and a man. She is
writhing in the middle of the road while he is driving towards her. At the
moment where she seemed submissive, she was actually about to take over-

suddenly he disappeared and at the end of the clip she was behind the wheel. It
was like she was powerless, but then she turns that image upside down by showing
who had the control. `Express Yourself' is very similar. It shows her as being
powerful and also as being weak. She plays with gender through her wearing of a
pin-striped suit ( the male sign of power and success) and her crotch grabs. It
also shows her with a chain around her neck. Madonna says:

"It's just an image I thought was powerful...It showed an extreme. Extreme


images of women: one is in charge, in control, dominating; the other is chained
to a bed..."

It is evident in this video that she interrogates the cultural construction


of gender and representations of identity. "Justify My Love" is the same. The
banned video showed how gender roles could be swapped, blurred and played with
to create different identities. It showed men who looked and acted like women
and women who looked and acted like men. It totally changed the typical gender
roles and behaviour around.
E. Ann Kaplan (1897) stated Madonna's feminism is part of a larger postmodernism phenomenon which her videos also embody in their blurring of
sacrosanct boundaries and polarities such as male/female, high art/pop art,
film/TV, fiction/reality and private/public.
Two interrelated sign systems developed from videos predicated on female
gender experience- access signs and discovery signs. These can both be seen in
Cyndi Lauper's 1983 hit Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Madonna's 1984 song

Borderline. Both are set in the street not feeling threatened, which is the
access sign. The discovery sign is being female. In Borderline it is the
fact she gets discovered to be a model.

Works Cited:

Blaugdone, Barbara. An Account of the Travels, Sufferings and Persecutions of Barbara


Blaugdone. London, 1691.

Davies, Stevie. Unbridled Spirits: Women of the English Revolution: 1640-1660. London: The
Womens Press Ltd., 1999.

Trueblood, D. Elton. The People Called Quakers. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.