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Gender and Europe

A gendered history of Europe, in which gender relations are a constituent element of the definition of European political, economic, and cultural space.

Editorial managers: Yannick Ripa with Isabelle Matamoros, Anne Jusseaume and Julie Le Gac.

An Italian woman inspects the kilts of Pipe Major William MacConnachie and Pipe Major William Boyd in the Colosseum of Rome, 6 June 1944. Source: Imperial War Museums

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Birth control clinic (private archives of Marie Stopes), late 1920.
The demographic transition. Source: Wikimedia Commons https://goo.gl/6sYoph
Demonstration for abortion rights in Milan (1975). Source: Wikimedia Commons https://goo.gl/fqXMo7

Demographic transition has accompanied the transformation of the couple and the family in Europe since the late eighteenth century. The founding element of the family remains marriage, with high marriage rates up to the 1970s, before a decrease in favour of cohabitation. Divorce also became commonplace. Family size shrank and became standardized with the introduction of more effective contraceptive techniques. For all that, norms continue to have considerable influence despite these major evolutions, as demonstrated by opposition to gay marriage, or restrictions to medically-assisted procreation. This resistance to what was called the “sexual revolution” in the late 1960s has instead prompted talk of the modernization of sexuality in the twenty-first century.

Herman Richir, Réunion du conseil d’administration de la Banque nationale (huile sur toile, 1918, Musée de la Banque nationale de Belgique).Herman Richir, Meeting of the board of directors of the National Bank (oil on canvas, 1918, Museum of the National Bank of Belgium)
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During the nineteenthcentury, no-one questioned the link between power and masculinity, between men and domination of the public sphere. This power took on many forms, ranging from economic and political to military and even religious power. Although military prestige declined with the two world wars and the defeats of decolonization, men still held the reins over politics and the increasingly globalized economy. Nearly a century after the right to vote, and despite mass access to higher education, women still hit against the glass ceiling, which denies them access to responsibility. A small fringe of masculine leaders still concentrates most of the power in the twenty-first century.

The division between the private feminine sphere and the public masculine sphere imposed itself during the nineteenth century. The men possessing the most cultural and financial capital controlled the centres of economic, political, military, and even religious power. Despite the growing role of women in society, the erosion of this age-old domination was slow to come during the twentieth century.

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This article is currently being written, for more articles on the same subject, please check the "To go further" section.

This article is currently being written, for more articles on the same subject, please check the "To go further" section.

This article is currently being written, for more articles on the same subject, please check the "To go further" section.

This article is currently being written, for more articles on the same subject, please check the "To go further" section.

Gravure de Paul Gavarni (1804-1866) « Les époux se doivent mutuellement fidélité, secours, assistance », Œuvres choisies, 1857.
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