• Andrea Mansker
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


In her prize-winning essay for a contest held by the Congrès permanent de l’Humanité in 1901 on the subject of the “injustice of double morality,” teacher and political activist Marguerite Bodin offered a keen analysis of the French honor culture and its problematic implications for female citizenship under the Third Republic. Arguing that “current sexual morality” was “responsible for most of the injustices, scandals, and crimes committed in society,” Bodin linked the double sexual standard to the gendered divisions that the honor codes erected in French public and private life. She elaborated a common understanding of masculine honor when she suggested that an

honest man [honnête homme] is he who refrains from stealing, who does not insult his fellow man, who spills blood only in the duel or in war, and who completes all of the duties of his profession. In a word, he is the citizen respectful of the wellbeing of others, who lives in conformity with the laws of the Republic.

Bodin alluded to the contemporary obsession among French men for dueling, but she defined the male honor culture broadly as an informal model for public conduct whose unwritten rules the individual citizen internalized in service of the state. For men, honor functioned as a social complement to their political power, circumscribing their behavior in the civic realm and channeling their aggressive penchants into ritualized forms of state-sanctioned violence.


Single Woman Civic Participation Double Sexual Standard Honor Code French Public 
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    Marguerite Bodin, “Toujours plus haut vers le mieux en aidant nos soeurs et nos frères de toutes nos forces,” in Noël Tolb, Camille and Hyacinthe Bélilon of the Congrès permanent de l’Humanité (eds), De l’Injustice des deux morales sexuelles (Bruxelles: Le Messager de Bruxelles, 1901), 42–44.Google Scholar
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    Statistique générale de la France, Annuaire statistique, vol. 26 (59 vols, Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1906), 7. This figure of 4.1 million female célibataires included women from ages of 15 and up. If counted from their age of civil majority (21), French single women made up 2.6 million individuals in the total French female population of 19.5 million in 1901. See chapter 2.Google Scholar
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© Andrea Mansker 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Mansker
    • 1
  1. 1.Sewanee: The University of the SouthUSA

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