Talking About Talking About “Neo-Victorians”
The public conversation around Sarah Chrisman fascinates me. Subtextually, it’s clustered around the line between actions and presentation and contextualization of those actions: a situation where people aren’t doing something wrong, but are describing what they’re doing in ways that are both wildly inaccurate and ethically iffy.
My take, for the curious: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with living a fetish-y anachronistic life. Get on with your weird selves! But when you choose to present that life publicly, to make it the centerpiece of your presentation as a public figure, the way you frame and discuss that life–in context of both the present you’re living in, and the half-accurate past you’re fetishizing–matters both practically and ethically. Using an icebox and kerosene lamps and wearing fancy corsetry are all fine if you have the time and resources. Presenting those choices as morally superior while ignoring context–and JFC, presenting your bent for anachronism as *analogous to gender dysphoria*, which Chrisman has done repeatedly–is not fine. And factually misrepresenting history is not so cool for reasons that overlap somewhat (but not entirely) with the above.
(And, somewhat cattily: The whole way Chrisman presents her life strikes me as an incredibly elaborate exercise in rationalization by someone who has trouble just being into what she’s into without justifying it as fundamentally morally and academically superior. It’s like the dubious-history equivalent of “They’re not COMICS. They’re GRAPHIC NOVELS,” taken to the nth degree.)
Anyway. It’s been an interesting conversation to follow.