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Option Two: Gender
Defying the traditional Victorian way of life, Coney Island at the beginning of the twentieth century had a profound impact on societal norms. Outside of Coney Island, women were often treated as inferior while men ruled the throne in nearly all aspects of life. However, within Coney Island the gender gap was equalized. Coney Island served as a catalyst to a change in the traditional mindset. In traditional society, women were resigned to the role of wife and homemaker. At Coney Island, however, women experienced more freedom of the opposite extreme. The hotels, amusement parks, and rides and events that the civilians encountered displays the immorality that was assumed at the turn of the century and the years leading up to women’s suffrage. In contrast to the strict gender roles of genteel society, Coney Island provided an open minded and progressive atmosphere in which men and women could be equals.
In refined society, men and women were two different types of social classes in themselves. Revolving around the sphere of the home, women followed the same gender role in all aspects of their life. Women were renowned as morally superior to men in that they were identified as the angel of the house. They supported and nourished the family while at the same time working to ever improve the household. Women catered to the needs of their children and in a sense took all the family tasks into their own hands. They cleaned house throughout the day while simultaneously preparing meals for their family to consume. While having complete control of the house and the moral upper hand, women still, nonetheless, could not differ from the judgment of their spouse.
A man carried the reputation of a hard working, industrious, political figure that was treated with royalty within his household. As opposed to women confined to the house, men were very much involved in the relations of the public world. All aspects of industries and politics were experienced solely by the male gender. After working long, hard days on the job site throughout the week, men could return to the comfort of their own home at night and expect their spouses to gratify their needs. These two extremes of life worked together, however, to craft a well-structured lifestyle until the up rise that occurred in the mayhem of Coney Island.
Coney Island receives its fame and fortune first through the upbringing of elegant hotels. Hotels flourished and over time became the backbone of what Coney Island would soon progress into. West Brighton, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan Beach Hotels flourished in the east and evolved as the elite hotels throughout Coney Island. Kasson proclaimed, “Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach harbored the greatest pretensions to respectability and managed most successfully to secede from the name and taint of Coney Island (Kasson 30).” Through the creation of stylish and extravagant hotels, men and women began to fluctuate around Coney Island and its beautiful beaches. Women could leave their traditional role of housewife at Coney Island and not have to prepare meals or attend to the upkeep of their contemporary domicile. They could take off from their daily work routines and experience a more laid back and negligent approach to life. In the same sense, men frayed from their daily manual labor and experienced an environment that was less stressful and more untailored than what they encounter in life’s conventional struggle. Men and women began to enjoy themselves to an extent that had been absent in the past. This initial increase in visitor attractions began the soon drastic change into what would become modern social chaos.
In the ongoing competition to attract visitors to Coney Island, developers expanded the basic hotels and traditional amusements to new adventurous and alluring types of entertainment. Kasson writes, “Instruments of production and efficiency were transformed into objects of amusement, and life around them lifted from dull routine to exhilaration pageantry” (Kasson 73). Different innovations such as ferris wheels, shooting the chutes, and roller coasters provided a new type of intense excitement that had never been sensed in the past. These rides had visitors enjoying life to its maximum as opposed to the customary, labor-filled workday. Through breath taking moments of unimaginable delight, these
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Coney Island, Amusement park, Dreamland, Coney Island in popular culture, Luna Park, Coney Island
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