Sociological Research vs. Fetish

Sociological Research vs. Fetish

Munby’s study of “the subject of female labor” has been argued by some to be a fetishistic compulsion and by others a sociological research study. McClintock argues that, “Munby was no eccentric, but was fully representative of his class,” (80). She suggests Munby’s use of the imperial discourse on race as his strategy for maintaining contradictions. While the aspects of Munby’s voyeuristic pleasure that are present cannot be ignored, I agree with McClintock’s notion that he was in not eccentric. She also writes, “[Munby’s] intentions, he claimed, were purely sociological: to find the archetypes by which to represent the entirety of female labor” (81).

McClintock believes that Munby’s relationship with his nurse was the cause of his fascination with working women and is not surprised by his desire to seek out similar women. Given the amount of interaction with his nurse, it makes sense that such a young child would form a strong bond with this class of women. However, many people, including Munby’s family, disagreed with McClintock’s view and were “fearful of scandalous disclosures” (76).

I postulate that the idea of his research as being obsessive and fetishistic was partially influenced by gender biases. This raises the question, would the same be said about Munby’s work if he had been a woman? Also, how can we be sure these negative connotations are due to fetishistic research methods and not caused by social stigmas associated with men studying women? Lastly, would Munby’s research have received such negative feedback if it had take place in more recent years?

-Krystal McKenzie


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