Its nature, however, was now different and multi-faceted, but it involved increasing uncertainty over the representation of femininity (and of masculinity). As legally constructed, the ‘identity’ of women had been affected by the liberalising Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 and by the Guardianship of Infants Act of 1886. It had also been practically challenged by the suffragists’ activities, despite their failure with legislators. At the same time the overt attempt in literature to overwrite the sign of the properly feminine with the sign of ‘the
New Woman’ as an ideal had focused a contentious semantic area in the representation of gender. The contentiousness was compounded by a consequent uncertainty over the representation of masculinity. This itself was complicated by the fear of a third or intermediate sex. This fear helped towards the creation of a legal identification of homosexuals as deviants by the Labouchère amendment to the Criminal Law Act of 1884 which made all homosexual acts illegal. The old certainties of gender needed constant shoring up to prevent social disintegration of the kind that was widely feared. So the recognition of texts as deviantly gendered carried large implications.