In my ever so successful attempt at procrastinating, I’ve decided to ignore the essay eating at the back of my mind and instead write here all of the thoughts that can’t really be put into the essay. Also, this isn’t going to be like “I want more cookies” but more “feminism in the 13th century was quite interesting” as my opinions aren’t really relevant to this assignment. Such a pity.
Whilst reading about Christine de Pisan, author of The Treasure of the City of Ladies (incidentally the piece I’ve been asked to write a commentary on), I came across the perspective that she was an early feminist, one of the first women to write about the female condition, and a revolutionary in medieval times. She stood up against fellow author Jean de Meun, who finished Guillaume de Lorris’ Romano de la Rose, a groundbreaking love poem that provided a cynical view on love itself and apparently portrayed women as less than virtuous. Their whole argument was pretty interesting but that’s a topic for another day. Anyways, reading de Pisan’s chapter titled “How ladies and young women who llive on their manors ought to manage their households and estates,” I’ve come to the conclusion that while she was progressive for her time, she had a perspective of a medieval widow (she was left a single mother of 3 at 25, and wrote to support her mother and aunt as well) and it brought to light that we are all a product of our time and our limited experiences. It is virtually impossible to find a universal constant of good or evil in the ways of society, and I know that sounds really heavy but if you think about all the different religions and all the different periods of war and peace and feminism and human rights, people agree with different things all over the place. It’s the case of asking a fish to recognize water–it’s very hard to see your environment as a separate factor from yourself, especially if so much of your life is defined by it.
The chapter went on to explain how ladies of a specific rank should run their households, and how people who work for them would invariably attempt to take advantage of the situation and cheat them of their money (this was really common back then, apparently, because these people were super paranoid), but also that women could make good amounts of money by running things efficiently and planning with the seasons. The logic followed that if a woman’s staff were managed well, and if she was productive and harvested crops at the right time and used the winter for making things that could be sold, her virtues would make more money than the estate itself. This was hugely empowering for women who didn’t otherwise have a decent role to play, or who didn’t feel as though their role was worth anything to their medieval husbands. And in that way, Christine de Pisan was really progressive for her gender. But the gender roles still remained, and it would be over half a millenium before we’d be sitting around arguing about gender roles and sexism and what feminism actually is.
I just watched Jack Howard’s video (I’m a pro at procrastinating) about his views on feminism and he mentioned that sexism is going to be the thing that, 30 years from now when we’re all grandparents, our kids and grandkids are going to be shaking their heads at saying “grandpa no that’s not okay anymore.” It’s kind of like racism now, where some older folks grew up with it and have it so ingrained in their perspective that they can’t see how it’s wrong. It’s just logic from a different time. But there’s going to be different logic in every different “time” forever and that’s something that I just keep thinking about. What is equality today? What will equality be later on? What are people going to judge my generation on because they’ve just progressed farther as a society? And what will I personally have done that will be absolutely unacceptable generations from now? Can we escape that fate of having wronged someone in the present that in the future would be the face or martyr of a movement?
There’s so much we don’t know, and just so much hate. I wish it wasn’t so. I think people are always scared of the evils that society will become and thus become the evil of society. There are those who wish to police, and there are those who wish to be free. I suspect that there will always be power differences, and a struggle for what is right and what is fair. And I think that these struggles will change over time but there will always be something because we’re only human and our individuality dictates that we will have differences. It’s good that we have people so passionate about their plight that they’ll change the world, and I hope it keeps changing for the better. And it’s important to note that if you believe in equality of the sexes, that is the definition of feminism, and please don’t be afraid of the name. Also, don’t define a movement by its extremists; there are extremists in everything, and if you held that standard to every movement, you’d not be able to hold onto any aspect of your identity guilt-free.
It would be nice if we all got along. It would also be nice if I hadn’t waited until the last minute to write this paper and it would be even better if these thousand words had been those thousand words, since I only have 73/1000 at the moment. This is great. Also, I had a really good brunch and tea today (other aspect of procrastination) and that’s what the pictures are of. London is lovely. Now this science student has to go figure out how to do humanities.