Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power

As the world collectively crawls, gibbering and raving toward the end of the American presidential election, the medieval roots of society’s expectations of women are once again very firmly on display.

Case in point – the life and times of one of the three medieval women you have heard of – Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Eleanor was, by all accounts, an absolute bad ass.  She lead armies both in Europe and on the Second Crusade. She was a highly skilled ruler who reigned in her husband’s absence from the country. She was also a total babe.

For all these reasons, the modern imagination loves Eleanor.  She won Katherine Hepburn an Oscar, and pops up in most Robin Hood movies. (Yes, even that really bad Russel Crowe one.)  This is why you know her name.

Whilst we appreciate Eleanor, her mind, influence, and general kick-arsery now, everything we love about her now meant she was often reviled in her own time, and for decades after her death.

Eleanor managed to run herself into trouble because she was intent on exercising power in the public sphere.

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On power and entitlement to the bodies of lower-status women, or, the thing that IS actually medieval about Trump

Elsewhere, we have discussed why it is that the use of the word ‘medieval’ as a pejorative is, in general, quite lazy and a convenient way of distancing ourselves from the terrible things which take place in our own time.

Having said that, the medieval world still very much influences many of our political institutions, and our mind-sets.  If we consider, for example, that the Church and a universal concept of the West as the home of Christendom to be the overriding hallmarks of the medieval period, it helps us understand why for many people, theoretical Christian values are seen as an inherent part of being Western.

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On why the misuse of the word ‘medieval’ is a bad thing – part of an on-going series

At Going Medieval, we are loath to wade in on the whole Trump thing, as it is best not to dignify sentient dumpster fires with a response.

This guy though – this fucking guy – whilst attempting to draw attention away from that one time he got caught bragging about sexually assaulting women, (it is assumed that he’s done it plenty of times whilst not being caught), declared that the current state of the world  ‘…is like medieval times, we haven’t seen anything like this – the carnage all over the world’.

Presuming that Trump is not referring to Medieval Times – that fake jousting restaurant – this sort of idiocy is squarely in the Going Medieval wheelhouse, and we are forced to respond.

Using ‘medieval’ as a pejorative in this instance is profoundly lazy and dangerous, because it allows people to distance themselves from the horrors of the world as it currently exists whilst also throwing an entire millennium under the bus.  The terrible things that this bloviating comb-over is referring to are happening squarely in and as a result of modern, and indeed neo-liberal, political instability.

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Islam was the party religion, or, why it is lazy and essentialist to say that Islam oppresses women

Kittens, it saddens me to update this blog with an opener about how semi-sentient Etonian wank sock Boris Jonhson has, just now graced us with the very excellent racist comparison of women wearing the niqab to “letter boxes“, in this, the year of our lord 2018. I initially wrote this piece back in 2016 when the French were being super uncool about letting ladies wear whatever the fuck they want to the beach. Because we live in a neo-Nazi studded hellscape, where everyone refuses to learn ever, you also might be having your various social media feeds blow up with a bunch of basic-ass Beckies trying to justify this.  “But Islam is just SO oppressive of women!”, they type.  Because in the West women are totally equal now, not paid less than their male counter parts, told what they need to wear, and blamed for their own sexual assault.  It’s totally fine here!

Yes, it is true that these fools are available as a part of Sainsbury’s reasonably priced own-brand range, cuz they basic as hell.  But would you like to explain to them the historical facts for why that is?  Sure you would!  Let me help.

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These hoes ain’t loyal – on prostitutes and bad bitches in medieval and hip hop culture

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but a lot of hip hop songs refer to ‘hoes’. (I know, I know, stay with me.)  What that can mean in any given context varies, of course, but in general terms what we’re talking about are either sexually available women in general, or specifically actual sex workers.

The thing about the hoes is that whether you’re announcing to a woman that she is one (before taking her to a ho-tel), reminding everyone that you can’t trust them, telling them to leave if they can’t accept the basics, or simply wondering where they at – hoes are an integral part of the hip hop landscape.

In many cases the very concept of masculinity is pinned to one’s ability to either attract hoes, or traffic them, a situation which ain’t easy, and makes it hard out here for a select group of men.

Across the board, however, one thing is certain about hoes – they are not worthy of respect, and the fact that men don’t respect them is absolutely paramount to their street cred.  Jay-Z wants you to know he doesn’t eat with them.  Snoop just needs you to understand that G’s are more important than them.  Hoes are women who are available for sex, but don’t have the ability to hold emotional focus or respect from men.

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The medieval case for remain, or fuck Brexit

Y’all – do you know about the Brexit? It’s this thing where some people think that Britain should leave the EU because something something making Britain great again, something something.

There are, of course, any number of reasons why leaving the EU is stupid, as academics who work on modern Europe and the freedom of movement can explain to you.

As an academic who works on Medieval Europe, I can explain to you why it makes no sense within an historical context as well.

First off, one of the reasons a lot of people want to vote to leave the EU is that Schrodinger’s EU immigrant is somehow both taking our jobs, and in the UK claiming benefits.  They feel that immigrants should not be coming to the UK from the EU, and the UK should instead remain steadfastly British.

As any medieval historian can tell you, however, the history of the island of Britannia is one of a series of mass migrations.  So if immigrants shouldn’t be living in Britain, you need to somehow prove to me that you are 100% Druid or GTFO.

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On Hotline Bling and courtly love

We’ve ranted, in brief, before about the cultural circumstances that inspired courtly love. (I’m sorry for reminding you about the whole Sansa thing.  Our girl doing good now though, right?  Right.)

The thing about courtly love is generally that people think courtly love is a part of some super-romantic tradition of lords and ladies having a very nice time and falling in love and getting married.  That is not what it is about.

What it is about is a bunch of young knights who can’t get married, because they don’t have any property, sitting around trying to conceal their boners while they look at the lady of the house.  See, because of the primogeniture system, (aka the oldest son gets everything), excess sons who didn’t join the Church usually went and found places in other households as knights in the hopes that they’d manage to get a grant of land one way or another eventually.

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