On colonialism, imperialism, and ignoring medieval history

We have a lot of fun, don’t we, when we talk about how people argue that the medieval period was the Dark Ages based on the fact that the feel some type of way about it? Now, can I call people who think this ridiculously incredulous and basic? Yes. And I do. Thanks for asking. Having said that, the general ignorance of the medieval period is not from nothing.

On the one hand, you could argue that the idea that the middle ages was a bad time where people were generally stupid, unwashed, and rolling about in the muck on medieval people’s own conceptions of knowledge. As Sara has pointed out to us before, medieval people considered themselves to be attempting to access a perfect knowledge which had been deteriorating since the fall of man. As a result, they attempted to emulate the knowledge of the people who came before them – i.e. Roman and Hellenic thinkers. They thought that past systems of knowledge were inherently better than their own, and, well, it’s hard not to take people at their word, you know?

But let’s be real, that is absolutely not the main reason people think the medieval period was a stupid time. That idea comes squarely from the way we tend to uphold the (frankly, misapplied) idea of the Renaissance, and also the fact that people simply aren’t taught about the medieval period other than as a contrast to said Renaissance.

Now here is the thing, there are a lot of reasons why this has happened. Part of it is down to the fact that the medieval period is hard to teach because everywhere is so different. Part of it is because if people aren’t taught about something, then odds are they can’t teach about it later. And part of it is that if you are taught over and over again that the medieval period was Very Bad and that the Renaissance saved us all from its darkness, then you believe that.

Today we are talking about why it is that this particular narrative is the one taught in classes all across the white world, and I regret to inform you that the answer is colonial imperialism. Yay.

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On sexualising the “other”

Friends, we are as ever living in a society that spends a lot of time and energy attempting to uphold what it sees as “normal”. Normality, after all, doesn’t police itself, or even hold up as a concept without strenuous effort from the people invested in it. What we’re thinking about today is that in our society over time if something isn’t “normal” it is probably also sexual. Because sexual stuff is bad and therefore Not Normal and what we in the overthinking stuff game tend to refer to as “other”.

The other can vary from society and society and place to place, but here in Europe and in the areas that Europeans subjugated there is an underlying default, and that is a white straight dude. This was certainly true in medieval Europe, where, as you may have noticed men bossed everyone the fuck around and decided that they were defo the norm.

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On Jezebel, makeup, and other apocalyptic signs

Friends, today is a great day, for it was with deep pleasure that I found a spicy medieval take on women on the twitter TL. Check out Denise with the big medieval vibes:

makeup

Friends, I love everything about this garbage take. As regular readers will note, this is a very medieval way of looking at women because it sees them as sexual aggressors. Here women are Too Horny to FunctionTM and actively going about seducing poor hapless men into impregnating them. On display we also have the medieval idea of sex as an enervating agent that just sort of happens at men. A woman lubes up her legs (???) and next thing you know they have been tricked – tricked I say! – into the good old PIV which results in pregnancy, AKA the only real sex. That’s just how the world works.

What I love about this, and what we haven’t talked about here yet, however, is the connection that your girl Denise is making between makeup and lube (again, deeply, from the bottom of my heart ????) and sexual chaos. (Side note – sexy chaotic is where you’ll find me on any standard Sexy/Neutral/Asexual alignment chart, just so you know.)

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On QAnon and Systems of Knowledge

Today at Going Medieval HQ we are excited to have a guest blog by kick-ass art historian working on medieval medical visual culture, and the other half of Medieval Dick Twitter, Dr Sara Öberg-Strådal. Follow her on Twitter for excellent meme action, updates about growing your own medieval pigment garden, and generally correct opinions.

If you’re blessed enough to not have heard about QAnon. Congratulations. You should leave this post right now and go and do something nice for yourself.

QAnon is a super strange radical internet cult that believes that Donald Trump is a divine saviour who is working against the Deep State to save America. Every other day there is a new coded message, a so-called “Q Drop”, predicting mass arrests and explaining that MS13 are bad because they are funded and run by Democrats. IDK. At best it is borderline incomprehensible, and at worst it is also super racist. Followers of Q will interpret any aspect of Trump’s presentation and twitter presence (his back-combed hair signified coming mass arrests) and personal biography (see the fairly fringe belief that Trump can time travel and did so to get his uncle to write some shitty children’s books to predict his rise to power).

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On Women and Work

Another week, another chance for the world to be a misogynist hellscape. (Just, endless sighing. Amiright?) One of this week’s horrors has been brought to you by right wing rag extraordinaire and Suzanne Venker, a self-described “feminist fixer” who claims to “Free Women From Feminist Lies So They Can Find Lasting Love With Men” [sic]. Our intrepid anti-feminist in question has a particular mark this week – the millennial woman (Hey boo!), drowning in debt from “piling up” degrees (relatable!) which are “supposed to help them get established for marriage” (less relatable!) and are now sad.

millenials

According to the luminary mind in question, all of this means that millennials are the “first generation” of women to do such a thing and, whelp, not so much.

What do I mean by that? Well, women – married and otherwise – have been working throughout the entire course of human history, and historically women have always been expected to work in various capacities, from farm work to highly-skilled trades. (As per usual, as a Europeanist, I’m going to focus on European societies here, but world-wide women have certainly been working and still are. I just lack the specialism to speak about that and I stay out of things when I don’t know what I am talking about, Suzanne.)

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Let’s Talk About Game of Thrones part 3: Holy Roman Imperial Edition

Ugh, Game of Thrones. Am I right? No. Collectively we are now all wrong about it.

As we draw a once great television series, that now has all the gravitas and world building of an eighties hair fantasy on fast forward to a close, there was one little thing that made me laugh and then laugh again.

Was it Sansa telling her sad-ass uncle to sit down? Yes, but also no. It was the fact that the theoretical response to preventing dynastic war in Westeros is to create an elective monarchy. That right there is just a chef’s kiss piece of poorly understood history.

As always, to understand why I think this is funny we’re going to need to unpack some stuff, and the first thing is probably what an elective monarchy is.  I regret to inform you of  the fact that it ain’t some sort of advancement away from other monarchical systems. It’s just a bog-standard type of medieval monarchy and you find them in such places as: Macedon, Byzantium, the Holy Roman Empire (shout out to a real one), Venice, and my people in Bohemia – just to name a few.

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