Woman Defamed and Woman Defended

An Anthology of Medieval Texts, Edited by Alcuin Blamires

From the back cover:

Despite the recent surge of investigations into women’s situation, however, no one book has sought to collect the key voices of medieval antifeminism, let alone to present the voices sometimes raised, even at that epoch, in defence of women. This new volume meets the urgent need for a single and substantial sourcebook of these materials in modern translation, including an introduction, notes, and commentary. The accessibility of the better-known texts here (from Jerome to Walter Map; from Héloise and Abelard to Christine de Pizan and Chaucer) will be welcomed by those engaged in medieval and women’s studies; the lesser-known writings concerning, for instance, the sexual “double standard”, and women and the priesthood, will provide unexpected discoveries for specialists and beginners alike. The book also features a surprising range of early texts championing women–including material never previously available in translation.

Some sample selections:

Ecclesiasticicus 25:22-31

…And there is no anger above the anger of a woman. It will be more agreeable to abide with a lion and a dragon, than to dwell with a wicked woman. The wickedness of a woman changeth her face; and she darkeneth her contenance as a bear; and showeth it like sack-cloth….”

First Epistle of St Paul to Timothy, 2:8-15

“But I suffer not a woman to teach; nor to use authority over the man: but to be in silence.”

St Thomas Aquinas (II.ii.26.10:Reply)

It is the father who ought to be loved more than the mother.

Tertullian

“For they offend Him who rub their skins with creams, stain their cheeks with rouge, and make their eyes seem larger with eye-liner.”
“God commands that woman be veiled, and I think He does this so that the heads of some of them might not be seen.”

St Jerome

“It is good’, St Paul says, ‘for a man not to touch a woman.’ If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one…”
“Christ loves virgins more than others…”
“But all these conditions are seldom satisfied in marriage. A wise man therefore does not take a wife. For in the first place his study of philosophy will be hindered, and it is impossible for anyone to attend to his books and his wife at the same time. Married women want many things , costly dresses, gold, jewels, expensive items, maidservants, all kinds of furniture, liters and gilded coaches. Then come prattling complaints all night.”

These go on and on and on and on……………………..

Now on the other side…..

Jean de Meun

“Briefly, all men betray and decieve women; all are sensualists, taking their pleasure anywhere. Therefore we should decieve them in return, not fix our hearts on one.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *