Gender Ways in Late Medieval France Men’s and women’s roles in society have and continue to change throughout the centuries. In this century alone women have gained the right to vote and society’s expectations of us altered, making women working a variety of Jobs common – such as being a doctor, business woman, or politician. Furthermore, the expectations of men have changed considerably as well – modern men take paternity leave upon the birth of their child and it is not unusual for the man to be the chef in a relationship.
However, gender roles and expectations have clearly not always been viewed this way ND continue to develop over the generations. It would be foolish to believe that we cannot learn from past genders ways in different cultures. Late medieval France had extremely different gender roles and views than we do today and through examination of them I have been able to appreciate that the way gender is expressed today is not the only way the roles can exist.
By learning from the past I am able to appreciate it and examine which past gender roles and gender views I would include in my ideal good, Just, and sustainable society today. Men were viewed as the head of he household in France during 1300-1500 and were above the rank of women. They had “superior power… In the maintenance and control of social order” (Rider 163). In fact, men were preferred children among parents who were frequently disappointed by having a daughter (De Pizza City 142).
Christine De Pizza, notably one of the first women writers of the ages, states “where has there ever been a husband who would permit his wife to dominate him? ” (City 122) This question makes the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife, in the time period clear: the man was n charge and the woman would usually “obey him without complaint” to avoid dishonor (De Pizza Treasury 99). For example, “it is the father’s duty to find good tutors and provide suitable governors” (De Pizza Treasury 102).
Among aristocracy, women were encouraged to “be taught to be silent and submissive so that their marriages would be happy’ (Streets 29). These expectations of women were so extreme that most, if not all, believed them and would see a mirror of themselves in Pizza’s writing of how a lady should act according to society in her work The Treasury f the City of Ladies (Blundered-Skiing x”). She writes: In their grooming, their hair must be well combed, not hanging over their cheeks, or in any way ill-kempt, in their manner of speaking, agreeable and courteous to everyone, humble, and not too talkative… They] should never be bold, skittish, or ribald, especially in the presence of any men whatsoever… [and] all maidens should water their wine and make it a habit to drink little. (Treasury 202-203) Women had great expectations of their behavior and respectable appearance, especially in the presence of men who were superior to them in the time. Clearly women were supposed to appear very well kempt in their appearance and polite, agreeable, and soft spoken in their demeanor.
They were never supposed to be drunk or drink too much and were to water down their wine in order to prevent this from happening. To be a lady, women had to meet all of these These expectations undoubtedly arose from the extreme prejudice against women by many men of the time. Of women’s bodies and menstruation, men described them as “so full of venom” that they poisoned children, caused mirrors to tarnish, and infected their sexual partners with leprosy and cancer (Rider 163).
One stereotype about women being unable to keep secrets may have stemmed from the belief that “God first appeared to a woman because he knew well that she could not keep quiet, so that the news of His resurrection would become known faster” which preachers of the time told their congregations (De Pizza City 133). Furthermore, men believed that “all women are, had have been, and o’er will be, in thought if not in deed, omnivorous” (De Menu 185). These beliefs caused men to mistreat women in order to keep them from committing sin, which they believed to be inevitable.
However, it is also known that in a relationship, women had considerable influence over the decisions of their husbands (Streets 23). In the medieval marriage while the husband would believe himself to be dominant to his wife, he, in turn, would still listen to and act on her advice. Among noble marriages, it appears, the women’s views and status were less clearly respected than among the middle and lower classes. These disconnects of feminine and masculine ideals in the French Middle Ages may be attributed to by the difference of social customs among one’s rank in society.
If one was a member of nobility, marriage had very little to do with love. Aristocracy “had to wed their sons and daughters into powerful families” (Beckman). This practice made love among aristocracy unusual, to say the least, for the marriages were determined when the children were very young (Beckman). Without love for one’s wife, a husband may care less about her say in their relationship and his decisions. In contrast, however, reaching the middle to bottom of the social scale, a man would have to court his future wife in order to gain her attention and affection.
He would woo her with “gifts of food, money and clothes during courtship” (Beckman). When love was involved in the relationship, a man may have had less dominance over his wife to respect his love for her; he may respect her opinions and thoughts in accordance with his decision making for the household. Nevertheless, the man’s role surely changed in his relation among women according to social rank, as proven by the difference of his courtship of her. Aristocracy did little of courtship, but instead planned their marriages years ahead of time.
Middle and lower class men, however, courted their potential spouse as a token of their affection of her in order to convince her to marry them. Resulting from these courtship practices, noblemen and women got married considerably younger than did middle and lower class men and women. One examination of a French family between the years 1050 and 1 500 revealed that about 44% of the girls married before the age of fifteen (Streets 31). Noblemen and women could marry much younger than fifteen; however, the marriage was not binding and valid until the girl reached age twelve and boy reached age fourteen to consent to the marriage (Streets 31).
Furthermore, despite the youthful marriages between noblewomen and men, most spouses did not have children until the wife as in her late teens and early twenties, around the time a middle or lower class woman would get married (Streets 33). This age discretion suggests respect to the women of the marriage to not force children upon them until such an age at which blessed upon a couple, much care was given to the mother, especially during labor and birth.
When a women went into labor, she was assisted by a midwife and either other female relatives or the husband who attended to her in a room made up for the birth within the house; noblewomen typically had much less husband involvement than did lower class women (Rider 106-107). An examination of birthing in France concludes that that “Following the birth of a child, the new mother was usually allowed a period of rest and recuperation” (Rider 108). During this time, referred to as a “lying-in” it was “customary to bring or send gifts to a woman” (Rider 109).
Furthermore, the church had a “Fest des Relevancies” in which “the essential place of women in the survival of the community was recognized and women as proper mothers were blessed and honored” (Rider 163). This evidence reveals that great respect was given to a woman during her pregnancy and birth of her child. Unmarried women were an entirely different story, however, and upon pregnancy they “faced difficult decisions about how to be churched” (Rider 123).
While punishment was given to both men and women who partook in illicit activities whilst entwined in marriage, this punishment was more focused to women who faced difficulty in finding religious guidance after their indiscretion (Rider 123-124). While married women faced respect in pregnancy, unmarried women faced extreme discrimination and rejection of religious education by the church. It was not unusual for middle to low class women to have Jobs other than being a homemaker in Medieval France. For example, if a woman’s husband was a butcher, she would also help in the business (Kittle 70).
This fact was revealed by medieval ordinances in the town of Dubbed where laws regarding everything except situations such as pregnancy regarded both men and women in their writing. Also common was for women to work as nannies and caretakers of noble children (Streets 33). Forced into work as a result of her husband’s premature death, Christine De Pizza is the first female writer of Europe (Blundered-Skiing x’). Considering she was born in the late fourteenth entry, one can see that the occupation was not common among women of the time.
While women were rarely professional writers or their own businesspeople in the Middle Ages, they did work moderately throughout their lifetimes in Jobs that were suitable for them during the time. After thoroughly examining aspects of gender roles in France during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, I am able to accept or reject aspects of the culture for my own society. Before doing this; however, I must examine what Just, good, and sustainable mean to me for they will act as the basis of y arguments for the inclusion or exclusion of these ideas in my ideal community.
Just is an adjective describing someone who is both lawful and reasonable in his actions – meaning he does not do unto others what he would not like done to him. A just society requires its inhabitants to have freedom in their own liberties – meaning freedom in their actions which do not directly and negatively affect others. Good is an adjective which describes someone or something which is fair, enjoyable, and/or beneficial to those involved (I. E. A good idea). A law being good would be one which till allows those in its Jurisdiction to pursue happiness.
Sustainable as an adjective describes a situation in which those involved live in a way which maintains and betters the accepted standard of living in which they themselves live, as well as Medieval France would fit in the realm of my ideal community. One of these practices is that men and women would have a minimum age at which they most must consent to a legal and binding marriage. This practice is good in the community, for requiring both the man and woman to consent is fair to both parties.
It is sustainable because he later couples are allowed to marry, the more likely it appears that they would remain together, sustaining their relationship, having children, and raising those children together. Furthermore, women would have an apparent respect during their pregnancy and birth – examples of which being to make it customary for pregnant women to be able to sit on public transportation instead of stand, and, similar to lying in, requiring Jobs to give a lengthy maternity leave after the birth of a child. This practice is good for it is fair to the woman going through the experiences of regency and early motherhood.
It is also sustainable because the care a child has in the beginning of its life can determine his health later in life, so the requirement for mothers to have the option of a lengthy maternity leave allows for the optimal current and future health of the next generation. Finally, the last practice of gender ways in Medieval France that I would adopt into my ideal society would be that women are allowed to work. A man would not wish to be told that he is not allowed to work because of his gender, so allowing women to work is reasonable, fair, and therefore Just and good.
Moreover, allowing women to work will create more opportunities for future generations for they will create and advance new businesses just as men, making the practice sustainable. While there are practices that I accept from the French Middle Ages, there are also practices which I reject. Firstly, I reject the extreme gender expectations that existed within the society. Rather than encouraging one way which women should dress and act, my ideal society will encourage individuality and equality among the expectations of women among men, including its courtship practices.
It would not be fair for expectations of actions teen men and women to be unequal and therefore this practice of inequality is not good. I also reject that arranged marriages will be the norm in the upper class of society. This practice will not be emphasized in the community because it is not good for it is not fair for the family to make this lifelong decision for their child, instead of the child making it for him or herself. In addition, youthful marriages will not be allowed.
Future approval will not exist like it did in Medieval France; men and women will not be able to accept a marriage until they are each eighteen years old – not twelve or fourteen as in the past. This practice is sustainable for the community because the later couples marry the more generally likely it is for them to remain married and have children they can each care for to further sustain the community. Furthermore, there will be no laws or implications against single mothers for this practice is clearly not Just for one would not wish this practice upon himself.
Furthermore it is not fair because this practice stems from religious principles which will not determine the laws in my society. Prejudice against a mother will create prejudice against a child, making him less likely to serve the community to the best of is abilities, making this practice also unsustainable. Overall my ideal society would not have rank differences between men and women. Courtship will not only involve the man courting the woman, but the woman courting the man.
The woman, in turn, Marriage would be focused on love and companionship decided by the future spouses – not their families for trade in land or money. Men and women would not be able to get married until they are legally adults at eighteen years old and were both consenting to the union. When women become pregnant, they will expect respect from other members of the community and will be allowed maternity leave room work in order to ensure the health of their child. Women who have children without a husband will not be prejudiced against by the community at large.
By rejecting certain aspects of the Medieval French society and accepting the others, I imagine my society to be free from the extreme prejudices against women that existed during that time. Creating laws and enforcements that make women and men equal will cause individuals to view the genders to be equal. By examining the gender ideals of the French Middle Ages, I have been able to create gender ideals in my imagined Just, good, and sustainable community. Examination of gender roles in the past makes one more critical of the order and rank of gender in a modern society.
Examining gender ways in the past has made me careful to create gender equality within my ideal society. While we know the current ways parts of the world works, it is important to examine history in order to understand the ways which it could run. Without examining the past, we cannot begin to imagine the immensity of creating a future. Annotated Bibliography Primary Sources De Menu, Jean. The Romance of the Rose. 1275. Trans. Harry W. Robbins. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1962. Print. The Romance of the Rose” is an allegory by Gallinule De Mach who was poet and composer during fourteenth century France.
The misogyny of the piece encouraged Christine De Pizza to write “The Book of the City of Ladies”. With two other pieces from the time period written by a woman, it is important to also get a man’s view of love, wooing, and womanhood in the time. The allegory reveals how men viewed women and the disrespect men felt towards women’s bodies and personal choice. Unlike Pizza’s work, this source is not biased because it is a poetic allegory written for entertainment. De Pizza, Christine. The Ornate Blundered-Skiing and Kevin Browne. New York: W. W. Norton &, 1997. 122-47. Print.
Christine De Pizza is regarded as one of the first women writers of Europe and spent most of her career challenging misogyny and women’s stereotypes prevalent in medieval France. Pizza uses “The Book of the City of Ladies” as a response to various misogynistic works of the Middle Ages. Because of this context, the book contains not only Pizza’s opinions and examples of strong women throughout history, but also excerpts from other works of the time such as “The Lamentations of Metatheses” and “The Romance of the Rose”. De Pizza, Christine. The Treasury of the City of Ladies. 1405.
A Medieval Woman’s Mirror of Honor: The Treasury of the City of Ladies. Trans. Charity Cannon. Willard. Deed. Madeleine Peeler. Conman. Tenably, NJ: Bard Hall, 1989. 99-203. Print. “The Treasure of the City of Ladies” is very different than Pizza’s first novel in the fact that instead of explaining why women should not be subservient to men, it gives advice to women on how to act appropriately as a subservient to men. The novel illustrates a picture of how women were viewed, not only by men but by themselves, in the French Middle Ages. Kittle, Ellen E. “Whether Man or Woman”.
Gender Inclusively in the Town Ordinances of Medieval Doodad. ” Journal of Medieval & Early Modern Studies (2000). Web. 8 Mar. 2012. Ellen Kittle has a PhD in history from the University of Illinois and is currently a professor of history at the University of Idaho. Kittle has written at least one other article in a scholarly Journal about the Middle Ages and has contributed in collection of articles entitled “The Texture of Society: Medieval Women in the Southern Low Countries”. This article deals with examining ordinances from Doodad, France and how hey represent the town’s perceived status of men and women in its community.
This source gives not only views by individuals but actually an entire town’s view upon the situation through examination of its ordinances. Secondary Sources Blundered-Skiing, Ornate. Introduction. The Selected Writings of Christine De Pizza. New York: W. W. Norton &, 1997. Print. Dry. Ornate Blundered-Skiing got her master’s in French and English Literature at Princeton University and her PhD in Romance Languages at the same university. She has written or contributed to six novels about medieval culture and edited four on the same topic. She teaches at the University of Plasterer’s.
This introduction gives general information about Christine De Pizza and the time period of Medieval France. Beckman, Julia. “Poise and Passion in the Middle Ages. ” History Today 61. 8 (2011). Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Par. 2012. Julia Beckman teaches at Firebrick, University of London. She has also written two books and thirteen articles about women and sex throughout history. History Today is a prevalent historical Journal with archives dating back to 1980 about various countries and history from ancient through the twentieth century.
This source gives information regarding to romantic relationships and courtship throughout France and Europe in the Middle Ages. 1100-1500. New York: Palaver Macmillan, 2006. Print. Dry. Paula M. Rider got her PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in and teaches at the University of Nebraska. Her research includes gender, women’s history, and the study of religion in society. This source gives the view of the church upon women in France during the middle ages and customs of pregnancy and festivals regarding the celebration of men and women ideals. Streets, Fain H.
Young Women in France and England, 1050-1300. ” Journal of Women’s History 12. 4 (2001): 23-33. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Par. 2012. Dry. Fain Harris Streets received her Master’s and PhD at the University of California and specifies her research in medieval teens and women throughout Europe. She teaches at Trend University as a medieval historian. The Journal of Women’s History is an academic Journal founded in 1989 and was the first academic Journal focused solely to women’s history and views of feminism. This source gives information about the raising and marriage ways of women in France during the Middle Ages.