Saturday, January 22, 2011

Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan's writing fit best under the category of "gender" as she essentially seeks to define the worth of men and women in their own separate spheres. Her work starts off with as she recounts her experience of learning through the writings of men that women were cursed for the evil nature of their sex. She stated, "this reason alone, in short, made me conclude that although my intellect in its simplicity and ignorance did not recognize the great defects in myself and in other women, it must nonetheless be so" (120). The important part to note here is that she did not see any fault in herself or others, thereby suggesting that the ideas of inferiority and baseness that were applied to the woman race were merely constructed by men with no legitimate basis for such condemnation. Therefore, we can see that the "inferiority of women" defies nature, and therefore defies the will of God. Pizan furthers this notion by recounting her prayer wherein she stated, "For lest I am mistaken in my faith, I am not allowed to doubt that Your infinite wisdom and perfect goodness created anything that is not good" (120). We learn through teachings of our own church, paricularly the January 2011 visiting teaching message, that men and women were created equal, but that the divine roles of men and women are different. That is why women are given intelligence in the first place: to fulfill their designated role as women.

Her prayer ends with, more or less, a deferrment of responsibility for her ability to please God. "But since Your kindness does not extend to me, forgive my negligence in Your service, good Lord God, and let it not displease You: for the servant who recieves fewer gifts from his lord is less obliged to be of service to him" (120). This statement brings up the never ending debate of nature versus nuture. She claims that because she was endowed with the shortcomings of being a woman she cannot elevate herself above what she has been given. But as we know that men and women were created equal, we are left to conclude that Pizan's hopelessness is a result of societal conditioning that has trained her to submit to men as they are the higher sex. This idea of social conditioning is reemphasized as the Lady of Reason referred to the writings of men as "strange opinions," thereby suggesting unnatural philosophies (121).

The 3 ladies commission Pizan to build a "city of ladies" where beauty and virtue will be preserved and respected in the highest degree. This city will only be open to pious women, excluding all men with their corruptive powers. The creation of the city seems to imply a superiority of the female specie, for without the presence of men all would cease to exist (common knowledge). But there is something about select women that needs to be preserved and isolated in a utopian city, which seems to suggest that these women have overcome the need for men. However, later we read that there is a division of men between those who are good and honorable, and those who are predisposed to sin (129-30). Because the good men are to be praised and admired, it almost seems hypocritical that the city of ladies would ban such goodness from their midst, but rather these men should be embraced and welcomed amidst a community that values goodness.

On the other hand, the bad men are to be pitied for their inability to overcome their own weaknesses. One of the 3 ladies states, "all evil things that are said about women in such a general way only hurt those who say them, and women themselves" (122), and then she goes on to explain that men who speak ill of women are merely overcompensating for their own failings, such as living an unchaste life, and as such a man becomes stricken in years and without repentance he places the blame on women for his eternal condemnation because he had not the power to resist. In this sense, Pizan almost reverses the role of gender by asserting that instead of women being inherently evil it is the men, for they are the weaker sex in terms of moral uprightness. Men too easily fall into temptation, and therefore more easily become instruments of the devil.

Sorry this is so long. I guess I just had a lot of thought as I read this.

No comments:

Post a Comment