"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Monday, April 23, 2012

On 16th-Century Sexual Gender Roles

I'm currently reading The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. I'm reading it because I'm a nerd and I love Tudor history.

Let's be honest: I also have a crush on Henry VIII. I would have 'succumbed' to his 'charms' and immediately 'relinquished' my 'virtue' had I been present in his court--rather like Mary Boleyn, actually. I could never have behaved as Anne Boleyn did.

Anyway. The book is brilliant, as per usual for Alison Weir, and also relevant to our times (is history ever not relevant to our times?).

Julian Norman, in Ched Evans conviction: the vitriol after the verdict, discusses rape culture in the context of rampant victim-blaming surrounding a case in which the rapist was convicted, no less:
Part of it can be found in a hypersexualised masculinity which dictates that "real" men are permanently, gaggingly up for it and that it is for the woman to keep her virtue intact.
Is there anyone who will still deny the truth of this statement?

The trouble is, nobody will admit it in these terms. And the terms are important, because they are reflective of the 16th century.

When husbands were unfaithful to their wives in the 16th century, as Henry VIII was, for example, the wives were expected to look the other way; it was just what men did, of course! Queen Katherine, when Henry takes mistresses, he doesn't mean any slight against you, he just can't contain his virile masculinity.

On the other hand, Mary Boleyn, if only you'd been as strong as your sister you could have resisted his virile masculinity; you gave up your virtue too easily and every nobleman in Europe has now had a chance to "ride" you. Shame on you.

Is this really where we are--still? Stuck in the 16th century?

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