Friday, May 1, 2009

There was no Medieval Damsel

A few years back (when the History channel was actually worth something) they hosted a BBC series about Medieval History by none other than Monty Python's Terry Jones.

Mr. Jones has a huge interest in Medieval times and if I remember correctly even published a book analyzing The Canterbury Tales. So imagine a comedian that is also well versed in history, with a nice budget, teaching about a time most people never really learn much bout. All in all it was awesome. But I never managed to watch them all, til now.

Thanks to YouTube I was able to again watch his wonderful and entertaining shows. Some which I'd never seen before due to the erratic scheduling.

They're all quite interesting and definitely worth a look but the one I find the most fascinating is The Damsel.

The Damsel, the idea that all women wore pointy hats and sat around in a castle waiting for a knight to come and rescue her resonates throughout our society. It makes up a good 75% of Disney movies and so many young girls pretend to be a princess with the fair golden hair.

But it never really existed. It was a fabrication by the Victorian era (which messed with a whole lot of history). Women were not just sitting around waiting to be rescued relying on a man to help. Instead, during the Medieval time, women actually gained more freedom than ever before.

It was all thanks to the Black Plague which killed off so much of the working force that now women were looked to to do a man's job. They were allowed to work, have money, and began to have influence and run their own households.

Then something happened, the pendulum swung back. The population came back and women weren't necessary for work and the vilification began anew. Women were blamed for all the ills of the world and the church was more than happy to help out with the start of their own witch hunts.

Kinda makes one wonder just how often this has happened throught time. The only other example I can think of right now is Rosie the Riveter, women were called to jobs because of a work shortage and as soon as the war was over were ordered back to the home. Once again women were vilified for being loose and daring to have a sexuality.

Must we always repeat history? Can we never learn from it?

Really go and check it out. Terry Jones is wonderfully entertaining. Though I should warn you, you may find yourself having to watch all 8 episodes (the monk one is really cool too).


DeadmansLog said...

As much as I love this return to the 'crafts of our mothers' that seem to be so popular right now, it doesn't seem impossible to think that we're witness the nostalgic return to days when wives kept the house and men went to work to pay the bills.

Not that it will happen any time soon, I'm just saying -- the thought has crossed my mind that my modern sisters are trying to retake the domestic as their own, possibly sacrificing those crazy fem lib theories in the process.

Rachel said...

I would definitely love to see this. I'll have to set aside time - like you said, I'll want to watch all of them! Maybe I'll find them on DVD and have Chris watch too.
I was a history major before changing to design. I love things like this! What really happened in historical times is generally never what the stereotype is, or what you've heard. It's always so much more interesting.