Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The plight of women

The plight of women in history is something that I wonder about ...alot. History is full of the exploits of men, by reading between the lines of the chroniclers we can glean information about thier battles, thier politics, thier private lives but when it comes to women, the page is silent.

There are some queens and noblewomen who have managed to speak to us down the years but they are few and far between and those were women who were out of the ordinary. We know that women like Eleanor of Aquitaine went on crusades and that Joan of Arc was a heroine for a while; Eleanor was imprisoned for sixteen years by her husband Henry ii and we all know what became of poor old Joan. In stepping outside the boundaries of thier prescribed role they brought down the wrath and disapproval of the male faction. And these were the wo men we regard as successful in asserting thier human rights. Others were far less fortunate.

In my novels I try to imagine how it must have felt to be so constrained. Not allowed to speak as they saw fit, not able to marry where they wished, denied a proper education and beaten (although, to be fair, only with a rod no thicker than a thumb). Historically women have been solely regarded as an ornament to enhance their husband's status. Christian writers like St Paul and Jeronme, denigrated women as tools of the devil; they portrayed deceit and sexual incontinence as being inherent to the fairer sex. They warned men against women and bade them keep thier wives undercontrol for they were incapable of denying thier own nature. Monks did not like sex, they approved of marriage only as a means of procreating without recourse to sin.

This warped idea of women filtered into literature; the ideal woman becoming one who was entirely cowed by the authority of her husband or father. the meek woman became every man's ideal. So many men must have been disappointed for I cannot believe that women were truly so pliable, I am sure they sought other means of getting what they wanted. For many hundreds of years literature concerning women was written by men, for men to read. They may have been constrained to do things against thier will but I am convinced they would have not done so quietly; it isn't in our nature.

The women in my novels, although pressured by the unnatural constraints placed upon them, are not cowed. They plot and scheme for themselves and fight for a middle ground. They don't always win but, without altering the historical record too drastically, I usually try to make sure that they at least get a fair bite at the cherry.

No comments:

Post a Comment