mediaevalist: (WTS)
[personal profile] mediaevalist
Figures that I only remember this blog when I have a bad history rant.

I was linked to this article on Women in Reasonable Armour, which makes me squee in delight, since one of the things that annoys me is a lack of accuracy in lieu of fanservice. That goes for anything, really... there's a fine line between the Rule of Cool and outright ridiculousness. I should not be seeing panty-flashes in the middle of a swordfight.

But this article in turn linked to this, which then linked to this. Now, the blog itself is pretty objective, and doesn't attempt to draw conclusions from an inconclusive article that dryly observes numbers and begins forming theories, and saying nothing about the combat status of these women. But the comments are just... no. Way to jump to fluffybunny New Age wish-fulfilment conclusions, girls.

I've ranted on this silliness before, but I suppose it bears repeating yet again. (I especially like the almost word-for-word recitation of the debunked myth here, which has further been proven false here as well. Never let reality spoil your dreams)

As much as I would dearly love for there to have been women Vikings slaughtering and pillaging right alongside men, scientific objectivity trumps my own personal wish. (For one thing, as the abstract begins to guess, they may not have been there for burning and pillaging) There are a number of reasons why women accompany men in military campaigns; one possible explanation being Jeremy's. (Who was jumped on for pointing out unromantic, patriarchal scientific fact) There's already abundant evidence of women accompanying men onto the battlefield, though this stops short of the actual battle.... and have already been documented as camp followers, occasionally slaves, or wives if they were lucky. Even worse, this was well before those nasty patriarchal Christians ever set foot in Europe. (Patriarchal Romans had been there, though) Fluffies like to cite Adomnán's 697 Law of Innocents (though they rarely cite it by name, date, or the monk who negotiated it: it was just "some mediaeval rule that those patriarchal Christians put in to outlaw woman warriors and subjugate them!") but as I've already pointed out (and heck, the name itself suggests) it was written to protect non-combatants and discourage men from playing their usual sport of Monday Night War. At the time of the negation of this law, women were not present on the battlefield for any direct martial capacity.

Indeed, much of the period literature seems to suggest that they never were. For every Aífe (who, let's face it, was pretty badass, though more-manly-than-you'll-ever-be proto-Marty-Stu* Cú Chulainn had to best her because he's the hero and he can't lose to a woman!) there were ten more weeping helpless Princess Derdrius. Irish mythology is not, sad to say, a paragon of gender equality. And before you protest that "those patriarchal Christian monks changed it!", bear in mind that there was a lot more that they would have changed first.... and didn't. As far as they were concerned, this was a record of their heritage and they took great pains to preserve the stories in their entirety. So that New Age excuse doesn't wash. (Celts wouldn't have understood feminism as we know it today; it was a society that practically bathed in testosterone. Think jocks are bad now? They're sissies compared to their possible ancestors)

It also bears repeating that a burial with weapons is not necessarily indicative of the buried person ever having been a warrior. There are several possible reasons for this. Weapons weren't always made to be actually used, there were such things as ceremonial weapons, and a burial with them was likewise a display of ceremony. This is a widely-documented cultural practice not just in Europe, but the entire world (Aztecs, ancient Chinese, and various West African cultures for starters all have made ceremonial weapons) Like the Wetwang chariot burial, such burial items were an indication of wealth, not warrior status. Ancient peoples generally believed that yes, you could take your bling with you. And in the case of weapons that were used? Women were the ones who took care of a man's household while he was off killing other men, and were responsible for keeping his property in order. That meant looking after the weapons he wasn't using, and even some camp followers were given a "Here, hold this for me sweetheart". Unfortunately, women as anything other than property is a largely modern concept. I love history and the Middle Ages in particular, but objectively, it's far better to be a woman now more than any other time in history.

Given that it's the bones being studied, it is still possible to prove (or, to be more scientifically objective, disprove) that these women were warriors and not unglamorous but invaluable settlers and household matrons. If it's found that the former is the case, I will happily eat my words and create a Viking persona for my SCA outings. (Or maybe a post-Viking English. I was leaning that way, anyway) But, as with any news that seems too good to be true, I have to maintain scepticism. And if not, I'll simply create a Japanese one, a culture with actual documented history of real women warriors.

One of the things I respect about the SCA is that, in spite of a genuine attempt at painstaking historical accuracy, it is openly acknowledged to be an organised fantasy. (Even ren-faires acknowledge it, though part of that is the lack of strict historical accuracy) The problem is that the fluffies want to believe that their SCA/ren-faire outings are how the Middle Ages actually were, not merely how we as post-Enlightenment people wish they were. It shows a lack of respect for the people who actually lived through it, and dishonours the dead. It's that part I can't forgive the fluffies for their otherwise harmless fantasies. Yes, reality is boring. But it's what we have to live in.

*-denotes sarcasm, as Mary Sues/Marty Stus are a wholly modern concept that have only become unacceptable within the last few decades
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June 2015


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