Christine de Pizan: the first gender warrior

By Diana Davison

A long time ago (15th century) in a land not too far away (France) a protofeminist named Christine de Pizan initiated a public debate later named La Querelle de la Rose. Simone de Beauvoir honours Pizan as the first woman to “take up her pen in defence of her sex”[1] but Christine was not fighting for new rights, she was strictly defending the chivalry-based gynocentric culture that she saw crumbling away before her eyes.

Though some feminists deny Christine’s status as a member of the gang, she did seem to have set the standard for how women change the public narrative; lies, elitism, deception and manipulation of history bordering on fraud.

Like all feminists who followed in her footprints, she set a Machiavellian example. The end justifies the means and, while you re-write “herstory”, make sure to claim you are meek and helpless the whole time.

But let us go back to the start of this adventure. We shall travel to c1275 when a man of some talent took up an incomplete poem called La Roman de La Rose and added a whopping 18,824 additional lines to the original 4,000 to create what would become one of the most widely read works of medieval times. Not only did the second author, Jean de Meun, create a cult following, his work was mimicked by Chaucer and Dante. Overall, a charmingly good chap for literary culture.

For over a hundred years this poem proliferated, was translated, adored, and revered as a work of genius. It outlined the troubles and challenges a youth may face when trying to woo a young lady in the world of chivalry. As in most good stories, the goal was not attained easily.

Presented in a dreamlike setting, our hero is guided by personified attributes such as Reason and Genius who help him to bypass all the lady’s defences and capture her “castle.” The language is considered quite risque for the times.

Around 1401 a gentleman named Jean de Montreuil, who served as secretary in the king’s chancery of France, was convinced to read the poem and wrote a glowing review which circulated about the land. It crossed the path of a woman named Christine de Pizan.

Christine was in a unique position compared to other women of her time. She had been raised in the court where her father, despite her mother’s disapproval, urged her to learn how to read and write. These skills came in handy after both her father and husband died quite young leaving Christine with debt and children. She was not overly pleased with her reduction of social status but managed to secure some work as a copyist instead of having to work at spinning or other demeaning trades.

pizan1She had begun by writing romantic poetry and secured some patrons who paid her for the work she sent them. She was a clever mimic and was able to write in whatever style her patrons preferred. She would likely have continued to meet survival needs as things were but decided, upon seeing Montreuil’s treatise, to take a chance and use her pen in defence of her desire to improve her career.

Thus began an exchange of letters between Christine and defenders of the poem La Roman de La Rose.

These letters became public because Christine de Pizan decided to publish them. She was quite creative in her publishing by arranging them out of chronological order and removing the best arguments that her opponents had offered. Just like a feminist.

Some of the missing letters have since been recovered.

Christine’s main problem with the famous poem amounts to censorship. She takes exception to the naming of genitals and with advice being given as to how to trick women into having sex. Christine was a very conservative Christian. As such, you might think that she really did find the whole storyline repulsive if she hadn’t stated in a letter that the debate was “good-humored, an example of a difference of opinion between worthy persons”[2] and mentioned in another letter that a reply made her laugh.

The Romance of the Rose is rather bawdy and, at times, obscene: kind of like The Vagina Monologues.

Christine intitiated the debate by replying to a letter she acknowledged was not addressed to her. She bypassed that fact by publishing the letters out of order to make her “reply” look solicited.

Pizan-and-some-menShe begins by stating that her opponents are very learned and that she is very ignorant, which she hopes will not taint their reading of her correspondence. She claims to be weak and timid. Of course, only timid people publish private letters and send copies of it to the Queen.

Speaking of the Queen, who was one of Christine’s patrons, one of Pizan’s approaches was to link female virtue directly to Queen Isabeau of Bavaria “to the point at which the Queen becomes synonymous with virtue, Christine essentially lays the Queen under an obligation to accept her position; not to do so would be to reject her very self.”[3]

Nice trick.

Despite feminist claims that Christine tackled this monumental task alone, she was abetted by Jean Gerson, a long time family friend from her courtly days. Gerson was a strange bedfellow but he and Christine shared some religious ideals and were united both on the misogyny front and in speaking out about the “body politic” in other works. He’s not always mentioned in the discussions of the Querelle because feminists would like you to think Christine didn’t have a white knight helping her out.

The problem faced by both Pizan and Gerson was that de Meun’s poem was, and is, a work of art. When his characters speak they speak as that character would and do not represent the thinking of either the author or God. That is often the problem of censorship fanatics. The other big problem is that they have to admit they actually read the cursed thing.

When you read something distasteful, it is hard to blame anyone but yourself for the fact that you read it. If you didn’t read it or look at it, you can hardly have an opinion. Christine claims to have skim read over the worst of the worst but still approaches it as if she can fully assess the artistic merits of the work.

The accusations against her, which she deletes from her version of events, are that she is a novice who can’t comprehend advanced works and that she is speaking out of turn because she got a lot of recent praise and is suddenly full of her own ego:

“Yet what do we make of Pierre Col’s contention, suppressed by Christine, that her actions have resulted from her envy of ‘la tres elevee haultesse du liver’ [the very loftiness of the book], and that she had better be careful so as not to suffer the fate of the crow who, when ‘someone praised his song, began to sing louder than usual and let his mouthful fall.'”[4]

Christine responds with continued claims to humility and simplicity which, ironically and with calculation, guarantee her fame.

While feminists praise Pizan as a defender of women, only a third of what she wrote in the debate is devoted to perceptions of women. The majority of her complaint is pure Christian objection to obscenity.[5] The purpose of her diatribe can be discerned in the writings that followed, after winning the prestige to write full fledged books.

So what did she write next?

The iconic work in the list of some feminist “must read” resources is Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies. This is the first book that she published after the Querelle which took up the cause of women.

The City of Ladies copies the format of previous male writers, like de Muen, who present a story in allegorical dream sequence. As a character in her own book Pizan is ordered by her ficitonal ladies of Reason, Rectitude, and Justice, to construct an city with her pen in which women can take shelter. Not all women, only “virtuous” women of her discernment. Christine doesn’t actually believe that all women are good and pure and worthy of men’s love, she just wants to build really solid walls behind which some women can hide so that they can continue to be treated as godly creatures while the other women burn in fucking hell. It was a form of alchemy: Burn off the undesirables.

“Only ladies who are of good reputation and worthy of praise will be admitted into this city. To those lacking in virtue, its gates will remain forever closed” [6]

Those whores are giving women a bad name. Slut-shaming Central.

cityThe gates of Pizan’s City are locked tight to adulteresses, lustful women of any sort, and those who don’t uphold Christine’s religious ideals. She has built this city on the foundations of mythical women, appointed the Virgin Mary as queen (who she alludes to herself as representing), and predicts that her city of imaginary wonder will never fall. It can’t because it’s not real.

If we had any doubt about Christine’s intentional trickery, we need look no further than the pages of this debut novel which, unlike the letters of the Querelle, are unmolested. She takes examples of awesome women from the Bible and pagan mythologies and leaves out all the bad parts of the stories so that they all look virtuous.

For example, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, becomes a woman who was so lusted after that King Pharaoh forcibly stole her from her husband. For those who actually read the bible, you’ll find out that Sarah and Abraham tricked Pharaoh by telling him they were siblings so that he might fall in love and give her many riches. When God punished Pharaoh for seducing a married woman Pharaoh was flabbergasted and gave them whatever they wanted just to get the fuck out of town. They pulled this trick twice. And it turns out they actually were brother and sister. God didn’t seem to care about that.

Christine laments that one of her heroines, Semaramis, married her son to avoid having to share her kingdom with another woman but excuses her because it wasn’t a law at the time that she shouldn’t do that. That Semaramis managed to defend her kingdom after the death of her husband was more important than the laws of nature. The laws of nature are somewhat mutable in Christine’s world, when it suits her purpose.

“As for those men who are slanderous by nature, it’s not surprising if they criticize women, given that they attack everyone indiscriminately. You can take it from me that any man who wilfully slanders the female sex does so because he has an evil mind, since he’s going against both reason and nature.” [7]

So it’s in man’s nature to go against nature? It’s not hard to argue against logic like that.

In the final reading, we are left to wonder what it is Christine was really trying to accomplish. Did she think women were strong, capable people or objects to be fawned over and worshipped like children or gods? Christine answers that upon seeing the perfect dream ladies of her vision who arrive to show her the path of truth:

“I didn’t know which of my senses was the more struck by what she said: whether it was my ears as I took in her stirring words, or my eyes as I admired her great beauty and dress, her noble bearing and face.” [8]

Christine! You misogynist!!
How dare you objectify these women with your gaze?

Christine’s “city” presents and shelters women as goddesses. Like Pygmalion, who was uninterested in real women, she sculpts the perfect female so that men can worship the illusion. Christine was a traditionalist attempting to uphold and entrench all the privileges enjoyed by her gender since chivalric love had been introduced.

As a pioneer of feminism, she taught those who followed that every female flaw which can’t be excused can be erased from herstory.

Sources:

1. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, p105
2. Heather Bamford, Remember the giver(s): the creation of the Querelle and notions of sender and recipient in University of California, Berkeley, MS 109, 2009
3. ibid
4. David F. Hult, Words and Deeds: Jean de Meun’s “Romance of the Rose” and the Hermeneutics of Censorship, New Literary History, Vo. 28, No. 2, Medieval Studies (Spring, 1997)
5. Ibid
6. Christine de Pizan, City of Ladies, p11
7. ibid, p19-20
8. ibid, p9

Editor’s note: feature image by Hans Splinter. –PW

The Art of Courtly Love

The Art of Courtly Love (Twelfth Century)

Andeas_book

The Art of Courtly Love was written by Andreas Capellanus in 1190. The volume falls into three large units or “books.” Book One, “Introduction to the Treatise on Love,” defines love as “a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex, which causes each one to wish above all things the embraces of the other.” There is no question that love is suffering, says Andreas, because “before the love becomes equally balanced on both sides there is no torment greater, since the lover is always in fear that his love may not gain its desire.”

True love is an ennobling experience, for it can endow a man with nobility of character, can cause a proud man to be humble, and can cause a selfish man to perform many graceful services:

O what a wonderful thing is love, which makes a man shine with so many virtues and teaches everyone, no matter who he is, so many good traits of character! . . . It adorns a man, so to speak, with the virtue of chastity, because he who shines with the light of one love can hardly think of embracing another woman, even a beautiful one. For when he thinks deeply of his beloved the sight of any other woman seems to his mind rough and rude.

Much of Book One is a series of dialogues showing how a man of one class might speak of his love with a woman of his own or another class. Here are excerpts from the “seventh dialogue,” one in which a man of the higher nobility speaks with a woman of the simple nobility. He has not before met the woman, but he has heard her praised by others:

THE MAN SAYS: I ought to give God greater thanks than any other living man in the whole world because it is now granted me to see with my eyes what my soul has desired above all else to see. . . . And I now know in very truth that a human tongue is not able to tell the tale of your beauty and your prudence. . . . And I wish ever to dedicate to your praise all the good deeds that I do and to serve your reputation in every way. For whatever good I may do, you may know that it is done with you in mind. . . .

THE WOMAN SAYS: I am bound to give you many thanks for lauding me with such commendations and exalting me with such high praise . . . I am therefore glad if I am to you a cause and origin of good deeds, and so far as I am able I shall always and in all things give you my approval when you do well. . . .

THE MAN SAYS: I have chosen you from among all women to be my mighty lady, to whose services I wish ever to devote myself and to whose credit I wish to set down all my good deeds. From the bottom of my heart I ask you mercy, that you may look upon me as your particular man, just as I have devoted myself particularly to serve you, and that my deeds may obtain from you the reward I desire. . . .

THE WOMAN SAYS: Your request that I should consider you as my particular man, just as you are particularly devoted to my service, and that I should give you the reward you hope for, I do not see how I can grant, since such partiality might be to the disadvantage of others who have as much desire to serve me as you have, or perhaps even more. Besides I am not perfectly clear as to what the reward is that you expect from me; you must explain yourself more clearly. . . .

THE MAN SAYS: The reward I ask you to promise to give me is one which it is unbearable agony to be without, while to have it is to abound in all riches. It is that you should be pleasant to me unless your desire is opposed to me. It is your love which I seek, in order to restore my health.. . .

THE WOMAN SAYS: You seem to be wandering a long way from the straight path of love and to be violating the best custom of lovers, because you are in such haste to ask for love. For the wise and well-taught lover, when conversing for the first time with a lady whom he has not previously known, should not ask in specific words for the gifts of love. We are separated by too wide and too rough an expanse of country to be able to offer each other love’s solaces or to find proper opportunities for meeting. Lovers who live near together can cure each other of the torments that come from love. . . . Therefore everybody should try to find a lover who lives near by.

The woman argues that love really can exist between husband and wife. Neither she nor he will yield on this crucial point, and in the end they submit the matter to the Countess of Champagne and agree to abide by her ruling on this question. She replies to the woman’s letter in one dated May 1, 1174: “We declare and we hold as firmly established that love cannot exert its powers between two people who are married to each other. For lovers give each other everything freely, under no compulsion of necessity, but married people are in duty bound to give in to each other’s desires and deny themselves to each other in nothing.”

Here are excerpts from the “eighth dialogue,” one in which a man and woman both of the higher nobility enter into a dialogue. Andreas states that if a man of higher nobility should seek the love of a woman of the same class, he should first above all things follow the rule to use soft and gentle words, and he should take care not to say anything that would seem to deserve reproof. For a noblewoman or a woman of higher nobility is found to be very ready and bold in censuring the deeds or the words of a man of the higher nobility, and she is very glad if she has a good opportunity to say something to ridicule him.

THE MAN SAYS: Indeed it is true that god has inclined all good men in this life to serve your desires and those of other ladies, and it seems to me that this is for the very clear reason that men cannot amount to anything nor taste of the fountain of goodness unless they do this under the persuasion of ladies… It is clear that every man should strive with all his might to be of service to ladies so that he may shine by their grace. But ladies are greatly obligated to keeping the hearts of good men set upon doing good deeds and to honor every man according to his deserts. For whatever good things living men may say or do, they generally credit them all to to the praise of women, and by serving women they so act that they may pride themselves on the rewards they receive from them, and without these rewards no man can be of use in this life or be considered worthy of any praise. Now I know many men who are sure they have been given perfect love, and I know others who are maintained only by the milk of nourishing hope; but I, who have neither perfect love nor the gift of hope, am more sustained merely by the pure thought of you, which I do have, than all other lovers are by unnumbered solaces. May your pity therefore turn and regard my solitary thought and give it a little increase. And truly I beg you must earnestly not try to keep away from Love’s court, for those who stay away from the palace of Love live for themselves alone, and no one gets any profit from their lives…

THE WOMAN SAYS: Although your words are deep and profound and reach to the walls of Love’s subtlety, I shall try, as far as I am able, to give them a fitting answer. And because the experience of Cicero tells us that the things which are said last in a discourse are more readily retained in the memory, I shall try to answer your last remarks first. Now your urging me to strive to do what might increase my good character and that of others was pleasing and acceptable enough to me, because I had it in my heart to do that without advice from anyone. And I know women should, as you have asserted, be the cause and origin of good things… and should persuade every man to do courteous deeds and to avoid everything that has the appearance of boorishness and not to be so tenacious of his own property as to blacken his good name. But to show love is to gravely offend God and to prepare for many the perils of death. And besides it seems to bring innumerable pains to the lovers themselves and to cause them constant torments every day… I myself have had no experience in love and so naturally I can tell you nothing about its nature except so far as I have learned about it from what others tell me.

THE MAN SAYS: It is the pure love which binds together the hearts of two lovers with feelings of delight. This kind consists in the contemplation of the mind and the affection of the heart; it goes as far as the kiss and the embrace and the modest contact with the nude lover, omitting the final solace. . . . But that is called mixed love which gets its effect from every delight of the flesh and culminates in the final act of Venus. . . . This kind quickly fails, and one often regrets having practiced it; by it one’s neighbor is injured, the Heavenly King is offended, and from it come very grave dangers. But I do not say this as though I meant to condemn mixed love, I merely wish to show which of the two is preferable. But mixed love, too, is real love, and it is praiseworthy, and we say that it is the source of all good things, although from it grave dangers threaten, too. Therefore I approve of both pure love and mixed love, but I prefer to practice pure love. . . .

THE WOMAN SAYS: Since a certain woman of the most excellent character wished to reject one of her two suitors by letting him make his own choice, and to accept the other, she divided the solaces of love in her in this fashion. She said, “Let one of you choose the upper half of me, and let the other suitor have the lower half.” Without a moment’s delay each of them chose his part, and each insisted that he had chosen the better part. . . . I ask you which seems to you to have made the more praiseworthy choice.

THE MAN SAYS: Who doubts that the man who chooses the solaces of the upper part should be preferred to the one who seeks the lower? For so far as the solaces of the lower part go, we are in no wise differentiated from brute beasts; but in this respect nature joins us to them. But the solaces of the upper part are, so to speak, attributes peculiar to the nature of man and are by this same nature denied to all the other animals. Therefore the unworthy man who chooses the lower part should be driven out from love just as though he were a dog, and he who chooses the upper part should be accepted as one who honors nature. Besides this, no man has ever been found who was tired of the solaces of the upper part, or satiated by practicing them, but the delight of the lower part quickly palls upon those who practice it, and it makes them repent of what they have done.

From Book II of The Art of Courtly Love, entitled “How Love May be Retained,” I shall quote only a few of the 31 “rules of love which the King of Love himself, with his own mouth, pronounced for lovers”:

1. Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.
2. He who is not jealous cannot love.
10. Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice.
11. It is not proper to love any woman whom one should be ashamed to seek to marry.
13. When made public, love rarely endures.
14. The easy attainment of love makes it of little value; difficulty of attainment makes it prized.
15. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
16. When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved his heart palpitates.
17. A new love puts to flight an old one.
19. If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives.
20. A man in love is always apprehensive.
21. Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love.
22. Jealousy, and therefore love, are increased when one suspects his beloved.
23. He whom the thought of love vexes, eats and sleeps very little.
27. A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved.
28. A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved.
29. A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.

Primary source: Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love, translated by John Jay Parry (New York, Columbia University Press, 1941). [FULL TEXT]

Some introductory remarks above by Peter G. Beidler, – from Backgrounds to Chaucer,

Gynocentrism: definition and early mentions

GYNOCENTRISM (derived from the Greek gyno, meaning “woman,” and kentron, meaning “center”)

short

1. [General definition] (Greek: γυνή, “female” – Latin: centrum, “centred”)

(a). n. Dominant or exclusive focus on women in theory or practice; or to the advocacy of this. Sometimes practiced to the detriment of non-females.
(b) Gynocentric (adj). Anything can be considered gynocentric when it is concerned exclusively with a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.

2. [Sociology]

(a). A pervasive cultural complex geared to prioritizing women and their interests.
(b). A reference to individual gynocentric acts or events (eg. Mother’s Day).

3. [Biology]

(a). The biological tendency in humans to prioritize female reproductive capacity.

4. [Psychology]

(a). An exclusive focus on the psychological experiences, emotions or behavior of women.

____________________________

DICTIONARY DEFINITIONS:

ALLWORDS.COM
Gynocentrism: An ideological focus on females, and issues affecting them, possibly to the detriment of non-females. Contrast with androcentrism.

MIRRIAM-WEBSTER
Gynocentrism: Dominated by or emphasizing female interests or a female point of view.

DICTIONARY.COM
Gynocentrism: Focused on women; concerned with only women.

OXFORD DICTIONARY
Gynocentrism: centred on or concerned exclusively with women; taking a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.

FARLEX DICTIONARY
Gynocentrism: Female-oriented, -centered, -exclusiveness. Sexism , discrimination on the basis of sex.

ENCYCLOPEDIA.COM
A radical feminist discourse that champions woman-centered beliefs, identities, and social organization.

WordOrigin

EARLIEST MENTIONS OF GYNOCENTRISM

Etymology dictionaries do not record the history and earliest usage of the term gynocentrism. My own search reveals that gynocentrism has been in use since at least as early as the 1800s. Here are a few early references to gynocentrism and gynocentric:

_______________________________________________________
The Open Court, Volume 11 (Open Court Publishing Company, 1897)
1897

Women’s Franchise Newspaper (New Zealand, Thurs 26 November 1907)
Gynocentrism NZ Newspaper 1907 2

The Independent, Volume 67, Issues 3175-3187 (Independent Publications, incorporated, 1909)
1909

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – (Thurs 23rd November 1911)
Gynocentrism Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Thursday 23 November 1911

From Dublin to Chicago: Some Notes on a Tour in America (George H. Doran Company, 1914)
1914
FULL-TEXT:
Women in USA 1914
________________________________________________________

Gynocentrism continued to be used throughout the nineteenth century and into the present with a stable meaning of female centered, especially to a culture so disposed wherein, “It is arranged with a view to the convenience and delight of women. Men come in where and how they can.” [1914 -see above]

The word is employed infrequently, perhaps due to the availability of simpler phrasings such as ‘woman centered’ or ‘female dominated.’ When employed it appears to be viewed by writers as a self-explanatory term not requiring further definition.
***


RELATED WORDS:

The following are a few early uses of the words Gynarchy, Gynocracy, Gynæcocracy, Gynocrat, and Gyneolatry which are employed variously to refer to female power or hegemony in political, social, family, or gender contexts. Note the mention from 1660 below in which gynarchy is used to refer to the gender context where the wife is not subject to, but rather superior to the husband. Similarly, gynocracy which is sometimes defined as “petticoat government” applies to both female dominance of the social order and to female dominance in gender relations; eg. individual men are referred to as “petticoat governed” (see petticoat government at bottom).

 

Gynarchy:

Gynarchy

 

Gynæcocracy:

Gyno in Oxford

The following mention of gynæcocracy is from the volume;
An Universal Etymological English Dictionary printed in 1737
Note that gynæcocracy is defined as “Petticoat Government”

Gynocracy peticoat gpvernment 1737

From the Dictionary of the English Language 1755

Gynococ

 

Gynocracy:

Gynocracy in ‘Letters to and from Jonathan Swift’ printed in 1741.
Note again the reference to Petticoat Government

Gynocracy

This mention from the Dictionary of Arts and Sciences from 1763.

Dictionary from 1763

This one from ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ of 1838.

1838

Newspaper article ‘A Dethroned Tyrant’ of 1902.

Gynocracy

 

Gyneolatry:

Book Chat, Volumes 3-4 (Brentano Bros., 1888)
1888 Book Chat

The Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller (H. Holt, 1901)
1901 Friedrich Schiller

The Athenæum, vol 2 (British Periodicals Limited, 1909)
1909 gyno

Zones of the spirit: a book of thoughts (G.P. Putnam, 1913)
1913 Zones of the spirit

The Collected Works, Volume 1 (Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1924)
1924 Survey of Contemporary Music

Oxford Dictionary entry for Gyniolatry
Gyniolatry OUP

 

Petticoat Government:

Oxford Dictionary entry for Petticoat Government
Petticoat government oxford

Gynocentrism, humanism and The Patriarchy™

By Jason Gregory

I admit it. I have a guilty pleasure—feminist-philosophers. No, feminist-philosophers are not necessarily oxymoronic, though some of them are moronic. Take, for example, Iris M. Young.

Young studied philosophy and earned a doctorate in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University. She became a professor of political science and was well known for her work in “theories of justice, democratic theory and feminist theory.” Sadly, Young lost a battle with cancer in 2006 and the world was deprived of “one of the most important feminist thinkers in the world…one of the most important political philosophers of the past quarter century.”

While researching this much respected philosopher, I discovered one of her papers, “Humanism, Gynocentrism, and Feminist Politics.” It is a brilliant and fascinating paper. It is a must read for anybody interested in The Patriarchy™, gender politics, and philosophy.

In this paper, Young presents two remarkably different versions of feminism—humanist-feminism and gynocentric-feminism. Young admits that these two types of feminisms are often contrary to and sometimes contradictory with each other. She also admits that both feminisms share the common narrative thread of male-as-antagonist. The overarching antagonist to both narratives is the male dominated culture that oppresses women—The Patriarchy™.

snidely_whiplashThis antagonist represents weak and lazy writing. It’s a tired, uninspiring, and one-dimensional villain. This antagonist no longer has a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. The Patriarchy™ is the Snidely Whiplash of feminist narratives—a cartoonish caricature of evil, the archenemy of all women, humanity, and civilization. It is not an artifact of “poetic faith.”

As such, The Patriarchy™ is not a real thing. It is only an imagined thing—a fetishized object of imagination that exists in the minds of feminists and other morons. It exists to perpetuate a shallow and one-dimensional narrative that presents women as objects-of-victimization. It is the sort of thing that feminists love to hate. It is loved because it can be blamed for everything. It is hated because it is the villain. Without The Patriarchy™, there would be no feminist narratives. Without Snidely Whiplash, there would be no Dudley Do-Right. The Patriarchy™ is one half of a shallow and one-dimensional dichotomy of good vs. evil that exists in feminist narratives. It’s not any real thing of lived-experience. It is only an imaginary thing of imagined-experience.

To better understand this shallow dichotomy and the silliness of feminist narratives, let’s look at two of the most significant and influential feminist narratives as presented by Iris M. Young. Both narratives present women as victims of The Patriarchy™. Both narratives present The Patriarchy™ as an antagonist, a villain like Snidely Whiplash who twiddles his moustache and has no human depth beyond a sadistic lust for the devaluing and disempowerment of women.

Humanist-feminism

Humanist-feminism, according to Young, is best described in the works of Simone de Beauvoir. At its core is a revolt against being imprisoned in femininity. For them The Patriarchy™ “has ascribed to women a distinct feminine nature by which it has justified the exclusion of women from most of the important and creative activity of society—science, politics, invention, industry, commerce, the arts.” By rejecting such femininity, humanist-feminism delivered a revolt against The Patriarchy™ itself.

What makes this Beauvoirian revolt so fascinating is the fact that it is founded theoretically on the philosophical distinction between immanence and transcendence. Immanence roughly designates being an object. Transcendence roughly designates being a free-subject that defines its own nature and “makes projects that bring new entities into the world.”

It is argued by humanist-feminists that The Patriarchy™ does not allow women to become such transcendent and free-subjects. Instead, women are relegated to being objects of domestic and sexual service to men and for the benefit of men. As such, the full humanity of women is restricted by The Patriarchy™. This is, according to humanist-feminists, a brutalization of the personhood of half the human race for benefit to the other half. The Patriarchy™ mutilates and deforms women into objects—the non-human Other. Young writes that this “distinction between transcendence and immanence ensnares Beauvoir in the very definition of woman as a non-human Other…”

By defining humanity as transcendence, as a free-subjectivity above mere life and the processes of nature that repeat in endless cycles, women can only exist as victims—“maimed, mutilated, dependent, confined to a life of immanence and forced to be an object.” In short, humanity transcends, but women are imprisoned to a life of immanence. Humanist-feminism was a revolt against this sort of immanence, reproductive biology, domestic concerns, and motherhood—the things Beauvoir found most oppressive to women.

As such, Beauvoirians devalue women…just like The Patriarchy™ devalues women. The humanist-feminist revolt against The Patriarchy™ is patriarchal. As such, humanist-feminism is The Patriarchy™. They smash The Patriarchy™ by being it.

Gynocentric-feminism

According to Young, “gynocentric feminism defines the oppression of women very differently from humanist feminism. Women’s oppression consists not of being prevented from participating in full humanity, but of the denial and devaluation of specifically feminine virtues and activities by an overly instrumentalized and authoritarian masculinist culture.” Gynocentric-feminism is not a revolt against femininity. It is a revolt against the devaluation of femininity. It is a revolt against The Patriarchy™ by embracing what The Patriarchy™ always “ascribed” to women. As such, gynocentric-feminism is The Patriarchy™.

For gynocentric-feminists, femininity is “not the problem, not the source of women’s oppression, but indeed within traditional femininity lie the values that we should promote for a better society. Women’s oppression consists of the devaluation and repression of women’s nature and female activity by the patriarchal culture.” Again, The Patriarchy™ is still to blame because it “threaten[s] the survival of the planet and the human race. [Patriarchal] values exalt death, violence, competition, selfishness, a repression of the body, sexuality, and affectivity.”

According to Young, The Patriarchy™ produces “phallogocentric categorization,” a moral rationality and language of sharp distinctions, of abstract rights and justice. However, the feminine is supposed to produce loose categories, a flowing of language that envelops and folds in on itself, reflects itself in a continuous and particularistic ethics of care—a continuous flowing of garbled gibberish. The feminine virtue is supposed to place the particular over the abstract and universal, all the while denying the “nature/culture dichotomy held by humanists… [asserting] the connection of women and nature,” rooting the feminine in the body-experience, rather than in some sort of abstract transcendence.

Gynocentric-feminism places a high value on the woman’s reproductive processes. It is supposed that these processes give women a “living continuity with their offspring that it does not give men. Women thus have a temporal consciousness that is continuous, whereas male temporal consciousness is discontinuous.” As such, males are said to be more alienated from their children, but more connected to their work and other endeavors of artifact creation. In this way, being woman is not being an object. Bringing forth life into this world is one of the most important endeavors-of-creation…and only women can do that.

Gynocentric-feminism inverts humanist-feminism—completely upending prior notions of women’s oppression. Yet, smashing The Patriarchy™ remains a goal of gynocentric-feminism. They smash The Patriarchy™ by embracing it.

Implications

Where humanist-feminism destroyed the value of the feminine, gynocentric-feminism restores it. There is dignity for women within their bodies and within their uniquely female body-experiences. Gynocentric-feminism shows that this connection with the body produces uniquely feminine virtues, language, and experiences of which men are not privy. In fact, men are not privileged at all in this way. Men are alienated from these experiences, from a “living continuity” with their children, and relegated to such experiences by proxy—through intellectual creations, hierarchal competition, and through functioning as an object-of-utility for a woman, for women, and for society-in-general.

This reality requires a reassessment of what male privilege means. Young writes, “If we claim that masculinity distorts men more than it contributes to their self-development and capacities, again, the claim that women are the victims of injustice loses considerable force.” She eventually questions, “what warrants the claim that women need liberating…of what does male privilege consist?” She has difficulty swallowing that bitter red pill. She has difficulty being straight and saying that we’ve been wrong about The Patriarchy™ and male privilege.

Although, she never disavows patriarchy theory, she does put forth a clever analogy as a way to try and change the subject, to escape responsibility, yet still fetishize and blame The Patriarchy™. In regards to gender, Young states that “we need a conception of difference that is less like the icing bordering the layers of cake and more like a Marblecakemarble cake, in which the flavors remain recognizably different but thoroughly insinuated in one another. [And this]… social change requires changing the subject, which in turn means developing new ways of speaking, writing, and imagining.”

Translation

Young wants to have her cake and eat it too. She wants to change the subject and direct attention away from the wrongheaded notions about male privilege and female oppression. She wants to create a narrative in which female oppression and privilege simultaneously exist in one swirl of garbled gibberish — a marble cake. She does not come forward to clearly say, “Oops, we were wrong about male privilege and The Patriarchy™.” She does not apologize for the decades of bashing and shaming men about their so-called privilege. She makes no apologies for the centuries of oppression men have endured as objects-of-utility for women and for society-in-general. She does not make any apologies for wanting her cake and eating it too.

Young is playing a game, essentially saying “it’s the fault of The Patriarchy™ that we were wrong…even though we weren’t really wrong. The Patriarchy™ forced feminists to make distinct icing and borders on their narrative-cake. It’s the fault of The Patriarchy™ that feminists didn’t create a marble-cake-narrative in which women could be simultaneously oppressed and liberated, thoroughly insinuated in one another. It’s the fault of The Patriarchy™ that The Patriarchy™ was allowed to be the primary antagonist of any feminist narrative.” This is Young’s elaborate game of victim-blaming.

Why did you men allow us to blame you? It’s your fault that we falsely accused you. Had you men simply valued us women, we would never have falsely accused you men of oppressing us. Never mind the countless bodies of men who sacrificed their lives for women and for society-in-general; that’s oppression of women too. Valuing us is not-valuing us. Oppressing us is not-oppressing us. No matter what men do, it’s the fault of men that women are simultaneously liberated and oppressed, valued and not-valued, empowered and not-empowered. Men and by extension, The Patriarchy™, are to blame for everything.

Conclusion

Young, like most feminists, clings to her fetish—her imagined-experience of The Patriarchy™. She refuses to develop a more comprehensive narrative. She refuses to create a narrative that gives depth to the lived-experiences of men. She refuses to relinquish her hatred of men. She prefers blaming men for everything. This is her love, her hatred, and her fetish. She clung to these until death.

Sadly, this is what makes Young’s paper so brilliant and fascinating. It illustrates the grasp of this fetish—The Patriarchy™. A philosopher as clever as Young fails to relinquish her fetish. Even after clearly making the case that prior notions of The Patriarchy™ and male privilege were wrong, she maintains that men are still to blame. Even when she knows that it’s not the fault of men, she still blames men—The Patriarchy™.

By painting men as The Patriarchy™, men can be made a cartoonish caricature of evil. Men become as shallow and one-dimensional as Snidely Whiplash—the archenemy of women, humanity, civilization, and all things good. Men become The Patriarchy™, the non-human Other.

This is the narrative of feminisms. This is the common thread that binds together feminist narratives. This is the dehumanization of men as the antagonist. It is the fetishizing of men as The Patriarchy™–an imagined thing, a fetishized object of imagination, a villain.

This villain no longer inspires the “willing suspension of disbelief.” This villain is not an artifact of “poetic faith.” This villain represents weak and lazy writing. The Patriarchy™ is bad literature…and so are feminist narratives.

The way forward may be some sort of “marble cake,” as Young describes, where gender differences are distinct, yet thoroughly insinuated within each other. However, before that can happen, a narrative granting multi-dimensionality and depth to men is needed. A narrative consisting of compassion and consideration for the lived-experiences of men and boys is needed. That will never happen as a feminist narrative. So long as men are written as the antagonist, as The Patriarchy™, men will always be the Other–the icing on the outside, apart from the cake, apart from humanity.

About gynocentrism

The golden casket above depicts scenes of servile male behaviour toward women that was typical of ‘courtly love’ culture of the Middle Ages. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man being led around by a yoke or rope in a position of subservience.

It is clear that much of what we today call gynocentrism was invented in the Middle Ages with the cultural practices of romantic chivalry and courtly love. In 12th century Europe feudalism served as the basis for a new kind of love in which men were to play the role of vassal to women who played the role of an idealized Lord. C.S. Lewis, back in the middle of the 20th Century, referred to this historical revolution as “the feudalisation of love,” and stated that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. “Compared with this revolution,” states Lewis, “the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.”1 Lewis states;

“Everyone has heard of courtly love, and everyone knows it appeared quite suddenly at the end of the eleventh century at Languedoc. The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, and the Religion of Love. The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim. Here is a service of love closely modelled on the service which a feudal vassal owes to his lord. The lover is the lady’s ‘man’. He addresses her as midons, which etymologically represents not ‘my lady’ but ‘my lord’. The whole attitude has been rightly described as ‘a feudalisation of love’. This solemn amatory ritual is felt to be part and parcel of the courtly life.” 2

With the advent of (initially courtly) women being elevated to the position of ‘Lord’ in intimate relationships, and with this general sentiment diffusing to the masses and across much of the world today, we are justified in talking of a gynocentric cultural complex that affects, among other things, relationships between men and women. Furthermore, unless evidence of broadspread gynocentric culture can be found prior to the Middle Ages, then gynocentrism is precisely 800 years old. In order to determine if this thesis is valid we need to look further at what we mean by “gynocentrism”.

The term gynocentrism has been in circulation since the 1800’s, with the general definition being “focused on women; concerned with only women.” 3 From this definition we see that gynocentrism could refer to any female-centered practice, or to a single gynocentric act carried out by one individual. There is nothing inherently wrong with a gynocentric act (eg. celebrating Mother’s Day) , or for that matter an androcentric act (celebrating Father’s Day). However when a given act becomes instituted in the culture to the exclusion of other acts we are then dealing with a hegemonic custom — i.e. such is the relationship custom of elevating women to the role of Lord in relation to male vassals.

Author of Gynocentrism Theory Adam Kostakis has attempted to expand the definition of gynocentrism to refer to “male sacrifice for the benefit of women” and “the deference of men to women,” and he concludes; “Gynocentrism, whether it went by the name honor, nobility, chivalry, or feminism, its essence has gone unchanged. It remains a peculiarly male duty to help the women onto the lifeboats, while the men themselves face a certain and icy death.” 4 I agree with Kostakis’ descriptions of assumed male duty, however the phrase ‘gynocentric culture’ more accurately carries his intention than gynocentrism alone. Thus when used alone in the context of this website ‘gynocentrism’ refers to part or all of gynocentric culture, which phrase I will define here as any culture instituting rules for gender relationships that benefit females at the expense of males across a broad range of measures.

At the base of gynocentric culture lies the practice of enforced male sacrifice for the benefit of women. If we accept this definition we can look back and ask whether male sacrifices throughout history were always made for the sake women, or alternatively for the sake of some other primary goal? For instance, when men went to die in vast numbers in wars, was it for women, or was it rather for Man, King and Country? If the latter we cannot then claim that this was a result of some intentional gynocentric culture, at least not in the way I have defined it here. If the sacrifice isn’t intended directly for the benefit women, even if women were occasional beneficiaries of male sacrifice, then we are not dealing with gynocentric culture.

Male utility and disposability strictly “for the benefit of women” comes in strongly only after the advent of the 12th century gender revolution in Europe – a revolution that delivered us terms like gallantry, chivalry, chivalric love, courtesy, romance and so on. From that period onward gynocentric practices grew exponentially, culminating in the demands of today’s feminism. In sum, gynocentrism (ie. gynocentric culture) was a patchy phenomenon at best before the middle ages, after which it became ubiquitous.

With all this in mind it makes little sense to talk of gynocentric culture starting with the industrial revolution a mere 200 years ago (or 100 or even 30 yrs ago), or of it being two million years old as some would argue. We are not simply fighting two million years of genetic programming; our culturally constructed problem is much simpler to pinpoint and to potentially reverse. The historical evidence is strong. All we need do now is look at the circumstances under which gynocentrism first began to flourish and attempt to reverse those circumstances. Specifically, that means rejecting the illusions of romantic love (feudalised love), along with the practices of misandry, male shaming and servitude that ultimately support it.

References

1. C.S. Lewis, Friendship, chapter in The Four Loves, HarperCollins, 1960
2. C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, Oxford University Press, 1936
3. Dictionary.com – Gynocentric
4. Adam Kostakis, Gynocentrism Theory – (Published online, 2011). Although Kostakis assumes gynocentrism has been around throughout recorded history, he singles out the Middle Ages for comment: “There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism… One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.”

Nathanson and Young on gynocentric feminism

Excerpts from the Nathanson and Young Misandry Trilogy

Legalizing mis

“Feminist calls for equality, or even equity, sound at first like nothing other than calls for justice. Lurking just below the surface, though, is often the call for gynocentrism. Whatever its underlying motivation, gynocentrism has already been institutionalized, either directly or indirectly, in laws or interpretations of them, constitutional amendments or interpretations of them, and bureaucracies at every level of government. The rhetoric has functioned like that of motherhood. Who would ever oppose that in public? Equality is not only the legitimate expression of egalitarian feminism, therefore, but also the ideal front for ideological feminism. Not only are students exposed to gynocentric indoctrination, but so are legislators, judges, bureaucrats, corporate managers, and employees.” [p. 116]

“Systemic gynocentric bias has led to more than a demand for quotas, usually known as “targets.” It has led also to a demand for social and cultural revolution. Ideological feminists measure progress according to a “female standard” and in view of “female knowledge.” Ideological feminists denounce equality of opportunity, insisting on equality of result. Ignoring the fact that the former has been greatly modified over the past thirty years to suit women, they claim that modifying it has prevented a critique of what they believe is the “phallocentricity” of knowledge. Women have nothing to learn or gain, in other words, from the experience of men.” [p. 116]

“[Gynocentrism] is a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around women. It is therefore the counterpart of androcentrism, a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around men. Our point was that gynocentrism has become de rigueur behind the scenes in law courts and government bureaucracies, which has resulted in systemic discrimination against men. “ [p. 309]

“Misandry and gynocentrism are not necessarily linked at all. People can be preoccupied with their own needs and interests without denying those of other people, much less hating them…. But wait. Even though misandry is not an inherent feature of gynocentrism, it is an inherent possibility (just as misogyny is an inherent possibility of androcentrism). If the world revolves around women, then it follows that nonwomen –which is to say, men- are irrelevant except for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. All it takes to produce misandry is the ideological proposition that “they” are not merely irrelevant, but inadequate or evil.” [p. 310]

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Legalizing Misandry, 2006
______________

“Gynocentrism is a form of essentialism – as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women- to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women. But this worldview is explicitly misandric too, because it not only ignores the needs and problems of men but also attacks men. Misandry is a form of dualism that focuses on the innate vices of men. In this moral or even ontological hierarchy , women are at the top and men are at the bottom.” [p. 58]

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Sanctifying Misandry, 2010

Feminism: gynocentric or egalitarian?

Editor’s note: The pollowing post appeared on the ‘Alas‘ blog in 2009 and is repeated here as a qualifier of the difference between gynocentric and egalitarian feminism. The definition is a good first attempt to capture the essence of something which is pervasive within feminism. It is hypothetically possible to eschew all of the gynocentric criteria, while still being a feminist recognised by other feminists, though their number, if they exist, must be very small indeed.

Feminism: gynocentric or egalitarian?
By Ballgame (2009)

Superiority of women

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear up what I’m guessing is probably a common misconception about the terms, “gynocentric feminist” and “egalitarian feminist.” The terms are not intended as descriptions of the particular feminist’s focus of discussion or activism. A woman could be focused entirely on preserving women’s right to access abortion … and be an egalitarian feminist. A man could be focused on male bonding a la Robert Bly and yet still be a gynocentric feminist.

The terms actually get at the principles of the feminist in question. If a feminist believes that men are universally privileged by gender and women are not, or that women have inherently superior insights into questions of gender than men, or that women are entitled to define the terms of gender discussions and that men must ‘check their privilege’ before entering into those discussions (and women don’t have to check theirs), or believes that men oppressing other men is an example of men ‘oppressing themselves’ (or other similar ‘men are Borg’ type notions), or has a habit of vilifying reasonable and respectful critics of feminist misandry, then that person is a gynocentric feminist.

If, on the other hand, a feminist believes that both men and women are oppressed by gender, and believes that everyone struggling against gender oppression deserves respect (regardless of which gender’s oppression they’re working against), then that person would more likely be an egalitarian feminist. (I say “more likely” because I’m tired and I suspect my ‘egalitarian’ definition here is probably pretty incomplete.)

Gynocentrism and its Discontents

by Hugh Ristik (2007)

Woman_at_a_Mirror__1907
 

Feminism and gynocentrism

 

Feminism focuses on women. It focuses on women’s perspectives, interests, rights, and victimization. In other words, it is gynocentric (literally, “woman-centered”). And there is nothing inherently wrong with that. That being said, there are ways in which gynocentrism can go horribly wrong.

I am starting a series of posts on gynocentrism from the premise that feminism is gynocentric, either by the definitions that feminists give, or by their works. If the gynocentric nature of feminism isn’t obvious to everyone, then I’m happy to back up.

Types of gynocentrism

Feminism didn’t invent gynocentrism. There is a heavily gynocentric tinge to some versions of paternalism and conservative attitudes that focus on protecting women. Feminism, however, took gynocentrism to a new level. Feminists not only focused on women’s victimization, they also focus on women’s perspective and experience. (One possible exception is postmodern versions of feminism that explicitly deny the meaningfulness of the category “Woman.” Aside from finding these versions of feminism to play dishonest semantic games, my intuition is that they engage in their own covert forms of gynocentrism.)

In What Good is Gynocentrism, I argued that feminist gynocentrism isn’t inherently unjust, and that it can have the side-effect of benefitting men. In this post, I discuss how the ways that feminists’ focus on women’s interests can be problematic. There is a short distance between focusing on women’s interests, and marginalizing men’s interests. Feminists often step over this line. As Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young argue, “even though misandry is not an inherent feature of gynocentrism, it is an inherent possibility.”1

I’m not saying that all, or necessary most feminists step over the line; I make no speculation about the proportion of feminists who fall into misandric versions of gynocentrism. I’m more interested in criticizing those versions when they appear.

How could gynocentrism go wrong?

Gynocentrism, as practiced by feminism2, entails a focus on women’s experiences, rights, needs, and victimization. That is because women have experienced—and currently experience—violations of their rights, denial of their human needs, and victimization at the hands of males, of each other, and of society.

Once feminist women figured out all the ways that women were getting the short end of the stick, they were justifiably pissed off. They concluded that they were oppressed, and that men were privileged. Many feminists went even further, and saw men as the “oppressor class” towards women. The ways in which men were getting the short end of the stick were typically not considered.

The odious “comparative suffering” argument

And here is where gynocentrism started going wrong. These feminist women were correct to identify victimization, denial of rights, and oppression of women. The mistake was in concluding that in general, men were “less” disadvantaged in society than women, simply because men weren’t necessarily disadvantaged in the ways that women were. This conclusion presupposes some metric or scale on which women’s disadvantages weigh heavier.

However, to weigh one thing against another, you need to know the weight of both. Yet feminists only had an idea of the weight of women’s victimization. Since, as part of gynocentrism, they examined only women’s experiences, and not men’s experiences, they had no idea of what disadvantages, harms, and violations of rights that men were experiencing. This ignorance did not stop those feminists. They placed women’s oppression on one side of the scale, watched the balance tip, and concluded that women’s oppression weighed heavier. Men’s oppression never made it onto the scale.

Nathanson and Young have called this attitude “comparative suffering,” and indepedently, Daran called it the “Odious Comparison.”

Dualism

Through their gynocentric lens, feminists figured out that women were suffering, and that the agents of that suffering were often male. Yet some of these feminists committed two fallacies. The first fallacy was to assume that if men were oppressors under the gender system, they could not be oppressed by it. The second fallacy was to paint men in general as victimizers and abusers of women. The attitude towards men became very dualistic; as Nathanson and Young argue:

The worldview of ideological feminism, like that of both Marxism and National Socialism—our analogies are between ways of thinking, not between specific ideas—is profoundly dualistic. In effect, “we” (women) are good, “they” (men) are evil. Or, to use the prevalent lingo, “we” are victims, “they” are oppressors.”3

The focus of feminism

In this way, gynocentrism slid into the tendencies for some feminists to focus on the experience, needs, and victimization of women, along with the oppressiveness, privileges, violence, and sexism of men. Simultaneously, this type of feminist discourse ignored or downplayed the experience, needs, and victimization of men, along with the oppressiveness, privileges, violence, and sexism of women.

But what is wrong with this focus? The experience of women is important. Women are victimized in society (regardless of agreement with specific feminist claims of victimization). Men do have (some) unjust privileges over women. Some men victimize women. Since all of that is true, what could be the problem with pointing it out?

The answer is that there isn’t one. The problem is not inherently with the gynocentric focus of feminism. The root of the problem is the content of feminism, which causes the gynocentric focus of feminism to become a problem.

————————

  1. Nathanson, P., & Young, K. (2006). Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, p. 310.[]
  2. By “feminism,” I mean feminists who don’t identify themselves as “equity feminists,” “egalitarian feminists,” or “individualist feminists.” These dissident feminists tend to not be gynocentric, and have fundamentally different philosophical and epistemological assumptions to other feminists. Mainstream feminists tend to dispute that dissident feminists are really feminists, which only underscores how gynocentric mainstream feminism is.[]
  3. Nathanson, P., & Young, K. (2006). Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Cultureen. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, p. xii.[]

Editor’s note: The first two sections above “Feminism and gynocentrism” and “Types of gynocentrism” are from the author’s longer piece What Good is Gynocentrism, and serve here as an abridged preamble to his article Gynocentrism and its Discontents. [I was unable to find a contact email for the author, but he is welcome to contact me if he has any concerns about the above reproduction]

Andreas Capellanus (1174) on ‘women’s nature’

Middle Ages Europe is widely considered the birthplace of ‘protofeminism’ – the forerunner to modern feminism. At that time a chaplain named Andreas Capellanus, whom we might consider the first antifeminist and ‘MGTOW’ of the period, wrote a book describing the escalating problem of female avarice, manipulativeness, narcissism, underserved sense of entitlement, and hypergamy. Interestingly, Andreas links all these problems with the birth of courtly love – the subject of his book – and recommends all men learn to reject romantic relationships with women and “trample under your foot all of its rules.”

While the piece is written in anger at the emerging gynocentric culture, it contains truths that echo much of what MGTOW are reacting to today – in particular the world’s encouragement, protection and enforcement of female hypergamy. The following is an excerpt from Capellanus’ amazing work. PW

The Art of Courtly Love
By Andreas Capellanus (1174)

Andeas_bookThe mutual love which you seek in women you cannot find, for no woman ever loved a man or could bind herself to a lover in the mutual bonds of love. For a woman’s desire is to get rich through love, but not to give her lover the solaces that please him. Nobody ought to wonder at this, because it is natural. According to the nature of their sex all women are spotted with the vice of a grasping and avaricious disposition, and they are always alert and devoted to the search for money or profit. I have travelled through a great many parts of the world, and although I made careful inquiries I could never find a man who would say that he had discovered a woman who, if a thing was not offered to her, would not demand it insistently and would not hold off from falling in love unless she got rich gifts in one way or another. But even though you have given a woman innumerable presents, if she discovers that you are less attentive about giving her things than you used to be, or if she learns that you have lost your money, she will treat like a perfect stranger who has come from some other country, and everything you do will bore her or annoy her. You cannot find a woman who will love you so much or be so constant to you that if somebody else comes to her and offers her presents she will be faithful to her love.

Women have so much avarice that generous gifts break down all the barriers of their virtue. If you come with open hands, no women will let you go away without that which you seek; while if you don’t promise to give them a great deal, you needn’t come to them and ask for anything. Even if you are distinguished by royal honors, but bring no gifts with you, you will get absolutely nothing from them; you will be turned away from their doors in shame. Because of their avarice all women are thieves, and we say they carry purses. You cannot find a woman of such lofty station or blessed with such honor or wealth that an offer of money will not break down her virtue, and there is no man, no matter how disgraced and low-born he is, who cannot seduce her if he has great wealth. This is so because no woman ever has enough money – just as no drunkard ever thinks he has had enough to drink. Even if the whole earth and sea were turned to gold, they could hardly satisfy that avarice of a woman.

Furthermore, not only is every woman by nature a miser, but she is also envious and a slanderer of other women, greedy, a slave to her belly, inconstant, fickle in her speech, disobedient and impatient of restraint, spotted with the sin of pride and desirous of vainglory, a liar, a drunkard, a babbler, no keeper of secrets, too much given to wantonness, prone to every evil, and never loving any man in her heart.

Now woman is a miser, because there isn’t a wickedness in the world that men can think of that she will not boldly indulge in for the sake of money, and, even if she has an abundance she will not help anyone who is in need. You can more easily scratch a diamond with your fingernail than you can by any human ingenuity get a woman to consent to giving you any of her savings. Just as Epicurus believed that the highest good lay in serving the belly, so a woman thinks that the only things worth while in this world are riches and holding on to what she has. You can’t find any woman so simple and foolish that she is unable to look out for her own property with a greedy tenacity, and with great mental subtlety get hold of the possessions of someone else. Indeed, even a simple woman is more careful about selling a single hen than the wisest lawyer is in deeding away a great castle. Furthermore, no woman is ever so violently in love with a man that she will not devote all her efforts to using up his property. You will find that this rule never fails and admits of no exceptions.

That every woman is envious is also found to be a general rule, because a woman is always consumed with jealousy over another woman’s beauty, and she loses all her pleasure in what she has. Even if she knows that it is the beauty of her own daughter that is being praised, she can hardly avoid being tortured by hidden envy. Even the neediness and the great poverty of the neighbour women seem to her abundant in wealth and riches, so that we think of the old proverb which says, “the crop in the neighbour’s field is always more fertile, and your neighbour’s cow has a larger udder,” seems to refer to the female sex without question. It can hardly come to pass that one woman will praise the good character or the beauty of another, and if she should happen to do so, the next minute she adds some qualification that undoes all she has said in her praise.

And so it follows that woman is a slanderer, because slander can only spring from envy and hate. That is a rule that women do not want to break; she prefers to keep it unbroken. It is not easy to find a woman whose tongue can ever spare anybody or who can keep from words of detraction. Every woman thinks that by running down others she adds to her own praise and increases her own reputation – a fact which shows very clearly to everybody that women have very little sense. For all men agree to hold it as a general rule that words of dispraise only hurt the person who utters them, and they detract from the esteem in which he is held; but no woman on this account keeps from speaking evil and attacking the reputation of good people, and so I think we can insist that no woman is really wise. Qualities that a wise man has are wholly foreign to a woman, because she believes, without thinking, everything she hears, and she is very free about insisting on being praised, and she does a great many other unwise things which it would be tedious for me to enumerate.

The feminine sex is also commonly tainted by arrogance, for a woman, when incited by that, cannot keep her keep her tongue or her hands from crimes or abuse, but in her anger she commits all sorts of outrages. Moreover, if anybody tries to restrain an angry woman, he will tire himself out with a vain labor, for you cannot keep her from her evil designs or soften her arrogance of soul. Any woman is incited to wrath by a mild enough remark of little significance and indeed at times by nothing at all; and her arrogance grows to tremendous proportions; and as far as I can recall no one ever saw a woman who could restrain it.

Commons_image_MedievalFurthermore every woman seems to despise all other women – a thing which we know comes from pride. No person could despise another unless he looked down upon him because of pride. Besides, every woman, not only a young one but even the old and decrepit, strives with all her might to exalt her own beauty; this can come only from pride, as the wise man said very clearly when he said, “There is arrogance in everybody and pride follows beauty.” Therefore it is perfectly clear that women can never have perfectly good characters, because, as they say, “A remarkable character is soiled by an admixture of pride.”

Every woman is also loud-mouthed, since no one of them can keep her tongue from abuses, and even if she loses a single egg she will keep up a clamor all day like a barking dog, and she will disturb the whole neighbourhood over a trifle. When she is with other women, no one of them will give the others a chance to speak, but each always tries to be the one to say whatever is to be said and to keep on talking longer than the rest; and neither her tongue nor her spirit ever gets tired of talking. A woman will boldly contradict everything you say, and she can never agree with anything, but she always tries to give her opinion on every subject.

No woman is attached to her lover or bound to her husband with such pure devotion that she will not accept another lover, especially if a rich one comes along, which shows the wantonness as well as the great avarice of a woman. There isn’t a woman in this world so constant and so bound by pledges that, if a lover of pleasures comes along and with skill and persistence invites her to the joys of love, she will reject his entreaties – at any rate if he does a good deal of urging. No woman is an exception to this rule either. So you can see what we ought to think of a woman who is in fortunate circumstances and is blessed with an honourable lover or the finest of husbands, and yet lusts after some other man. But that is precisely what women do who are too much troubled with wantonness.

Indeed, a woman does not love a man with her whole heart, because there is not one of them who keeps faith with her husband or her lover; when another man comes along, you will find that her faithfulness wavers. For a woman cannot refuse gold or silver or any other gifts that are offered her, nor can she on that account deny the solaces of her body when they are asked for. But since the woman knows that nothing so distresses her lover as to have her grant these to some other man, you can see how much affection she has for a man when, out of greed for gold or silver, she will give herself to a stranger or a foreigner and has no shame about upsetting her lover so completely and shattering the jewel of her own good faith. Moreover, no woman has such strong bond of affection for a lover that if he ceases to woo her with presents she will not become luke-warm about her customary solaces and quickly become like a stranger to him.

Avoid love and trample under foot all of its rules:

It doesn’t seem proper, therefore, for any prudent man to fall in love with any woman, because she never keeps faith with any man. Everybody knows that she ought to be spurned for the innumerable weighty reasons already given. Therefore it is not advisable, my respected friend, for you to waste your days on love, which for all the reasons already given we agree ought to be condemned. For if it deprives you of the grace of the Heavenly King, and costs you every real friend, and it takes away all the honors of this world as well as every breath of praiseworthy reputation, and greedily swallows up all your wealth, and is followed by every sort of evil. As has already been said, why should you, like a fool, seek for love, or what good can you get from it that will repay you for all these disadvantages? That which above all you seek in love – the joy of having your love returned – you can never obtain, as we have already shown, no matter how hard you try, because no woman ever returns a man’s love. Therefore if you will examine carefully all the things that go to make up love, you will see clearly that there are conclusive reasons why a man is bound to avoid it with all his might and to trample under foot all its rules.

If you will study carefully this little treatise of ours and understand it completely and practice what it teaches, you will see clearly that no man ought to mis-spend his days in the pleasures of love. If you abstain from it, the Heavenly King will be more favorably disposed toward you in every respect, and you will be worthy to have all prosperous success in this world and to fulfill all praiseworthy deeds and the honorable desires of your heart, and in the world to come to have glory and life everlasting.

Source

The Art of Courtly Love, by Andreas Capellanus, written in 1174, Translated by John Parry in 1941; Excerpt is from pp. 200-211

Box 1

● The image above shows a golden casket from the Middle Ages depicting scenes of servile male behaviour typical of the emerging culture of courtly love. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. (Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man in blue being led around by a yoke or leash in a position of subservience).