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]

MGTOW: 12th century style

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).

Freedom from gynocentrism in 12 Steps

Written by August Løvenskiolds

endinggyno-538x354

Are you sick of seeing good men destroyed? Tired of being assaulted by women? Sick at craziness and brutality being tolerated when they come from women but swiftly punished when a man even hints at them? Worried at the prospect of your young children being taken from you, and turned against you, by a woman who wants to rape your wallet?

Disgusted at the thought of showing chivalry and deference to foul-mouthed, thieving, drunken, sloppy and disrespectful harlots[1]? Enraged at the thought that newborn baby boys are sexually mutilated in order to tart up ladies’ cosmetics?

These are but a few of the many paths that might’ve brought you to this red door, and many wounds and diseases can be treated with the red pill, but your recovery will take conscious effort and patience on all of our parts – I know, because mine sure did, and I still struggle with it every day.

An AVfM Commenter suggested recently that a 12 Step program for recovering feminists might be necessary. I’ve been kicking around a similar idea for a while now, but my version is for any blue or purple pill person interested in taking the red pill.

What are the red, blue, and purple pills? They are metaphors for your worldview. I’ll be using a lot of MHRM buzzwords in this article, and part of your recovery will center around your taking responsibility for researching them for yourself.

Now, 12 Step Programs have been around for a while (I even helped found one back in the mid 1980’s) and have mixed records of success, but since they are well-known they can serve as a helpful framework to map out what you can expect once you start breaking the chains of gynocentrism. So, stealing shamelessly from those who have blazed the trail, I give you an overview of:

The 12 Steps of Liberation from Gynocentrism

Step 1: Honesty
After many years of denial, recovery can begin with one simple realization – that whether from feminism or traditionalism, Gynocentrism means more than equal rights: it is about securing unearned and undeserved comforts, security, money and power for women and women alone, at the expense and often destruction of men, their lives, and their families.

Step 2: Faith in oneself
It seems to be a spiritual truth that before we can break the chains of the expectations that gynocentrism places on men, we must accept that men are worthy creatures undeserving of the shame, self-loathing and lies that are told about us. Men, and the happiness of men, matter. They are critical to the survival of both humankind and human civilization. When enough men give up on it, society dies.

Step 3: Self-liberation
A lifetime of deference to the whims of whining women will come to a screeching halt, and change forever, by making a simple decision to turn it all over to a higher power – one’s own good judgment that men’s needs matter, too. The only true liberation is self-liberation – a slave forced into freedom by others will remain enslaved until he embraces his freedom as his own.

Step 4: Soul-searching
Change is a process, not just an event. Recognizing how our previous attachment to gynocentrism damaged ourselves, the men around us, and yes, the women, too, requires a lot of thought into often unpleasant memories and past experiences. This soul-searching, though painful, will build our strengths and understandings for when we face future conflicts with those still committed to pedestalizing women.

Step 5: Commitment to Personal Integrity and Truth
A most difficult step to face, but also the one that provides the great opportunity for growth. When you commit to personal integrity and truth you will find the courage to face down your fears and stand up for the rights of men where no one else seems willing to make the first objection to male disposability.

Step 6: Acceptance of our Defects
Everyone has personal character faults but such faults are no reason for us to accept unjust treatment. A man with flaws can still be a good father, a hard worker, and a worthy person. No one has the right to shame us for our sexual desires, the choices or flaws in our physical appearance, our accomplishments, our failures, or our infirmities.

Step 7: Confidence and Humility
As we discover and embrace the newfound power that comes with liberation from gynocentrism, we must be cognizant of the need to balance our confidence with humility – not the false humility from shame, but rather, a knowledge that our strength has real limits and that personal growth can be a frustrating process at times. We must learn to be confident enough in our worth and skills that we can accept new challenges – challenges we are humble enough to understand that we might fail at achieving.

Step 8: Willingness to make amends
Making a list of those we harmed before coming into recovery from gynocentrism can be daunting – long-term feminists in particular may find they have numerous abortions, falsely accused boyfriends, amputated foreskins and penises, stolen job opportunities, and massive shoe collections hanging over their newly heightened consciences. Becoming willing to actually start the struggle to make amends to those we have wronged can be the most difficult part of recovery and many falter on this step.

Step 9: Forgiveness
Being willing to forgive others as well as asking for forgiveness for ourselves may seem like a bitter red pill to swallow, but for those serious about recovery it can be great medicine for the spirit and soul. Even the failure of gynocentrists to embrace forgiveness will help us in that it will throw their sociopathy into sharper relief.

Step 10: Maintenance
Nobody likes to dwell on past wrongs but continuing study into men’s human rights issues is necessary to maintain progress and vigilance in recovery from gynocentrism, lest we fall back into old habits and long-held, toxic beliefs about men.

Step 11: Making Contact
There is value and strength in contacting others in recovery to share our stories and plan our futures, whether as a group or on our own. In recovering from gynocentrism, the insights of one man or woman can and do enrich all our lives. Additionally, building a community of men who recognize the value in each other is a rare and powerful weapon against gynocentrism. Men don’t bond (in general) as quickly or seamlessly as women do, and whenever men build a space for themselves, women try to bully their way in.

Step 12: Service to Humankind
It is not uncommon for those in gynocentrism recovery programs to experience anger over the pain of our long enslavement to the Golden Uterus. Male anger is a good thing – it is how we heal; it is how we grieve; it is the motivation the drives us to help others. Reaching out to others caught in the violent abattoirs of gynocentric privilege can provide the rare gift of saving and enriching men’s lives rather than gratuitously destroying them. Even a lone MGTOW like me can add to the fight by cutting back and resisting the forces that feed gynocentrism’s ever growing need for power, money, and resources.

***

This is not the end but the beginning. I’ve got a lot more to say, but this article in overdue and overlong already. My warmest regards to you all.

Author’s note: although based loosely on (and sometimes in contradiction to) The Twelve Steps of AA, this article is intended as neither a criticism nor endorsement of AA or any other Multi-Step-based program.

[1] Yes, we are aware that the website for the Traditional Woman’s Rights Activists, or, more aptly named, We-Only-Submit-To-The-Men-Who-Obey-Us knitting circle and coffee clutch assembly no longer exists. Thank God and/or the Spaghetti Monster.

Courtly love described

Courtly Love

Courtly love as a literary phenomenon reflects one of the most far-reaching revolutions in social sensibility in Western culture — the dramatic change in attitude towards women that began in the late eleventh century, spread throughout western and northern Europe during the twelfth century, and lingered through the Renaissance and on into the modern world where elements can still be found. In its essential nature, courtly love, or fin’ amors, as the Provencal poets called it, was the expression of the knightly worship of a refining ideal embodied in the person of the beloved. Only a truly noble nature could generate and nurture such a love; only a woman of magnanimity of spirit was a worthy object. The act of loving was in itself ennobling and refining, the means to the fullest expression of what was potentially fine and elevated in human nature.

More often than not, such a love expressed itself in terms that were feudal and religious. Thus, just as a vassal was expected to honor and serve his lord, so a lover was expected to serve his lady, to obey her commands, and to gratify her merest whims. Absolute obedience and unswerving loyalty were critical. To incur the displeasure of one’s lady was to be cast into the void, beyond all light, warmth, and possibility of life. And just as the feudal lord stood above and beyond his vassal, so the lady occupied a more celestial sphere than that of her lover. Customarily she seemed remote and haughty, imperious and difficult to please. She expected to be served and wooed, minutely and at great length. If gratified by the ardors of her lover-servant, she might at length grant him her special notice; in exceptional circumstances, she might even grant him that last, longed-for favor. Physical consummation of love, however, was not obligatory. What was important was the prolonged and exalting experience of being in love.

It was usually one of the assumptions of courtly love that the lady in question was married, thus establishing the triangular pattern of lover-lady-jealous husband. This meant that the affair was at least potentially adulterous, and had to be conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy and danger. The absolute discretion of the lover was therefore indispensable if the honor of the lady were to be preserved. Though the convention did not stipulate adultery as a sine qua non, it is nevertheless true that the two great patterns of courtly love in the Middle Ages–Tristan and Isolt and Lancelot and Guenevere–both involved women who deceived their husbands.

Implications of Courtly Love

It is possible to discern two long range effects of courtly love on western civilization. For one thing, it provided Europe with a refined and elevated language with which to describe the phenomenology of love. For another, it was a significant factor in the augmented social role of women. Life sometimes has a way of imitating art, and there is little doubt that the aristocratic men and women of the Middle Ages began to act out in their own loves the pattern of courtly behavior they read about in the fictional romances and love lyrics of the period. The social effect was to accord women preeminence in the great, central, human activity of courtship and marriage. Thus women became more than just beloved objects–haughty, demanding, mysterious; they became, in a very real sense, what they have remained ever since, the chief arbiters of the game of love and the impresarios of refined passion.

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, in the work of Dante and other poets of the fourteenth century, the distinction between amor and caritas became blurred. Chaucer’s Prioress ironically wears a brooch on which is inscribed, “Amor Vincit Omnia” (“Love Conquers All”). The secular imagery of courtly love was used in religious poems in praise of the Virgin Mary. The lover with “a gentle heart,” as in a poem by Guido Guinizelli, could be led through a vision of feminine beauty to a vision of heavenly grace. One of Dante’s greatest achievements was to turn his beloved, seen primarily in physical, worldly, courtly love terms in his early work, La Vita Nuova, into the abstract, spiritualized, religious figure of Beatrice in The Divine Comedy.

Source:
Adapted from A Guide to the Study of Literature: A Companion Text for Core Studies 6, Landmarks of Literature, Brooklyn College.

Links

 

Websites deconstructing gynocentrism

A Voice for Men: Changing The Cultural Narrative
Purple Motes: A Journal of Whimsy and Hope
Honey Badger Brigade
Men Are Good
Feminist Critics
Gynocentrism Theory
GendErratic: Ending the Empathy Apartheid
Shrink for Men
An Ear For Men
Shedding Of The Ego
The Unknown History of Misandry
Ernest Belfort Bax: Father of the Men’s Rights Movement

International Men’s Day