After watching both of Anita Sarkeesian‘s Tropes Vs. Women videos, one thing keeps standing out at me:
Why isn’t love ever considered?
There’s a reason why the “damsel in distress” trope is so often used – ranging back to medieval times. The tales of a knight saving his imprisoned lady was never meant to turn the woman into an object, devoid of her humanity. Rather, the stories were meant to help both man and woman strive for selfless love. What woman wouldn’t want a husband who will always be there for her, no matter what happens, and will do whatever it takes to get her back? What man wouldn’t want a wife who is so completely dedicated to him that she would rather wait – or even die – in captivity than succumb to the temptations of others to forsake her rightful husband? Heck, the male example, if it’s working correctly, could even inspire the female to also fight to see her husband again, or even convince her captor to peacefully let her go – the moral isn’t meant to be gender-specific.
The origins of the “damsel in distress” trope, when it first became popular in the middle ages, was framed in what was likely popular culture at the time – the virtuous knight, ever-loyal to and ever-willing to protect and fight for his country, his king, his wife, and his family, and the knight’s wife, an equally-virtuous lady who will do the same as the husband. Now, before you ask why women weren’t allowed to serve in the army, it comes down to many factors. Here are a few:
- Who the heck is going to take care of the kids?!
Yeah, they could hire a babysitter or ask a neighbor or good friend willing to temporarily move in to look after the kids, but they’ll still need their mother – and as has been revealed by modern science (Google it!), children need both a mother and a father for proper development. Besides, the neighbor likely couldn’t look after the kids forever – they have responsibilities to their children as well!
- What about the family business?
See the image above? That’s what many businesses looked like back in the middle ages. Without cars or other fast form of transportation, people often lived where they worked, with the business on the bottom floor, and the house on the top floor. If the husband, who traditionally worked the family business, had to go to war, or was otherwise indisposed, the wife often had to work the business. Let me repeat that:
A wife, who is, by definition, a woman marred to a man, living in the middle ages could work the family business if the husband couldn’t. (Again, Google it!)
Couldn’t you temporarily hire the neighbors? Sure, but only if they had enough training to do the kind of job you would be proud of – which would likely mean years’ worth – didn’t have too many other responsibilities, and lived close enough to make it there on-time. Couldn’t you enlist your older children? Sure, but you’d have to consider the same reasons as above. Couldn’t you hire a good friend? Sure, but you’d also have to consider the same reasons as above – in addition to whether they’d be willing to move to where you live for a time. That means they’d have to leave their household and figure out how to fill the lack of a person while they’re gone.
- Who’s going to keep the house safe?
This one goes without saying. Unlike today, where you can buy a home-security system to help keep your house safe when no-one’s around, you’d need to have someone trustworthy around to keep your home safe. You could leave your older children in charge, ask a neighbor, or hire a guard. Of course, all these things have problems – the kids might not be trustworthy enough, the neighbor might not be able to leave their house for any number of valid reasons one could have in the middle ages, and guards, just like they are today, are expensive. Thus, the wife would be the natural choice.
Aside from all the reasons above, there is one thing I should point out:
They actually did have women soldiers in the middle ages.
Seriously. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe someone who’s done a bit of research on the topic: http://www.heraldica.org/topics/orders/wom-kn.htm
Still don’t believe me? Here’s a Google search for you.