BEDA 15 – Christine de Pizan

I’ve been rereading Christine de Pizan’s The City of Ladies* today, because I have an English exam tomorrow evening which I’m wildly unprepared for. (Pizan’s going to be on the exam. I’m not just procrastinating.) But anyways! I’d say that the first 2/3 of the book is good. Great, even! I’m all for female empowerment! (Like, seriously, I’ve been on an odd amount of feminist rants lately.) But then it goes downhill. Quickly.

In the last third, all Pizan seems to talk about is martyrdom, and women who killed themselves for a cause. It gets tiring, hearing about all of these women who were supposedly empowered because they killed themselves after being raped. I can understand the desire to commit suicide, absolutely. Especially after something as traumatizing as rape. But come on! That doesn’t show female empowerment! And they weren’t killing themselves because they weren’t able to live with the trauma of rape. They were killing themselves because they were no longer chaste.

Plus, there are a few stories of women who killed themselves after their husbands died. Again, I can understand the urge to commit suicide. But seriously! These stories don’t belong in a book about empowerment! That the idea of living without a man is so repellent that you can’t bear it? Better to die than to live unwed?

And I know, I know, it was a different time. 1405 was a while ago. But it still irks me, I guess. I’m still allowed to be mad, right? Like when old people are racist? As my mum says, “It explains; it doesn’t excuse.”

*I should probably specify that I’m reading the abridged Penguin: Great Ideas version of the book.


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