Don't you just love it when you're reading something and you randomly come to a passage that illustrates something you've felt or believed or argued previously?
The other day I started reading Christine de Pizan's The Book of the City of Ladies
, which was written in 1405. I picked it up at the graduation dinner for English majors. My Chaucer professor thought I'd enjoy it. She wasn't wrong. I know we talked about the author in Masculinity in the Middle Ages, but I can't remember now if we actually read anything by her.
When I took Texts in Context, one of the works we studied was Paradise Lost
. I wrote my final paper on it and part of whatever argument I was making, either in the paper itself or with the professor himself, was that the whole "woman is the downfall of man" thing is essentially a load of crap. In Christianity, Christ is God's greatest gift to man. But Christ would never have walked the earth had Eve not taken a bite from that fruit. And what does anything good mean to us if we've never experienced bad?
Anyway. The Book of the City of Ladies
has to do with the author becoming depressed because so many male scholars and poets write about women being vessels of evil and vice. That they carry those things within them as well as originate them. She becomes depressed, because that is not how she sees herself or her fellow women, and begins to doubt herself. Until she is visited by Ladies Reason, Rectitude, and Justice who tell her they will help her build a City of Ladies. Essentially. I was reading it last night and ran across this from Reason:
"...thanks to a woman, man reigns with God. And if anyone would say that man was banished because of Lady Eve, I tell you that he gained more through Mary than he lost through Eve when humanity was conjoined to the Godhead, which would never have taken place if Eve's misdeed had not occurred. Thus man and woman should be glad for this sin, through which such an honor has come about. For as low as human nature fell through this creature woman, was human nature lifted higher by the same creature."
- p. 24
I may have gone a bit flaily-hands over it. I mean, it brings in Mary as sort of the...flip-side of Eve, but it also says, "Thus man and woman should be glad for this sin, through which such an honor has come about."
And that, right there, is exactly the thing I was trying to argue. There it is, written 605 years ago.
I think that's neat.