In October of 2018, The Public Medievalist launched its second special series: Gender, Sexism, and the Middle Ages. If the past few years has illustrated nothing else, it has shown in stark terms how rampant sexism is in societies across the world. When it comes to gender, the popular imagination of the Middle Ages is a toxic fairy tale. Men and women had clear, unchanging gender roles, and there was no room for flexibility or queerness within that binary. Thankfully, none of this is true. The actual Middles Ages were little like modern preconceptions of them. And more, the people who use the Middle Ages to support retrograde misogynistic or transphobic agendas are badly mistaken.
The series is currently ongoing.
The goal of this series is the same as the overarching goal of The Public Medievalist: present cutting-edge scholarship that explores these issues with depth, nuance, and complexity, and do it in as accessible a manner as possible. We hope that you find these essays thought-provoking, enjoyable, and useful.
by Amy S. Kaufman and Paul B. Sturtevant
Introducing The Public Medievalist’s new series on Gender, Sexism, and the Middle Ages. A profoundly sexist view of the Middle Ages has gone uncorrected for too long. Let’s tell some new stories.
by Lucia Akard
Medieval women also experienced sexual assault. They too spoke up and spoke out against it, and were often not believed. How “medieval” are we still?
by Yvonne Seale
When we think of medieval women, one word stands out above the rest: “lady.” But what did it mean to be a lady? What does it now? And what should it mean?
If transgender people have a long history, then that means that being transgender is not a “post-modern lifestyle,” but simply a part of the human condition.
Even the holiest of medieval women was not known for being placid or passive. She was known for punching the devil right in his evil face.
Many medieval women were not just “the good wife” or “the good mother”, but also had real power. But their power was often erased after they died.
Garsenda of Provence was a powerful noble, a shrewd politician, and an all-around boss. So of course, some dude called her fat.
Did you know that Mary is revered in Islam as well as in Christianity? And more, the status of Mary offers a window into something you might expect: that women being respected religious scholars has a long tradition in Islam.
Fairy tales are not known for being progressive. But one from 1901 is remarkably gender-affirming, featuring a trans man as a chivalric hero.
by Megan Arnott
Ads sell us an image of ourselves. So what are they selling to men when that image is medieval?
Knight Fight is a new reality show on HISTORY, where men compete by beating each other over the head with pseudo-medieval weapons. What could be wrong with that?
by Kisha Tracy
We all know werewolves as legendary figures that periodically fly into an unstoppable rage. What you may not know is that in the Middle Ages this was often a metaphor for domestic violence.
Pop-culture vikings are typically butch masculine stereotypes. The real vikings were often anything but.
by Megan Cavell
Medieval women were not illiterate princesses in towers. They read and wrote, and some became literary giants in their time.
by Jes Battis
Castration is a spectre that looms large in Game of Thrones. But how common were eunuchs in the actual Middle Ages? Does Game of Thrones exaggerate their importance to medieval culture, or simply reveal how central they were?
Alijt Bake was a young, passionate, brilliant reformer. So, naturally, she was opposed by the older generation. See how a medieval nun took her critics head on.
by Kit Heyam
When you walk through a museum, what aren’t you seeing? Kit Heyam explores the hidden histories of women and queer people just below the surface of the V&A.
by Marta Cobb
Well-behaved medieval women seldom made history. While medieval women were officially barred from positions of power in the Church, several found ways to make their voices heard nevertheless.