My loves, we are now, as ever, surrounded by basics and their whack-ass understanding of medieval history. As a Lady Historian™ I am often subjected to tirades from Nice Guys lamenting how I, a lady, am breathing in public, but how they a Nice Guy are going to be chill about it because they ‘still believe in chivalry’.
That is not what chivalry is.
Now, I don’t even mean not believing an expert in a subject because of Dunning Kreuger isn’t exactly polite, when I say ‘that is not what chivalry is’. What I mean is that chivalry really isn’t about treating the ladies right (or whatever the fuck passes for right in your mind when you are out here actively harassing women who are smarter than you, which is to say all of them.)
Because I have watched the Lemon video roughly three trillion times in the past week, I have also been doing a lot of thinking about how society defines what the ideal form for women is. Obviously, there is no one type of femme body that everyone who is attracted to women will agree upon. (Except maybe Amber Rose. Fight me.) However, there is an overall tendency of late which holds up the hourglass, in various degrees of extremis, over all other forms. The hourglass can roughly be described as an exaggerated waist to hip ratio, with roughly analogous breasts.
Submitted for your approval are these various examples:
Now, these women are Exceptionally Hot™, a fact which my in-depth historical training has allowed me to confirm. That most of us reading this blog will agree with my extremely professional view on this makes it easy to assume that interest in ladies sporting an hourglass has always been a feature of human sexual drive.
So because it is 2017, we are currently living through a cruel time in which people are attempting to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This, in and of itself is problematic as hell, because it feeds into the idea that the study of history is a study of Great Men™ who came along in a manly way and moved the world forward. That ain’t the case. History is really more of a study of a number of trends. It’s looking at a million pieces of day-to-day writing and interpreting them in their context. Sure, dudes came along who – given this context – were able to influence society. However, society as a whole was not a blank slate, just waiting for some guy to come swing his dick around in order to change course.
This approach also massively privileges not just dudes, but *specifically* white dudes from Western Europe. Not because they necessarily achieved more than dudes from other parts of the world (AHEM – Alexander the Great v. Genghis Khan), BUT because the West has dominated the political sphere since the age of colonialism and therefore privileges its own history above the history of other places.
A part of this is a collective social tendency to privilege one’s one society because one is a part of it. We can’t escape culture, even if we can critique it. Another part of this is that historians are basic too, and don’t want to learn the other languages that it takes in order to do the work to study certain things.
The lionisation of Martin Luther and Reformation is a perfect example of how major social and religious movements get lost in the Great Men narrative in order to allow for ease of research.
Today, I was asked what I thought about a blog post written by a self-professed non-historian about the medieval period this morning.
Friends – I thought it was garbage.
Here is a link to the wrong thing, but honestly I don’t want the basic getting the clicks, so please skip it and believe me when I say it was a roll-out of the old trope that the Dark Ages were a) definitely real, and b) this dude who had never studied medieval history could prove it.
Obviously, I have written at length before about how the Dark Ages are not a thing, and that basics should maybe stay in their lane. What is particularly disturbing about the ‘argument’ is that is claims that there is an undue academic rigor needed to disprove that the Dark Ages aren’t real. What the author means is that because he (it’s so defo a he, it reads like a he) wasn’t explicitly taught medieval history it is therefore Very Bad™ and you don’t need to worry about it.
So, I went to Rouen last week in order to be the Biggest Geek in the World ™. I have returned with a video showing you how to catch churches judging the fuck out of you for being sinful. In particular we’re talking about how S. Maclou church, which was built in the late medieval period in the Flamboyant Gothic style (Yes. That is what it is called.), is judging you.
This is essentially what travelling with me is like, except you aren’t drinking with me. You are welcome.
On this day in 1227 one of the most important men ever to exist – Genghis Motherfucking Khan – died.
I am still cut up about it.
People are out here being basic as hell about Genghis on the regular to which I say please consider – if you believe that Alexander the Great was, in fact, Great, but think that Genghis Khan was not one of the greatest men who ever lived, you are uncritically accepting racist – and discredited and outmoded – historical narratives.
Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (Three Rivers Press, 2005)
Jon Man, Genghis Khan, His Heirs, and the Making of Modern China (Corgi, 2015)
Frank McLynn, Genghis Khan: The Man Who Conquered the World (The Bodly Head Ltd, 2015)
Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khanand the Quest for God: How the World’s Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom (Viking: 2016)
Or maybe just take Hark A Vagrant’s and my word for it.
There has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the past few days on the part of white supremacists who suddenly have a heart-felt attachment to the ‘history’ of Confederate monuments in the United States. The monuments, they argue, must be preserved because they honour the legacy of a bunch of guys who lost a war to enslave other people and participation trophies are important. Never mind that the majority of Confederate monuments have not survived to us from the American Civil War, and were erected during the Jim Crow era of the twentieth century. No no! They must be preserved, in situ, because they are a part of history.
I regret to inform you that this thinking makes no sense to actual historians.
The sudden cri de coeur about the importance of preserving ‘history’ is absurd because history isn’t the act of simply remembering a series of events. It is the act of combing through documents and artefacts from another era and analysing them. We then use this analysis to inform our view of how society functioned at that particular time, and how people lived within it. A statue is not, therefore, in and of itself, valuable because it recounts a particular time. It is valuable because it tells us about the values of the people who erected it.