1611: Emilia Lanier became the first Englishwoman to publish and collect patronage from her original poetry with the publication of fifteen poems, all about or dedicated to particular women, in her “booke,” titled in Latin, Hail, God, King of the Jews. She was the fourth woman in England to publish her poetry, but the first to demand payment in return for it. The first to see herself as equal to the paid male authors of the era.
This was the same year that the King James Bible was first printed. This was eight years after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. This was 180 years after nineteen-year-old Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
The Querelle des Femmes is “the woman question.”
Frenchmen of the early fifteenth century created a literary debate: what is the role and the nature of women? Is it stemmed within a “classical” model of human behavior; gnarled and rooted with misogynistic platonic tradition? Should women actually be allowed into politics, economics, and religion? There are scholars that say this debate radiated across several European countries for three centuries before finally fizzling out.
But it is still there; has crossed
continents, has crossed oceans, is sizzling, sparking up fires, flaring out
into the night, leeching onto the trees, onto buildings, onto people, onto
anything flammable. It is burning down monarchs and their thrones. It is
raking back the blazing coals.
Exposing the charred corpses.
Proving their death.
Burning and burning and burning them
twice more to prevent the collection of relics.
It is chucking the ashes into the Seine River.
Lilith: who was made at the same time, at the same place, from the same earth, from the same soil as Adam, got herself written out of the Bible because she thought herself to be Man’s equal. Because she got bored of the *******. Because she wanted to be on top during ***. Lilith was replaced in the book of Genesis with a more-or-less subservient woman that was made from the rib of man instead of the same dirt and dust. She was replaced with a woman that Adam named “Eve.” She was replaced with a woman who served as nothing more than the scapegoat for Man’s downfall.
The original Querelle des Femmes.
1558-1603: Queen Elizabeth I ruled England in what is considered to be a masculine position. Although a woman can take the throne, can wear the crown, can wield the scepter, can run the country, the actual divine task that goes along with being a part of the monarchy, being a god on Earth, is thought to be the duty of a man.
Nicknamed The ****** Queen, Elizabeth never married,
never found a proper suitor,
never produced a direct Tudor heir,
(but this is not to prove that she was a ******).
Chastity, especially of women, is a virtue. ((To assume that she never had ***
simply because she never married
is another Querelle des Femmes.))
For nearly forty-five years, Queen Elizabeth I did not need a man by her side while she lead England to both relative stability and prosperity; did not need a man by her side while she became the greatest monarch in English history.
She held the rainbow, the bridge to God, in her
own small hands just fine.
Saturday, February 24, 1431: Joan of Arc was interrogated for the third time in her fifteen-part trial in front of Bishop Cauchon and 62 Assessors. During her six interrogation sessions, she was questioned over charges ranging from heresy to witchcraft to cross-dressing.
At age twelve Joan of Arc began seeing heavenly visions
of angels and saints and martyrs;
age thirteen she began hearing the Voice of God—was told to
purify France of the English, to make Charles the rightful king—
age sixteen she took a vow of chastity as a part of her divine mission.
When the court asked about the face and eyes
that belonged to the Voice, she responded:
There is a saying among children, that
“Sometimes one is hanged for speaking the truth.”
Joan of Arc was declared guilty and was killed by the orders of a Bishop during a time when men were beginning to question the role and nature of women in society. They thought women to be deceitful and immoral. Innately thought Joan of Arc to be deceitful and immoral. (Perhaps she was one of the catalysts for the Querelle in the first place.)
((The church blamed Eve for the
fall of mankind. Identified women as
the root of all sins.))
Twenty-five years later she was declared innocent and raised to the level of martyrdom.
The Catholic Church stood back,
saw the blood,
the thick smoke and stench of burned body that
covered their hands, their clothes,
their neurons, their synapses;
a filth that couldn’t be washed off by Holy water—
can’t be washed off by Holy water.
Four hundred and seventy-eight years later Joan of Arc was blessed and gained entrance to Heaven. Four hundred and eighty-nine years later she was canonized as a saint.
Lines 777-780, “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women,” Emilia Lanier, 1611:
But surely Adam can not be excused,
Her fault though great, yet he was most to blame;
What Weakness offered, Strength might have refused,
Being Lord of all, the greater was his shame…
Adam, distraught and angered that his first wife, Lilith, had flew off into the air after he had refused to lay beneath her, begged God to bring her back. God, taking pity on his beloved, manly, creation, sent down three angels who threatened Lilith that if she did not return to Adam, one hundred of her sons would die each day.
(This is where the mother of all Jewish demons
merges with the first wife of Man.)
She refused, said that this was her purpose: she was
created specifically to harm newborn children. This legend,
dated back to 3,500 BC Babylonia, describes Lilith as a
winged feminine demon that
kills infants and endangers women in childbirth.
In the Christian Middle Ages, Lilith changed form once more:
she became the personification of licentiousness and lust,
she became more than a demon, she became a sin in herself. Lilith
and her offspring were seen as succubae, were to blame for the
wet dreams of men. Taking it a step further, Christian leaders then
wed Lilith to Satan;
charged her with
populating the world with evil,
claimed she gave birth to
one hundred demonic children per day.
Lilith is considered evil in the eyes of the church because she was insubordinate to Adam. Both she and Eve are considered disobedient; are too willful, too independent in the way that Lilith wanted to be on top and Eve wanted to share a knowledge that Adam could have refused. They are perceived as a threat to the divinely ordered happenings that men see to be true.
Men wrote the history books because only their interpretation was right.
Emilia Lanier writes:
Yet Men will boast of Knowledge, which he took
From Eve's fair hand, as from a learned Book (807-808).
The Querelle des Femmes is not just a literary debate in the fifteenth century. It is a way of life. It is the divine portion of Queen Elizabeth I’s job being fit for men, and men alone. It is Joan of Arc being a woman and hearing the Voice of God; it is Joan of Arc being burned three times by the same Catholics that revered in Jesus, a man who, too, heard the Voice of God. It is Lilith being deemed a demon for not wanting to have *** in the *******. It is Eve having to apologize in the first place for sharing the apple, for sharing knowledge with her partner. It is women holding positions of power and yet still feeling powerless to men.
The Querelle des Femmes is wanting to use gender
to keep one group of people above another. The Querelle des Femmes
is continually thinking that the ***** is greater than, but
never equal to, the ******. The Querelle des Femmes is
not understanding the difference between
*** and gender
in the first place.
The Querelle des Femmes is me,
burning your dinner and telling you to eat it anyway.
This is part of a larger project that I am working on pertaining to the Querelle des Femmes.