Christine de Pizan's backstory is very impressive. She was one of the world's earliest and bravest examples of people who challenged the patriarchal dChristine de Pizan's backstory is very impressive. She was one of the world's earliest and bravest examples of people who challenged the patriarchal domination that has reigned throughout most of history--a reign which really cannot be overemphasized enough, despite the manner in which these terms ("patriarchal," etc) tend to seemingly become stale and conceptually inert in the mouths of irritating, intellectually lazy and/or knee-jerk reactionary college students. Twentieth century feminist figure Simone DeBeauvoir spoke of Pizan's writing and supreme 14th century boldness as "the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex."
Madame Pizan's life and writing culminate as a clear window to peer through at the often painfully slow, difficult and gradualist ways in which socio-cultural phenomena evolve in general--women's rights and feminist philosophy being examples par excellence. She clearly stepped outside of the historically determined role set aside for women in her spatio-temporal locale, and in doing so represented an instance of what could be thought of as cultural punctuated equilibrium--a spike of activity on the heart rate monitor of history, which charts the gradual and hard-fought and hard-won trajectory of the overall human project to enact deeper ranges of and wider subscriptions to maximally effective modes of gender equality.
She was a bit of a polymath with regard to her intellectual pursuits. She acted as a physician, an astrologer (to the King), and a local political figure. She also, obviously, was a writer (of both fiction and non-fiction) and a poet. Her most famous work (The Book of the City of Ladies) is an allegorical tale with clear feminist implications and a strong opposition to the misogyny pervading nearly every area of life in Medieval Europe.
(An illustration from The Book of the City of Ladies.)
Her novel is a better read on the whole than this monograph on politics, but both are very interesting as slices of deeply important history which should not be overlooked or taken for granted. The notion of a self-educated woman in the 1300s openly challenging such deeply sanctioned social traditions makes for a very compelling subject to meditate on, even if the writing itself could be polished up (like most writing from so long ago)....more
Another book I read for a Social & Political Activism course, which is rife with glaring injustices to boil the blood and get one's wheels turningAnother book I read for a Social & Political Activism course, which is rife with glaring injustices to boil the blood and get one's wheels turning about complex issues of ethics, social order, etc....more
Very thought-provoking and led to some of the better discussions I had in my first year of college, but I reject many of the premises Gilligan launcheVery thought-provoking and led to some of the better discussions I had in my first year of college, but I reject many of the premises Gilligan launches from, namely, that there's some essential nature to female psychology and male psychology--or at least the type of highly specified nature she ends up positing. I think human psychology is a much more fractured and varied set of phenomena than this and that the landscape of large-scale generalizations about gender traits (though sometimes useful if done carefully and based on solid empirical findings) is an area to tread very cautiously through.
Gilligan does not tread so cautiously. Big, big, big methodological problems with her research. She basically drew gigantic conclusions from extremely small samples of psychological questionnaires. She also never submitted her research and subsequent interpretations for pre-publishing peer-review, which even back when this was written raises a bright red flag and goes against a very important standard of scientific protocol, even for the so-called "soft-science" of psychology. Peer-review is one of the things that separates the rigor and integrity of science from the wild guessing games of other styles of inquiry.
This book essentially trades some negative over-generalizations about women for flattering ones--and visa-versa for males. Much of it sounds really great at first, but then you leave your thinking cap on a little longer and much of it unravels in your hands, right before your eyes. An important work, no doubt, but I think it's incredibly dated and ultimately unhelpful as a piece of the gender equality puzzle.
(It should also be said that I should read this again, though I suspect it might result in an even more negative review than this one. My memory of the book on the whole is still a little fuzzy, but I certainly recall enough of it to write this much.)...more
To my knowledge this is the first substantial articulation of the principles of gender equality. A must read for its historical value alone. However iTo my knowledge this is the first substantial articulation of the principles of gender equality. A must read for its historical value alone. However it's well-argued and entertaining in its wit and observation as well....more