It has been quite the week since Milo published his article about the controversy raging in Medieval Studies—much of it swirling around me!
I have been typing my fingers off answering friend requests on Facebook, all the while trying to understand the ins and outs of Twitter. Even now, as I am trying to settle into writing this blogpost, I cannot stop checking my notifications. The dopamine hits (as they say) are addicting!
But what is it about social media that is so addicting?
Back at the beginning of time—around 2009, my first year as a blogger—I wrote a meditation on the wonders of Facebook, how lovely it was to find old friends and classmates with whom I had lost touch, and how such social networking works.
Back then, I had only about 100 Facebook Friends. As of today I have 1,076 Friends—some 125 added in just this past week! I also now have 729 Followers on my Facebook profile, 410 Followers on my Facebook page, and 748 …
1. When white women (see Marie de France and Eleanor of Aquitaine) invented chivalry and courtly love, white men agreed that it was better for knights to spend their time protecting women rather than raping them, and even agreed to write songs for them rather than expecting them to want to have sex with them without being forced.
2. When white men who were celibate (see the canon lawyers and theologians of the twelfth century and thereafter) argued that marriage was a sacrament valid only if both the man and the woman consented, white men exerted themselves to become good husbands rather than expecting women to live as their slaves.
3. When white women (see Christine de Pizan, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the suffragettes) invented feminism, white men supported them (see John Stuart Mill) and even went so far as to vote (because only men could vote at the time) to let them vote, not to mention hiring them as workers and supporting their education.
It’s back to class for those of us who teach in medieval studies, and my medievalist colleague Dorothy Kim, Assistant Professor of English at Vassar College (pictured in 2014), wants to make sure you understand the stakes.
The medieval western European Christian past is being weaponized by white supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students.
That does sound bad. But, wait, it gets worse!
Don’t think western European medieval studies is exceptional.... ISIS/ISIL also weaponizes the idea of the pure medieval Islamic past in their recruiting rhetoric for young male Muslims. If the medieval past (globally) is being weaponized for the aims of extreme, violent supremacist groups, what are you doing, medievalists, in your classrooms? Because you are the authorities teaching medieval subjects in the classroom, you are, in fact, ideological arms dealers. So, are…
Milo is dangerous, everyone agrees. Well, not quite everyone. (Me, for example.)
Certainly journalist Jeremy Scahill thinks he is. Invited to appear with Milo on Real Time with Bill Maher, Scahill refused, insisting, along with almost everyone else who has written about Milo except Tom Ciccotta and me that Milo incites violence. (He doesn't; the only person Milo has ever called for violence against is Dylann Roof, in the form of the death penalty). In Scahill's words: "Yiannopoulos has shown he will use his appearances to publicly attack and shame specific ordinary people by name, a practice which could lead to violence or even death."
Bill Maher would beg to differ. "You are so, let's say, helped, by the fact that liberals just always take the bait," he acknowledged in his interview with Milo last night. And then Maher cautioned his side: "Stop taking the bait, liberals! The fact that they all freaked out about this little, impish, British fag....…
I have to confess that I tend to have a hard time staying awake when colleagues in academia start talking about gender. There you are in a seminar talking about, I don't know, nationalism or the Ark of the Covenant or Milo's hair, and as sure as eggs is eggs, someone, not necessarily a woman, will clear her throat and intone: "I think what we really need to consider here is gender." At which point I fall asleep.
It is just so boring. Gender (you have to say it with that special emphasis, as if pronouncing the Name of the Deity) has been the hot topic of analysis since I was in college thirty years ago. To give credit where credit is due, I might not have taken up the work that I have done on devotion to the Virgin Mary without the interest in gender of many of my teachers at the time. My dissertation advisor, Caroline Walker Bynum, is famous for making gender a category of analysis in the study of medieval Christianity. (It says so on her faculty page at the Institut…