Talking Points: Three Cheers for White Men

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.

And before you start telling me about all the terrible things that white men have done, take a moment to reflect that it was white men who voted in favor of the First Amendment to protect your right to disagree with me in the public sphere, including on matters of heated political discourse.

So, three cheers for white men! Hug a white man today!

UPDATE: January 18, 2016: So, I understand that this post is now getting some attention on Twitter. Welcome to all my new readers! I hope you take the time to look around a little further than some of my colleagues have seemed willing to do. You might start with Bear's Best Blog Posts down at the bottom. For those of you interested in problems with writing, particularly getting over writers' block--definitely a problem in academia, particularly when the fur starts flying and you get scared to say anything out loud--Robert Boice'How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure (Westport, CT: Prager, 1994) has been a godsend, likewise his Advice to New Faculty Members: Nihil Nimis (Needham Heights: Pearson, 2000). For those of you interested in fencing, I wrote more about that at the beginning of my journey, which quickly became a rather Augustinian exercise in confession. The posts about the Seven Deadly Sins, particularly Envy and Pride, are recommended for those caught up in the competition. This post which has made me famous for a day was an effort to try to start a conversation--whoops!--about how to talk positively about the tradition that medieval European scholars study. It has clearly hit a nerve, which suggests to me it is worth exploring. I am working now on putting up some of the texts that I was thinking about as I wrote this post, which was never meant to be a full exploration of the question, only "talking points" as the post says. So let's talk!

UPDATE January 17, 2016: At last! Somebody noticed my post. Okay, other than the one who assumed I must be proud of myself for not raping anybody...I took those comments down. But Fencing Bear is now famous on the Medieval Feminist Scholarship Facebook page! Thanks so much to Dorothy Kim for getting the conversation started, I am learning a great deal. ::Fencing Bear salutes her opponents and give thanks for their willingness to bout with her.::

Here are the footnotes that the readers on the thread wanted, at least, they are some of the things I was thinking of that went into this post.::under construction, I can only type so fast:: still working on these as of February 3, 2016.
Also, just FYI, this is not the first time my views on Western civilization have caught the larger public attention. Back in 2002, I was cast as the West's great enemy in the drama over our core curriculum at Chicago. I can only find the Tribune link at the moment, but there were also articles about this debate in National Review and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My further reflections on what this exchange taught me here: Blogging with Tenure. On how to train yourself for when you get caught in this kind of exchange, see How to be a Happy Warrior.

Image credit: Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, fol. 69r.


  1. Seriously?
    You do really believe you deserve an award for not raping and for "allowing" women to vote?

  2. Um, yes? Another point in white men's favor: they tend to believe that not raping women is a good idea, too. American men have been particularly adamant on this point for centuries, as de Tocqueville noted.

  3. So, are you going to demand your reward for not killing, not stealing, not damaging other people's property, not attacking random people on the streets, not shoplifting?

  4. My reward is to live in the society that I do, given the support and protection that I have been by the men around me. You do know I am a woman, yes?


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