Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Friday, October 6, 2017

Damn, Girl-Christine de Pizan

Just as Sappho is the Mama Lesbian, Christine de Pizan is the Mama Feminist. Christine was the first European woman to make a living from her writing, and her book The Book of the City of Ladies was one of the first books on feminism ever written.
Image result for christine de pizan
Christine at her desk.

Born in 1364, Christine started her life in Venice, but her family moved to France when she was three years old. Her father, Thomas de Pizan, had received an appointment as astrologer to Charles V. Living with the royal court gave Christine access to a vast library or literary and rhetorical works. Though not much is known about her education, or if she was even formally educated at all, the quality of her literature show that Christine was obviously well read.

At the age of 15 Christine married royal secretary Etienne de Castel. It is unknown if they were  happy or not, but they did have three children¹ together before Etienne died of the bubonic plague after ten years of marriage. Etienne's death left Christine with no source of income, a substantial amount of debt, and two children and a recently widowed mother to support.

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Illuminated page from The Book of
the City of Ladies
Luckily, Christine was a talented writer, and the French court had a fever that could only be cured with more poetry. Christine put out ballads about love, loss, and widowhood which brought her to the attention to royal patrons like Isabelle of Bavaria, the Duke of Orleans, and the 4th Earl of Salisbury.

For the first few years of her career, Christine mostly wrote poetry and moralistic works. Until in 1402 when Christine decided to pick a fight with a dead man. ²

Jean de Meun wrote a second half to The Romance of the Rose in 1280ish. In his poetry, de Meun was biting and cruel about ever member of society, but Christine took particular offense at the way he treated women in his works. He portrayed women as little more than one dimensional seductress ruled by their own lusts.  In her response Christine argued that women are much more complex than de Meun portrayed them. She starts by criticizing de Meun, but ends by criticizing the entire European canon at the time, censuring the many works about the nature of women, none of which were written by women.

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Christine writing
This sparked a long term literary debate which would bring her to the attention of monarchs around Europe. It also sparked a long term passion for writing about women and women's history. In her seminal work The Book of the City of Ladies, Pizan imagines a world built by women, for women, free from misogyny. Within that framework she tells the stories of the great women who came before her, without the misogynistic bias that colored the accounts of so many male writers.

In around 1415 Christine retired a convent with her daughter. The increasing political unrest, and the disaster at the Battle of Agincourt, had her rattled, and she was ready to retire from public life. In 1429 she released The Tale of Joan of Arc, a ballad that basically fangirled over Joan of Arc and her victories. The Tale of Joan of Arc was Christine's last work, and she doesn't appear in public record anywhere else. It's generally assumed that she died shortly after.

Christine had a massive impact on the writers and political leaders of her day. Her works attacking the traditional patriarchal society influenced other female writers, and also influenced future female monarchs, such as Louise of Savoy, Anne of Brittany, and Leonor of Portugal.


¹A daughter named Marie, a son named Jean, and a second unnamed son who died in infancy.
²A move I cannot help but applaud. It's the sort of thing I have done would do.

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Sources
Christine de Pisan-Brooklyn Museum
Christine de Pizan: Her Works
Christine de Pisan-Britannica
Christine de Pisan-New World Encyclopedia
Christine de Pisan-Biography

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Operation Nifty Package

We've talked quite a bit about war, especially ludicrous and unnecessary wars, but today we're going to talk about one of my all time favorite ridiculous military operations, Operation Nifty Package.

It's late 1989, and the US Navy Seals are chasing after Panamanian dictator and all around bad dude Manuel Noriega. They've destroyed his private plane, and now Noriega is on the lamb. US military is chasing after him, and his best option for leaving the country undetected has been destroyed, so like so many men before him, Noriega claims sanctuary from a church.

Well, kinda.

Manuel Noriega
Noriega actually claimed sanctuary in the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, which is basically the Vatican Embassy (kinda a church, right?). He threatened Nuncio Laboa that he'd initiate guerrilla warfare if he wasn't allowed to take refuge. The Nuncio (basically a Vatican ambassador), reluctantly agreed. Noriega was given a stark, un-air conditioned room, and whiled his days away reading the bible.

Meanwhile, US military forces are assembled around the Nunciature scratching their heads. International law prevents them from attacking the embassy and dragging Noriega out by force. They could have broken international law, after all, the Vatican isn't exactly a powerful military force. But Catholics have long since proved that they are not a group to be pissed off (see the Crusades), so breaking international law wouldn't be worth it, even to capture Noriega.

So, denied the option of using bodily force, the Navy Seals resorted to psychological warfare, and in a supremely dick move, used enormous loud speakers to blast the Nunciature with heavy rock almost constantly.

Noriega was known for being a man of highbrow tastes, and rock was Not His Thing. Additionally, a helicopter pad was set up in a nearby field, surrounding the Nunciature with a deafening cacophony of noise at almost all times. Requests were taken from nearby military forces, and included such topical melodies as 'Dead or Alive', 'Give It Up', and 'I Fought the Law and the Law Won'.

Eventually, someone inside the Nunciature cracked, and Noriega emerged from sanctuary after ten days of hiding, delivering himself into the custody of delighted US military forces.

He was extradited to the United States where he served 30 years as a prisoner of war for his crimes, and was later extradited to France to serve prison time for his crimes there as well. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment there, but after one year was successfully extradited back to Panama, where he is still in jail.

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Sources
CNN
Post Combat Reports
Catholic take on the whole affair (they are not very forgiving of the Nuncio)
Special Operations Website (includes the entire playlist)