Ahh, the topic of oppressed women and the ability to obtain a true sense of equality and freedom through forms of expressive literature and music because, you know, women are constantly being stifled and labeled as “over-emotional.” Don’t you love upholding traditional values and ideologies? (Sarcasm heavily implied)
In The Book of the City of Ladies As Christine ponders over this despairing topic questioning how and why women are seen as such horrible beings. After a decent amount of self-torturing wondering why she was created as a woman and therefore predetermined to be as horrible as what the men say since everything they say is correct and the absolute truth with zero exaggeration (heavy eye-roll) she is then visited by these ladies who offer reassuring guidance as well as open Christine’s eyes to how strong women really are. How women can do great things. They tell stories about women accomplishing major feats. And this is where my comparison of Pizan’s book to pop culture songs comes in. I am going to use Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Christina Aguilera’s “Can’t Hold Us Down” because come on! These chicks are boss babes!
Looking at “Can’t Hold Us Down,” the song begins with the idea of women and their inability to stand up for themselves to a man by voicing their opinion and also the idea that women can’t express themselves freely without being considered temperamental or vile and be social (yes… that is what I will call it for the sanctity of what is appropriate) without being labeled as a deviant. Here are two sets of lyrics to evaluate:
[…] When a female fires back suddenly big talker don’t know how to act
So he does what every little boy would do
Makin’ up a few false rumors or two
That for sure is not a man for me, slanderin’ names for popularity
It’s sad you only get your fame through controversy
But now it’s time for me to come and give you more to say [….]
[…] Here’s something I just can’t understand
If the guy have three girls then he’s the man
He can even give her some head, or sex her off
But if a girl do the same, she’s a whore […]
These lyrics are pretty straight forward and parallel perfectly with passages from Pizan.
“Not only one or two and not even just this Mathélous […] but, more generally, judgng from the treatises of all philosophers and poets and from all the orators […] they all concur in one conclusion: that the behavior of women is inclined to and and full of every vice” (Pizan 4)
Christine De Pizan has had enough of the false words that philosophers and poets had to say about women. The countless books that they published and that circulated thematically aimed at how devilish women can be and how they are meant to be subordinate their husbands and such. This passage and the first lyric set of the song displays the idea of a double standard that is upheld in this male patriarch much like the one Christine is in.
Next, we have “Run the World (Girls).” Yes, we can get some mixed feelings about this song such as how the Queen B herself is bragging about her incredible persuasion abilities and how women naturally have it (Gee! Almost sounds like the Bawd, herself!) but she is also calling out to the women all around the world who are becoming influential to society and how their power is becoming evident and disrupting the male driven societies. These sets of lyrics demonstrate the “calling all women!” attitude that is aimed to spark a flame in women and show their strength:
[…] I’m repping for the girls
Who taking over the world
Have me raise a glass
For the college grads […]
[…] How we’re smart enough
To make these millions
Strong enough to bare the children […]
Beyoncé is praising women for working hard and achieving educational excellence, the ways that women have harnessed to be able to come out on top and be self-sufficient, and to have the ability to create human life! We can do it all! Pizan was also well educated and used her education to further the notion of demanding equality for women. Her book is her contribution to society that will be continuously studied in the ways of gender inequality.
The ladies tell their stories about the great queens, women warriors, wives, mothers, and so on to show Christine that there are so many worthy women in the world and not to be alluded to think otherwise because some men feel threatened.
Yep. Men who trash talk and like to talk about how nasty and horrendous women are in the ways of values, morality, social affiliation, and being opinionated, are really just threatened that they have power too and break from the oppression tradition and stereotypes that have stuck through the ages.
Women have accomplished so much. In contemporary views, you see a great deal of feminism pushing the boundaries and roles being broken. You rarely hear of the strong women that made a difference from way back when; the times when women could be put to death for a disobedient act.
Both songs embody the books main theme of women coming together to rise up and see how multiple voices together can continue to break down the walls of inequality and to destroy the double standard. And these music videos..!!! Powerful imagery. Beyoncé on that horse like a true conqueror. The outfit/costume choices in both videos conveying the stepping out of societal appropriation. The rebellion. By spreading these messages through forms of entertainment, they influence larger audiences and circulate and make and create a conversation.
Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. Persea Books , 1998