Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sign of the She-Wolf


Bear with me, please.
The following is loose and long-winded. Mulling and meandering.
Isabella, queen of Edward II of England, was called the "She-wolf of France."
Somewhat annoyed by Edward's attention to his favourite Piers Gaveston, she took a lover, roused a rebellion and forced Edward to abdicate in favour of their son and lived happily ever after.
Edward, of course, did not.
He was murdered in Berkeley Castle by having a red-hot poker driven up his behind. His body was then displayed without a mark.
For years I accepted both these statements as true, yet wondered on occasion at their apparent contradiction.
Disinterest in the sad death of kings and the techniques of medieval torture were, I suppose, partly responsible for imaginative dormancy.
Recently, on reading a biography, Robert the Bruce, discovered that the means by which this was accomplished was by insertion of a marrow bone first. Minor mystery solved.
Wondered if this nasty regicide was responsible for the opprobrium various chroniclers have heaped upon Isabella.
In a lateral way, began wondering about women's roles in fiction, and the witch-bitch, "other woman."
For years, a gothic romance remained among my "keepers," for one reason alone - the hero verbally defended the heroine when she was insulted by the conventional "she-wolf."
Totally unrealistic, but I loved it. Great scene. Put the bitch in her place.
Guys, it seems, when two women get into it, tend to back away, palms out and do a fast fade. They don't want to get involved - even if they are the cause of the confrontation.
My hero. Not.
They will punch out an equally rude guy in a bar, fight dragons and move mountains but weasle out when another woman attacks.
Wonder why.
Seems they react as if both parties have become she-wolves.
Rampant psychology here.
Wonder if the present trend of the kick-ass heroine, combining the beauty and the bitch, is the heroine as she-wolf. A morphing of two traditionally distinct roles.
Wonder how guys really feel about it.
Wonder if there should be an equally alterated response by the heroes - a change in gender-guts to parallel and respond to this new role.
Just wondering.

32 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

I have the tendency to defend, period. If defense seems appropriate and if my companion happens to be a lady, and is confronted by either man or another woman (whew, shitty sentence).


If it's man on man, they can each fend for themselves.

Bernita said...

Erik, you are hereby dubbed the parfait knight.

MissWrite said...

I kind of think it depends on the man, and it depends on the circumstances. In the case of the married man cheating on his wife, if he has no intention of leaving his wife for the other woman, he's probably not going to defend the concubine when the rightful wife confronts her. Wrong? Yeah, sure. But then I guess it would depend on where you stand on the issue of monogomy. The entire thing is wrong if you believe cheating is wrong.

On another note: He was murdered in Berkeley Castle by having a red-hot poker driven up his behind--You do have to admire the style. Of course, as you pointed out, if it's completely true. It's sort of like the little ditty about the Czarina of Russia, was it Alexandria? She died when her lover fell on her. His reins were too tight.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Bernita, the sad story of King Edward reminds me of a favorite George Carlin routine. Carlin wanted to utter a sentence never before uttered by another person, so he said, "After I shove this red-hot poker up my ass, I'm going to chop my balls off." I think he succeeded. Edward probably didn't say that!

As far as the kick-ass heroine, I think (since I am not a guy, I can't be sure) that guys tend to back away from for-real fights between women because women don't fight like men in real life. At least, this has been my experience (witness only, I assure you).

Whereas men fight each other with the intent to subdue, women seem out for blood. They rarely punch. They kick, scratch, gouge, pull hair, and even bite -- much like the she-wolf. Also, the instant a man becomes involved in a physical fight with a woman, 9/10 she'll go for his balls. Men don't often do that to other men, because they know how it feels. It's an unspoken caveat between men; a gentlemanly promise. Leave the balls out of it.

Women have no such qualms. They know an advantage when they see one.

This is of course generalization, and it doesn't always happen thus. But I think it's somewhat prevalent. :-)

M.E Ellis said...

Not being funny but reading about kick-ass females really gets on my nerves. I mean the ones who can fight like a man and all that crap.

Ones that are strong women, in control of their life, doesn't bother me. But the combat boot wearing kind, ugh, not my cup of tea.

I had to write a strongish female in Garou Moon. First, me writing from a woman's POV, so not me (was glad the werewolf POV ran through it too else I would have just cried having to write 'woman') and second, writing about her being strong and all that, drove me mad.

I'm glad I write from a man's POV, or if a woman, I prefer the scatty type. I would detest, and probably refuse to write one with a boot/combat pants woman in it.

I suppose though, the male character in a story with the kick-ass woman, would either act ok with her, or not, just like in real life. Some men like a strong woman, some prefer the willowy type they can take care of, makes them feel macho.

Hmmm...more to ponder on!

Thanks!

:o)

P.S 'The Man' is up!

:o)

Bernita said...

Think more in of cases of old girlfiends, Tami,and/or the romantic conventions often found in the marriages of convenience plots.

The story is true enough. I was just mystified on how it was managed without leaving marks.

Erm, no, Sonya, his screams were allegedly heard at a great distance.
Was thinking of verbal fights, not the red tooth and claw type of confrontation between women. I can perfectly understand why some men wouldn't want to get involved in those.

Bernita said...

Found I rather like male POV too, Michelle. Found I'm inserting it more and more as the series progresses.
Wondering about the psychological support that might go along with the blended gender roles.

MissWrite said...

S.W.-I think you have a point there. (It's an unspoken caveat between men; a gentlemanly promise. Leave the balls out of it.) It's funny to me (as a woman). You'd think that men, considering their T-driven need to 'win', would go for the gold. The sure thing. But it's true. I've seen grown men blanch at the idea of neutering a dog for heaven's sake. There's just something unspoken there. A universal cringe at the very thought.

Okay, Bernita, on the marriage of convienience thing. But I still think it would come down to if the man intended on staying married in many cases. Sort of like the Frank Burns character on M*A*S*H... he was always hotter than a hound dog around Margarette, but if someone even mentioned the harpie at home, and she did get played as the controlling one, the harpie so to speak, he turned into a quivering mass of jelly. Okay, yes, Frank was a quivering mass of jelly anyway, but that's the idea. He had no intention of leaving his harpie wife for Margarette.

Now, if that were switched and he truly fell in love with Margarette, then it might have played out differently. He might have been indignant at the mention of his wife, or confrontational to her when she contacted him.

You mentioned the one book you liked so much because the hero stood up for the 'other woman'. I don't know what book you're talking about, or the story involved, but perhaps he didn't care too much about his marriage (for whatever reason, Frank no longer loved his wife really either. He loved her money. He loved the security of the relationship, both financial and status wise, but not her necessarily.)

Boy, I'm too long winded this morning.

This isn't to say what has gone on in past novels reflects these attitudes, but more how 'I' would write them if it came up in a storyline.

Bernita said...

Dear me, I really buggered up, didn't I?
The heroine he was defending, in this case, was his MOC wife, Tami.
He didn't stand up "for", but "to" his former mistress.
In many of this sort of romance, the harpie is allowed to distress the heroine, probably because the writer wants to emphasize her confusion, vulnerability, uncertainty,innocence, helplessness etc.

EA Monroe said...

The blending of gender roles due to changes in modern society in general, and how we each react differently to the stress of the changes that narrow the differences between men and women (personal choice, fear, or reluctance to adjust), is a great thought for elements of "Conflict," Bernita. A kickass heroine may act like a man, fight like a man, but she's still governed by good ole estrogen.

Bernita said...

A really good though, E.A.
Though I think the "kick-ass heroine" is a broad term not limited to combat boots.
Have not graphic stuff, like comics, had kick-ass heroines for decades?

S. W. Vaughn said...

Ah, yes -- you're quite right about verbal confrontation, Bernita! In literature and in real life. When women start a screaming match, especially over a man, most often he will not step in to defend one or the other. :-)

EA Monroe said...

Where are all the guys hiding this morning?! "Broad" terms. ;-)

Dennie McDonald said...

I agree w/ ME I am not A Lara Croft kinda fan.

I like my gals to be tough but soft and smooshy too.

kmfrontain said...

In a dollar store recently, some irritated woman of no real consequence made remarks in French about the "Anglais" that I didn't bother to hear, but my husband did, and then he stood there waiting for this woman to say something else, just so he could berate her out publicly. I think she knew it and went wondering off down the aisle to the farther end, where she could be "there" but not close enough to get berated. I shrugged the incident off at the time, but you know, Bernita, it's nice to own a real hero.

Yes, I own him. Mine. (Very possessive of me, but well... he's mine.)

But for writing, I've had fellas take the side of a woman or a man in a clash of any kind. I think it depends on the character overall, what they do.

Bernita said...

You're a quick girl, EA!

Don't think a female has to lose her feminity even if she is tough, Dennie.

Yes, it is, Karen.

When my husband worked in la belle province, he regularly heard "maudit anglais."

Backing up a little in the thread, Tami, there is no limit to the length of post here.
I like to hear your opinions.
In fact, I'm glad I was muzzy in my main post because the discussion is interesting.

Ric said...

Morning all,
Took a while to get past the red hot poker image...

Men will generally NEVER get involved in a physical fight between two women. I think this is because women take longer to come to blows - so when they do, it's duck and cover time.

AND, as men clearly know, women are more than capable of defending themselves verbally as well. AND they generally do.

Not even going to get into the mistress vs wife - there's a whole different set of parameters there that guys don't think about in the same way as women. Home/hearth/sex/security/relationships/children/social status.

Bernita said...

Sorry my train of thought derailed yours, Ric.
Yes, women often can defend themselves verbally - against MEN. Perhaps they anticipate verbal attacks?
There are many women who are at a loss when another woman attacks- because it's usually out of the blue.
Not talking of sewing circle vendettas of long standing here.
Seems the writers of the traditional romances were psychologically accurate in their characterization in more ways than one.

MissWrite said...

Speaking of the woman to woman verbal combat, it's often more snide than men's verbal combat as well, so it may perplex men to even attempt to get into a verbal fight between two women.

Men tend to be the: Your an asshole! Type of verbal combatant. Or, You screwed my wife. BAM. End of fight.

Women aren't often quite as upfront. I think perhaps in those cases the guys aren't even sure what the fight is about until it's over, if then. Sometimes the women aren't sure either, but it doesn't stop them.

Lisa Hunter said...

What's interesting is that if a child hits another child, men who might not step in to a fight between women, will often become intimidatingly violent to the other child. I've seen it on the playground, and it's terrifying.

Gabriele C. said...

The hot iron poker and other variants of shoving things up that particular orifice are most likely additions by biased sources. Fact is, Edward was killed in prison.

Hm, she-wolfs and male characters not fighting them .... Kazimiera Princess of the Abodrites surely is a she-wolf and Roderic won't send her head flying though he'd be better off that way. But he is too noble; I think Alastair will have less scruples once he finds out she is a she-wolf. I don't see my other female characters as such, neither the Dalriatan Islena nor the Visigoth Mataswintha - strong women, yes, women who play all their assets to get what they want, yes, but somehow I don't see them as she-wolves. They just play the same games as the men in a time where I think women (except maybe Romans) stood a chance to play. It needs the 12th-15th century to breed she-wolves. Later, it's different again.

But that's me.

Bernita said...

"Guys aren't even sure..." Now that's an interesting take, Tami.

on the other hand,Lisa, I've seen children in the playground that needed to be intimidated.

Since the condemnation of Edward was almost universal, Gabriele, one wonders where one would find unbiased sources.
Berkley Castle was his prison and there seems to be no dispute over his torture.

I wouldn't call them she-wolves either, just strong women.

MissWrite said...

Hey guys, (Bernita I hope this is okay, if not, delete the post, or tell me and I will I'm just so excited) I got my new cover art for my novella coming out soon! It's posted on my blog. Please go check it out.

Alianore said...

Berkley Castle was his prison and there seems to be no dispute over his torture.

Bernita, there's a huge amount of dispute over the manner of Edward II's torture and death in 1327. Of the 21 fourteenth-century chronicles that mention his death, only 9 mention the 'red-hot poker' story, and 7 of them have clearly copied the details of 2 others (one written in about 1333, the other in about 1347). Other chronicles say that he died of a 'grief-induced illness', still others that he was strangled or suffocated.

The fact that the red-hot poker narrative has become the accepted 'truth' of Edward's death - and is repeated endlessly online these days - says far more about people's willingness to believe the most lurid explanation than because it's an accurate depiction of Edward's demise.

There are several modern historians who believe that Edward was not murdered at all. i'm intending to write a blog post about all this very soon, that you might be interested in!

Wondered if this nasty regicide was responsible for the opprobrium various chroniclers have heaped upon Isabella.

Probably the fact that she may have had her own husband violently murdered has a lot to with this, but Isabella's regime (when she and her lover Mortimer ruled England for her underage son Edward III from 1327 to 1330) was both incompetent and tyrannical, and Isabella proved herself far greedier than Edward II's favourite Hugh Despenser had ever been.

Bernita said...

No problem, Tami. You always contribute to the discussion.I, certainly, will come and look - after all, I checked your old blog daily in hopes you would surface.

Dear me,I seem to have been presumptious.
Alinor,let me assure you that the internet was NOT the source of my repetition of the story of Edward and The Red Hot Poker.
Nor do I consider the incident particularly "lurid," given the context of the viciousness of the characters involved, the prevalence of torture as an adjunct of justice and the temper of the times.
I am not surprised that the majority of the sources do not mention the poker method. Regicide always had uncomfortable implications for succeeding monarchs and admissions of murder and humiliation tends to interfere with droit.
Nevertheless,the majority of the sources do not, I believe, dispute the fact that Edward was tortured and abused - the statement with which you took umbrage.
Perhaps I did not make it plain enough that I was referring to torture in general and not adhering stubbornly to the royal flush.
I find it interesting that many reviewers tend to take a pro or con position and support their position mathematically, claiming the opposition sources are derivative while their own are entirely independent.
Am not sure that a simple toting up of numbers for either side provides much in the way of veracity - other than a belief in "common knowledge."
Was of the impression that the theory that Edward was not murdered, but in fact escaped, had precedent in a contemporary tale. Such archetypal tales often appear around famous or infamous people. Besides, the confusion they induce - either by desire or deliberation, helps keep the next administration. off-kilter.
Always thought it was Edward's liason with Piers that really burned Isabella's behind, rather than the later Despenser favourite.
Certainly my opinion can be dismissed, I am not a real historian after all, and make no claims to be one, but I do happen to believe that the hot poker method of dispatch is genuine.
It fits psychologically with my impression of the situation and has, to me, a certain ineffable ring of truth.

ali said...

I forget where, but I've been told the red-hot poker was a myth. It might have actually been while visiting Berkeley Castle.

If it is true, I wonder how people heard about it. If they went to such lengths to keep it secret - being careful there wasn't a mark - who spilled the beans?

Bernita said...

"How they heard about it?"
Very simple, Ali.
People talk.
Always have. Always will.
"Official" pronouncements notwithstanding.
Whether from a desire to project themselves into the middle of a drama or sincerely out of guilt. Whether from a capacity for sheer bullshit or from a capacity for mischief.

Southern Writer said...

I have to disagree that men back off from all catfights. I've worked in bars where it took six ir seven guys to pull a couple women apart.

If it's a verbal confrontation, so what? It's only words, right? And if the guy is present to witness it, chances are, it's about him - the "I f**ked your boyfriend" kind of thing, and he's flattered. Why would he stop it?

If it's an actual physical confrontation, well, guys tend to think of it in the same terms they think of women mud wrestlers. It's a form of sex to them. They get off on it.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Southern, for another perspective.
Hadn't thought of that explanation - that it flattered their egos.

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